Kent v Australia: The tourists visit Maidstone and Gravesend

Thursday 11th December 2014

Kent honorary curator David Robertson continues his journey through the archives with a look back at the 1890s clashes between Kent and Australia.

Six games were played against the tourists in the 1890s including the only two away from Canterbury in 1890 and 1893 when, in addition to Canterbury, The Mote at Maidstone in 1890 and Gravesend’s Bat & Ball in 1893, hosted additional games.

The first ten games between 1880 and 1899 all produced positive results with honours shared at five victories to each side.

The ball dominated the six games of the 1890s with only one score above 300 and that by the visitors with a first innings 310 in 1896. Of 21 completed innings 16 failed to reach the 200 mark.

Whilst in all ten games up to 1900 three Kent players, E.F.S. Tylecote (1882) L.A. Hamilton (1890) and C.J. Burnup (1896) were the only century makers, it was not until the twelfth game in 1905 that Joe “Paddy” Darling became the first Australian batsman to reach three figures.

Darling, ranked high among Australia’s finest left-handed batsmen, is still regarded as one of their greatest captains.

The failure of the batsmen in this series of games inevitably meant there would be some impressive bowling performances. Ten times in those games Kent bowlers took five or more wickets in an innings with Alec Hearne, one of ten family members to have played first-class cricket in the mid to late 19th century, achieving it three times with professionals Fred “Nutty” Martin, James Wootton and Walter Wright doing it twice. Over the same period three Australians Charles Turner, who achieved it four times, whilst John Ferris and Tom Garrett achieved it twice.

Over the same period three Australians Charles Turner, who achieved it four times whilst John Ferris and Tom Garrett achieved it twice.

Despite the performance of the professionals, it was the Kent amateurs who dominated these early games. Only nine professionals out of 41 participants played in the first ten. In the six played during the 1890s the figures were 23 amateurs and six professionals.

The first game of the decade played at The Mote saw the tourists victorious by nine wickets. The combination of former Sydney bank clerk and left-arm opening bowler John Ferris with Charles Turner, a right-arm medium pace bowler of the highest class, could claim much of the credit for victory.

After a promising start in reply to the visitors 189 Kent lost their last eight wickets for just 27 runs and were all out for 77. This proved to be Kent’s lowest score against the Australians until 1948.

Forced to follow on, the hosts made a better showing with 174 of which the amateur Leonard Hamilton top scored with 56. However, the visitors had little difficulty in scoring the 63 runs necessary for victory for the loss of one wicket.

The two Australian star bowlers shared fifteen of the Kent wickets, a performance that would be even more impressive at Canterbury in August when they shared seventeen wickets.

By this time they were unable to secure a second successive victory, Kent winning by the substantial margin of 108 runs in a game that produced just 592 runs in the four completed innings.

Leonard Hamilton produced another fine innings, scoring 117 of Kent’s second innings 205.

The dominance of Ferris and Turner on that tour is illustrated by each taking 215 wickets, the next best performance being Hugh Trumble’s 53.

Gravesend was the venue for the first of two games against the tourists three years later, and the result was not dissimilar to that at The Mote in 1890, with the Australians achieving an overwhelming victory by an innings and one run.

Ferris was not in the tour party this time, but the 6ft 4inch Hugh Trumble, with his long arms and variations in pace, who played at The Mote on the previous tour but did not bowl, proved to be more than a handful.

He took twelve wickets and with Turner producing another fine performance, Kent had no answers.

But that result was turned on its head at Canterbury just six weeks later when outstanding bowling by the left-arm fast medium Walter Wright and all-rounder Alec Hearne shared seventeen wickets to earn a well deserved victory by 36 runs.

And this after being 102 runs behind on the first innings. Australia’s second innings 60, with only one batsman reaching double figures, is their lowest ever against Kent.

The party selected for the 1896 tour of England left the shores of Australia under something of a cloud.

