Read all about Kent against the Australians from across the years

Wednesday 12th August 2009

WITHthe Australians back in town this weekend, our Honorary Curator, David Robertson, takes a look at the matches between Kent and Australia over the years. You may have read a shorter version of this article in Kent Cricket, our new monthly magazine.

Here is the full version. Please read and enjoy.

There was a time when Kent“s matches against the touring sides were regarded as the most attractive of fixtures. That was certainly so with the Australians. Indeed, the St Lawrence Ground record crowd for a single day of 23,000 was on the Monday when Bradman“s “Invincibles” visited in 1948.

Matches against touring sides were treated seriously by the counties and the Tourists always fielded their strongest available side on these occasions. Early matches featured such legends as Frederick ‘The Demon“ Spofforth, George Giffen, known as ‘the W.G. Grace of Australia“ and William Lloyd Murdoch, the first man to score a Test double hundred, whilst for Kent, there were such giants as Lord Harris, the brothers Alec and George Hearne and James Wootton. That tradition was respected right through to the 1990s and there were occasions when Kent had as many as six, seven or even eight internationals in their side.

Although the Australians were the tourists in 2001 and in the memorable summer of 2005, fixtures against the counties had by then been heavily curtailed. Their appearance this year is the first since 1997 up to which time they had always been first-class games.

Kent did not entertain the first Australian sides of 1878 or 1880 but the Kent v Australia fixture goes back 127 years. The first encounter was in 1882 when, despite a Kent defeat, Edmund Tylecote, the first in a long line of outstanding Kent wicketkeeper-batsmen, had the distinction of being the first Kent player to score 100 off an Australian side.
Of the 33 matches played Australia have been the victors on 16 occasions, with 11 being drawn and Kent winning a creditable six times. Kent“s last, and possibly most famous victory came in 1975 after a wait of 76 years and after a memorable second innings 151 by Colin Cowdrey. The four wicket win was against an almost full strength side which went on to regain the Ashes.

In 1884 Kent was the only county to beat the Tourists who included in their ranks Spofforth, Giffen and Murdoch, whilst Kent was able to call on Lord Harris, who had captained the 1878/79 England team to Australia, and the three Hearne brothers Frank, Alec and George Gibbons. Nevertheless, this Kent victory, totally unexpected, was by the relatively convincing margin of 96 runs. The achievement was recognised by spectators at a match later in the week when a spontaneous collection yielded the then not inconsiderable sum of £80 which was presented to the professionals by Lord Harris.

Two years later Kent repeated the achievement with an even more convincing 10 wicket victory in a low scoring and rain affected match. In reply to Kent“s modest 171 (G.G. Hearne 53) the Tourists could only muster a paltry 79. Following on, they did little better, scoring 123 and leaving Kent to get just 35 for victory. For Kent, James Wootton, who contributed much to Kent cricket in the 1880s and 1890s, had match figures of 10-100.

An Australian victory in 1888 was followed by two matches in 1890, the first at The Mote in July, followed just days later by a return match at the St Lawrence Ground. Honours were even with the Australians victorious by nine wickets in the first encounter at Maidstone, whilst the hosts turned the tables convincingly at Canterbury, the winning margin being 108 runs. It was in 1888 that Kent came up against two Australian bowlers who were to take a particular liking to the home pitches. At the St Lawrence Ground John James Ferris, with his left-arm medium-fast swing bowling and Charlie Turner, known as ‘The Terror“, combined to take 19 wickets, Turner 10-69 and Ferris 9-86. They followed this two years later, taking 32 in the two matches. At The Mote, Turner had eight victims and Ferris seven, and although not on the winning side the following week at Canterbury, they dismissed seventeen Kent batsmen with Turner taking ten and Ferris seven. Kent“s Fred ‘Nutty“ Martin dismissed nine of the Australians in their two innings.

Returning in 1893 without his partner Turner took 13 in a further two matches, the first at Gravesend“s Bat & Ball ground won in two days by the Tourists. But his six at Gravesend was overshadowed by Hugh Trumble whose match figures of 12-84 still stands as a record bowling performance by an Australian bowler against Kent. The return match at Canterbury saw Kent get revenge by 36 runs. Walter Wright and Alec Hearne took the bowling honours at St. Lawrence sharing 17 wickets. Their combined efforts saw the visitors dismissed for a second innings 60, the lowest recorded by the Australians against Kent.

