The Best of Tests: And the Ashes was born...
Test cricket mirrors life. The ebbs and flows of the format have given birth to some of the most breath-taking cricketing epics. A Cricket World Series, The Best of Tests, highlights the finest of these spectacles.
Only Test, Australia tour of England at The Oval, Aug 28-29 1882
Australia 63 & 122
England (target 85) 101 & 77
Result - Australia won by 7 runs
After Australia registered their first victory against England on English soil on August 29, 1882, a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks, decided to pen a mock obituary. The following appeared in the Sporting Times, announcing the 'death' of English cricket:
"In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia."
Australia had beaten England a couple of times each in Melbourne and Sydney but on their tour of England in 1882, they did something unprecedented at The Oval.
Australia opted to bat first after winning the toss. The decision didn't prove to be the most far-sighted one as the entire team was rolled over for 63 in 80 overs, within just over two hours.
If you thought England would do much better, think again. Fred Spofforth, also known as "The Demon Bowler", was arguably the Australian cricket team's finest pace bowler of the nineteenth century. He crushed the English innings for 101, bagging 7 scalps.
Australia were bowled out for 122 in 63 overs in their second innings. England now needed just 85 runs to win the match and maintain their spotless record at home. Simple, right?
But, you forgot "The Demon Bowler".
Spofforth backed up his seven with another seven to keep England 8 runs short. In fact, when Ted Peate, England's last batsman, came to the crease, his side needed just 10 runs to win with Charles Studd, one of the best batsmen in England, at the other end. Instead, Peate decided to do it himself, and failed.
When he returned to the pavilion, captain Albert Hornby reprimanded him for not allowing his partner to get the runs. Peate humorously replied, "I had no confidence in Mr Studd, sir, so thought I had better do my best."
After the loss, The Sporting Times obituary appeared, stating that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The next English tour to Australia in 1882-83 was then dubbed as the quest to regain The Ashes.
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