There had been criticism voiced over the selection and concern expressed that the bowling was too weak to meet the challenge that England and the counties would present.

In the event, although they lost the Test series, they were unbeaten against the counties and led by George Henry Trott, (brother of Albert Trott who represented both Australia and England in test matches), were judged at the end of the tour to have been an outstanding side, probably the second strongest to have visited England.

The first day of the Canterbury Week game attracted an estimated 10,000 spectators who enjoyed some fine batting by the tourists on what was described as a beautiful wicket.

Joe Darling with a half century and Clem Hill with 74, were the main contributors in a total of 310 made in 111 overs. But there was still time for Kent to have 20 minutes batting during which they lost Marchant.

With the exception of C.J. “Pinky” Burnup who scored 101 out of 196, the batting was a big disappointment, with only W.H. Patterson getting into the twenties. Wisden suggests“that the Australians obviously allowed Kent to save the follow-on, Giffen bowling three half-volleys in succession to E.B. Shine” .

Kent fared better with the ball in the Australian’s second innings, dismissing them for just 203. George Trott, initially a somewhat controversial appointment as tour captain, opened the second innings and top scored with 61.

The Kent attack was led by Walter Wright who followed up his three first innings wickets with a further four.

However, Kent’s attempts to score the 318 required for victory failed dismally when their batsmen fell victim to an outstanding spell of bowling by Trumble who found the fourth innings pitch much more to his liking.

His seven wickets, made up of the opening pair and the last five batsmen, were taken at a cost of 67 runs in 29.1 overs. A disappointing end to Canterbury Week saw Kent defeated by 176 runs.

Given the sequence of wins and losses, the final game of the 19th century was Kent’s turn to win. And so it proved!

Led on this tour by Joe Darling, the tourists’ defeat was one of only three they suffered during the season and whilst they proved hard to beat, their sixteen wins were equalled by the number of draws.

More than 17,000 were present to witness the three days of exciting cricket, the feature of which was determined batting and excellent bowling backed up by brilliant fielding.

Anticipating a Kent victory, an estimated 4,000 turned up for the final day. And they were not disappointed. Fielding a side that was made up of eight amateurs and the youngster Edward “Punter” Humphreys, just days short of his eighteenth birthday, it included Walter Morris Bradley, a right-arm fast bowler who in his previous four seasons had not especially distinguished himself.

However, in 1899 he took 156 wickets including eight in this game. He and “Pinky” Burnup shared sixteen wickets in the game.

Winning the toss, the Australians batted first on what was described as a good pitch. The legendary Victor Trumper, who died tragically young, led the way with a fifty out of sixty-six in 45 minutes, with opener Monty Noble just one short of a half century.

Iredale, Worrall and Kelly all contributed but no-one stayed long enough to establish an effective partnership and the tourists would have been disappointed with their total of 227.

Despite that, they found themselves with a lead of 43 after an equally disappointing batting performance by the hosts for whom Haldane Campbell Stewart, in opening the innings and in only his fourth match of the season, top scored with 71.

Australia’s second innings was little short of a disaster, only 94 being added to their lead. It was left to two tail end batsmen, Laver and Jones to put a small bit of respectability to their score with contributions of 20 and 29.

Burnup’s accuracy, which yielded him five wickets, was the surprise bowler, well supported by Bradley who added another four to his four first innings dismissals. But it did not all go Kent’s way.

For just one over before close on day two, they sent in Huish and Bradley, who both survived without scoring, leaving an excited and anticipating crowd to look forward to a third day victory.

But needing just 138 to win they struggled from the outset especially against the right arm medium pace bowling of McLeod and particularly Howell, who had taken seven first innings wickets.

Kent’s win by two wickets came as a relief to the large final day crowd who celebrated with enthusiasm. A collection for the professionals raised £60 with Hearne, Huish and Martin each receiving £19 and the balance going to the colt Humphreys.

So ended ten games in eighteen years with honours even. It was to be 75 years before Kent was again victorious.

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