In 1896 C.J. “Pinky” Burnup, in his first season for the County, became only the second Kent batsman to score a century against the Australians. Opening the innings at Canterbury he scored 101 in a total of 196. In spite of his efforts Kent were soundly beaten by 176 runs. Three years later Burnup turned bowler. He and Bill Bradley shared 16 wickets in the match with Burnup taking 8-51 and Bradley 8-81. Between them they could claim the lion“s share in achieving Kent“s success by two wickets. It was to be 76 years before Kent would win again!
For the Australians, revenge came by 89 runs in 1902. The start of a long undefeated run during which they won eight of the sixteen matches played. Kent, dismissed in the first innings for just 77 once again had no answer to the medium pace off-spin bowling of Trumble, who, having created a record match return nine years earlier, took 8-30. This remains, 107 years on, the record by an Australian bowler against Kent. For the same bowler to have created two such records nine years apart and which still stand well over 100 years later, must be somewhat unique. The 1902 match witnessed the debut against Australia of Kent“s Colin Blythe. Whilst his 2,210 wickets for Kent is second only to the phenomenal 3,340 of ‘Tich“ Freeman, he had little success against the Australians. In four matches he took just ten wickets, of which six were in the 1902 match.

The seeds sewn at the Tonbridge Nursery were beginning to burgeon by the time of the Australians next visit in 1905 although not sufficient to prevent defeat for the county by more than an innings. Australia“s then record score of 403 could not be matched in Kent“s two combined innings, with a disappointing 116 first time round followed by a better but inadequate 252 in their second innings. Both Bill Fairservice and Jack Mason conceded over 100 runs in the Australian innings whilst Albert ‘Tibby“ Cotter, a fearsome fast bowler in the Jeff Thomson mould, had match figures of 12-182.
Australia“s innings record score stood only until their next visit in 1909 when the combined efforts of Vernon Ransford, an attractive left-handed batsman who scored 189 and Warwick ‘The Big Ship“ Armstrong, with 107, resulted in a massive 522-9 for the Tourists. This was in reply to Kent“s 319 of which Frank Woolley, just after his Test debut at The Oval, contributed 68. But in a rain interrupted match, only a single innings each was possible. In all, Woolley played in every one of the seven matches against the Australians between 1909 and 1938 and although never scoring a century he averaged 50.20 against them.

The outbreak of the Great War meant that the Tourists“ visit of 1912 was to be the last for nine years. An inauspicious occasion it turned out to be. In less than one day“s play (Thursday and Friday were a total washout) Kent declared on 170-6 with Woolley scoring 86. There was just time to dismiss the Australians for 137, with Douglas Carr, at the age of forty, taking 7-46 with his leg breaks and googlies. Three years previously and in his first season of first-class cricket he was selected for the final Test at The Oval against the Australians, taking 7-282 in the match.

14,000 people witnessed the return of the Australians on the first day of the match in 1921. Yet again, the tourists were to beat their previous innings record against Kent, this time with a massive 676. It remains the Australians highest score against the county and is also the highest innings total conceded by Kent in all first-class cricket. It included three centuries: Charlie Macartney, known as the ‘Governor General“ scored 155, Warwick Armstrong, 102 and Edgar Mayne 157*. Poor ‘Tich“ Freeman, one of a trio of home bowlers who conceded more than 100 runs went wicket-less whilst Godfrey Bryan, one of three brothers who played for the county between the wars, took 5-148. Stanley Cornwallis, who captained the side in the mid-1920s also conceded more than 100 runs but did manage three wickets. Kent fielded seven amateurs in this match among whom was A.F. (Eric) Bickmore who opened the Kent innings and top scored with 89 in a
total of 237. Included in his innings were ten successive scoring strokes which produced 40 runs.

Just one week after captaining England to Ashes-winning success at The Oval in 1926, Percy Chapman led Kent against the Tourists in a match which ended in stalemate. Despite Freeman“s match figures of 8-165 and a century by Jack Ryder in the Australians first innings 386, the match petered out to a draw. The following visit, in 1930, resulted in yet another stalemate but this time with an added interest. It was the first tour of the then 22 year old Don Bradman who was to dominate world cricket for some 20 years. Although dismissed for a mere first innings 18, his second innings 205* remains the highest by an Australian against the county. In his four tours he played in all four matches at Canterbury and averaged 118.33. It was Bradman“s fifth double hundred on that tour to add to his memorable 334 in the Headingly Test Match.

The post Bodyline match of 1934 is probably the worst to have been affected by the weather although it is a close run thing with 1977. With less than an hour“s play on the first day Kent scored 21-2 after being put in by Bradman. Following a violent hailstorm during the lunch interval play was abandoned for the day. With the second day completely washed out Chapman declared Kent“s innings closed at the start of the final day. The wet pitched hampered the bowlers and after little more than two hours and the fall of McCabe on 108 Bradman was able to declare with just one wicket down. Embarrassment for Kent was averted but with the hosts struggling at 74-7 in their second innings the Australians could claim a moral victory. The whole game lasted less than five hours.

Little more than a week after their visit to Canterbury in August 1938, Australia suffered their worst ever Test defeat at The Oval, by an innings and 579 runs – the largest in Test history. Yet they went into the match in good form, beating Kent by 10 wickets and not having lost a match from their first in early May. On the opening day at Canterbury the death was announced of Hugh Trumble. Many spectators present on that day in 1938 may well have witnessed his record breaking performances in 1893 and 1902. Australia amassed 450-8 on the first day in a display described as ‘an epic of batting technique“. Whilst five of their batsmen passed the half century, only one, Sidney Barnes, came close to a hundred, with 94. Kent struggled to a miserable first innings 108 with Leslie Ames and Doug. Wright“s combined score contributing 51 of those. Following on, they showed much greater resistance. 139 from Ames and 81 from Woolley in a total of 377 just avoided the innings defeat although the Tourists needed just seven to seal victory.

Bradman“s ‘Invincibles“ of 1948 was the first touring side to go undefeated through a tour of England. Their superiority might be best gauged by the forty seven three figure innings played by their batsmen as against the meagre seven scored against them. By the time they arrived at Canterbury they had retained the Ashes and had won 20 of their 26 matches, 12 by an innings. Kent offered no greater resistance than the other counties, losing in front of record crowds by an innings and 186 runs. Bradman said his farewell with an attractive innings of 65 whilst opener Bill Brown contributed a painstaking 106 in the Tourists total of 361. At one run less than England“s effort in The Oval Test the previous week, Kent“s first innings 51 was the lowest of all against the Tourists. They fared just a little better in the second innings thanks to a hugely entertaining stand of 71 in thirty-two minutes by wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans and the fleet-of-foot Tony Pawson.

With the exception of the rain-ruined match of 1934 the Australians had exceeded 300 runs in at least one innings on each of their visits from 1921. That pattern continued in 1953, in fact right up to 1975. By the time of their arrival at Canterbury the Ashes had been conceded to England but it had not noticeably affected their morale. Bill Johnston“s left-arm fast-medium bowling earned him five first innings wickets and match figures of 11-73. Although opener Arthur Phebey carried his bat for 85 in a first innings 181 the home side were unable to challenge Australia“s 465-8 which included an undefeated 83 by wicket-keeper Don Tallon, batting at number nine. He and leg-break bowler John Hill, 51*, put on an undefeated 103 for the ninth wicket. Kent fared worse in their second innings managing only 108.

1956 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Kent“s first Championship success and it was appropriate that four members of that side, Frank Woolley, Bill Fairservice, Jack Hubble and Arthur Day should be present for the visit of the Tourists. Unfortunately, the weather on the first day did not match the occasion with play being totally washed out. Greatly improved weather on the Monday enabled the Tourists to declare on 301-4 which included a typically stubborn undefeated 113 by Ken ‘Slasher“ Mackay. But with so much time being lost and Kent“s batsmen able to counter the Australians moderate attack, a draw was always the most likely outcome. By contrast, the match five years later was quite outstanding with the result in doubt until late on the final day when a win for either side, a draw or a tie, could have been the result. Although the Australians declared on 428-6 with centuries from left-hand opener Bill Lawry, known as ‘The Phantom“ and the young Norman O“Neill, heralded as ‘the new Don Bradman“, this was to go down as ‘Colin Cowdrey“s match“. The Kent captain, for the third time in his career, scored a century in each innings of a match which brought Kent to within seven runs of a famous victory. That such a thrilling finish was possible resulted from two sporting declarations by the Australian captain, Neil Harvey and by Cowdrey when Kent“s first innings was well on target to get close to that of the Tourists. Set 291 to win in 190 minutes at a rate of 92 runs an hour, Kent almost got there, scoring 284-6 at five runs an over.

With a side that was beginning to show signs of developing into serious challengers for honours, the match of 1964 had similarities to that of three years earlier. Another Kent batsman, this time Peter Richardson, with a century in each innings, and hundreds once again for Bill Lawry and Norman O“Neill, set up an exciting match which saw the Tourists victorious by eight wickets. Although the margin of victory looks wide, this was another occasion when challenging declarations made for an enthralling game. Kent“s 346-6 declared with Richardson scoring 111 and Cowdrey 90, was matched by the Tourists who declared on 354-8. Nineteen year-old Derek Underwood took five of those eight wickets. A further declaration by the hosts at 258-3 with Richardson 115 and undefeated half-centuries from Cowdrey and Brian Luckhurst, left the visitors three and a quarter hours to score 251 for victory. With the Lawry and O“Neill centuries they won with just twelve minutes to spare.

Eight of the side that Kent fielded in the 1968 match had been, or were to become, Test players. Despite that talent, the hosts were unable to overcome a not especially strong Australian side. An interesting feature of the match was that, for the first time, the Tourists played a County side on a Sunday. This came about due to the appalling weather at the beginning of the season which had seriously affected the tourists“ programme and finances. Given the potential in the home side“s batting, scores of 210 and 152 were disappointing. Only John Shepherd, with a first innings 84, showed any appetite for a no more than moderate Australian attack. The visitors“ comfortable nine wickets win presented them with no problems. Their right-arm spin bowler, John Gleeson, with his unusual style, had an outstanding match with 9-90. The fifteen matches in which he played brought him 58 wickets, the most by any of the Australian bowlers.

Having been County Champions in 1970 and with a side full of talent, it could have been expected that, two years on from that success the team would perform well against a group of tourists, ten of whom had not previously been to England. Although not regaining the Ashes they performed better than expected, winning eleven of their twenty-six matches and being beaten on just five occasions. The Tourists did not field their strongest side with only two of the XI who appeared at Canterbury playing in all five Tests. But despite that, Kent were one of their five county victims, being defeated by nine wickets. The hosts were able to muster only 139 in their first innings, a totally inadequate response to the 330-4 of Australia, the highlight of which was a fourth wicket partnership of 266 between Doug. Walters with 150 and Greg. Chappell whose 141*was one of four centuries he scored during the tour. Between them they rescued the innings after the first three batsmen had been dismissed for 24. A second innings 278 for Kent presented little challenge to the visitors who scored the 88 needed for victory with ease.

With 1976 effectively being his final season for Kent (he played only one match in 1976) nothing would have given Colin Cowdrey more pleasure than leading his County to victory against the Australians for the first time in 76 years. The result came through another match of sporting declarations on the part of the visitors although their second innings closure on 140-3, giving them a lead of 353, would have been with the thought in mind of a convincing victory in their first three day match of the tour and just days before the first of a four match Test series. The pigeon-chested Alan Turner contributed 156 of the Tourists 415-8 declared. Ian Chappell did not enforce the follow-on after Kent finished 213 behind and with still plenty of time left in the match, Australia“s second innings runs, although scored at under 2.5 an over, gave them almost the whole of the final day to dismiss Kent. With Dennis Lillie spearheading the attack the Tourists“ Captain would have fancied his chances. But he reckoned without Cowdrey at his best despite being in his 43rd year. Kent“s 354-6 was scored at a rate of more than six runs an over, almost unheard of outside of limited over cricket. In the first ten overs of the final hour 79 runs came. The remaining 28 needed came in the next five: 107 runs in 15 overs! Having been completely outplayed for a good half of the match, it was a remarkable victory.

It is generally acknowledged that had it not been for the appalling weather in the August of 1977, Kent might well have been outright County Champions instead of having to share the title with Middlesex. The bad weather was not however confined to August. In a poor summer, the Tourists match at Canterbury was scheduled for the first week of May, immediately following their match against Surrey at The Oval where play was possible only on the second day. The Tourists fared no better at the St Lawrence Ground where there was little more than five hours cricket: two and a half hours on the first day and two hours forty minutes on the last. In that time the Australians scored just 240-8 declared. Kim Hughes top scored with 80. For Kent, with five senior members absent, first-class debuts were accorded to Chris Cowdrey, son of Colin, and his fellow student from Tonbridge School, Nick Kemp. Neither batted, Kent being 33-2 when weather had the final word, but Cowdrey dismissed Doug. Walters in a spell of seven overs.

Four years later rain was once more the winner when, fresh from their first Test victory they restricted Kent to 147-6 after a first day washout. Kent declared at that total allowing the visitors much needed batting practice on a slow wicket. The Tourists“ Captain, Kim Hughes, top scored with 61 whilst for Kent the outstanding moments were Derek Underwood“s dismissal of both openers in the space of five balls and Bob Woolmer“s dismissal of the Captain and Graham Yallop in the space of eight balls. Kent used nine bowlers including Knott and Tavare.

Australia arrived at Canterbury for their last scheduled match against a county side in 1985 and just two days before the final Test with the Ashes, at that stage, in the balance. Kent fielded a side which included the 46 year old Brian Luckhurst who, at that time was cricket manager but called out of retirement due to illness and injury. Interestingly, the side also included Richard Ellison, who had been selected for the Test Match. Would that could happen today!! Although Kent scored a first innings 333 they conceded a first innings lead of 31 due to a sixth wicket stand of 182 between Greg. Ritchie whose 155 was his highest of the tour and the Captain, Allan Border with103, the seventh of his eight hundreds of the tour. Kent“s second innings collapse, scoring just 126, gave the Tourists a comfortable seven wicket win to send them confidently on their way to The Oval. Ellison took 3-43 in the Australians first innings and then went on to have match figures of 7-81 in the final Test, thereby playing a substantial part in an England victory and the regaining of the Ashes.

By the time of the Tourists“ visit to Canterbury in 1989 England had conceded the Ashes in what had been a one-sided series. However, despite a century by Dean Jones and 86 from David Boon, Kent held on for a draw thanks largely to a second innings 106 from Mark Benson who batted for more than five and a half hours. His effort had been especially well supported by two young players, Mark Ealham and Danny Kelleher, who batted through the final sixteen overs. Simon Hinks was the mainstay of Kent“s first innings, scoring 85 out of 191, whilst Kelleher did what the England bowlers failed to do throughout the Test series, dismissing both opening batsmen with just a handful of runs on the board.

A comfortable win for the Tourists in mid-August 1993 was, surprisingly, their first against a county since the end of May. Especially surprising given their rampant form in the Test series. In the Tourists“ 391-4 declared Steve Waugh scored 123, Damien Martyn an undefeated 105, whilst Matthew Hayden“s 31 included his 1,000th run for the tour, making him the first Australian to reach that milestone without playing in a Test. With rain interruptions on the second day, Kent declared their innings closed on 114-2 with David Fulton on 40*, whereupon Australia opened their second innings with Shane Warne and Brendon Julien who scored 34 before Kent were set a target of 312 in 87 overs. Despite losing three early wickets it looked as though they might well record another famous victory until Graham Cowdrey was run out with the score on 158. Trevor Ward scored 69 but with the exception of Mark Ealham with 34, no other batsman contributed and Kent subsided to 222 all out, giving the visitors a comfortable victory.

Having secured their hold on the Ashes, the Australians came to Canterbury in mid August of 1997 with a side which lacked Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting, all of whom had outstanding tours. Although they included in their XI Shane Lee from the Lancashire League and Shaun Young from Gloucestershire, the hosts proved no match for them, losing by six wickets. Michael Kasprowicz took the first four wickets in Kent“s total of 201, the first three batsmen not registering a single run between them. Apart from Matthew Fleming and to a lesser extent Steve Marsh and Mark Ealham, none of the home batsmen got on top of the bowling. A masterful 154 from the Tourists“ captain, Steve Waugh, his highest score of the tour, helped them to a first innings lead of 114 and whilst Kent“s second innings proved the highest of the match with Trevor Ward, Alan Wells and Mark Ealham all comfortably passing the half century mark, Australia“s victory target of 230 was comfortably reached.

For more than 120 years the famous St Lawrence Ground and others cricket grounds in the hop county have witnessed and played host to some of the finest cricketers Australia has produced. Their visits have been something special for the cricket lovers of Kent. Whilst this year they are with us for just two days, it is to be hoped that the time is not too distant when Kent will welcome future generations of cricketers from ‘Down Under“ for the return of that which was always something special in the county“s sporting calendar.

I hope you enjoyed reading David“s article. Australia are back at Canterbury this Saturday (15) and Sunday (16). Tickets are still available. You can purchase yours on either day at the turnstiles. Come and enjoy the Australian cricketers in all their glory at Kent“s St Lawrence Ground.

Remember, it“s free for members and keenly priced for non-members. Come along on either day and it will cost you the following:

£18 for adults
£12 for senior citizens
£6 for juniors

Picture courtesy of Getty Images: Kent“s then overseas player, Paul Strang, bowls against Australia in the Tour match at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury, back in August 1997.