In the summer of 1896, the Australian team toured England for a 3-match Ashes series under the captaincy of Harry Trott. As many as 11 Ashes series took place before this tour but the Aussies managed to win only one that too in the 1891-92 home season. England was dominant over the Aussies at home as the English team won all the five Ashes series they hosted before 1896. Australia managed to win only one Test across 14 matches played in those five series on English soil.
Australia’s wait for their first Ashes series win in England looked set to be extended with them collapsing to 53/10 in the first session of the series opener at the Lord’s. Skipper Harry Trott inspired his team with a 143-run knock in the second innings that helped Australia to finish on 347. But it was not enough for the Aussies as England chased down the target of 109 losing four wickets. But the way Harry batted in the 2nd essay surely lifted the spirits of the visitors to bounce back.
The Australian fightback!
Opener Frank Iredale struck a century at the Old Trafford helping Australia to reach 412 in their first innings. England was forced to follow-on after they were bowled out for 231. An unbeaten 154 from KS Ranjitsinhji got England to finish with 305 in the follow-on innings. Australia got a target of 124 which they reached losing seven wickets to level the series. The series-decider was scheduled to be played at The Oval starting from August 10th.
Ahead of the Test match, five England cricketers – Bobby Abel, Tom Richardson, Tom Hayward, George Gunn and George Lohmann went on a strike demanding a higher match fee. The five players demanded 20 pounds in place of regular fees of 10 pounds for playing the game. Gunn and Lohmann backed out from the game even after the talks went on while the remaining three stayed in the team. However, heavy rain on the opening day at The Oval saw no play until 4:55 PM local time.
The greed for an extra run!
Batting was expected to be quite tough after the pitch got drenched in rain. England did well on day one finishing at 69/1 after electing to bat first. Hugh Trumble ran through England’s middle and lower-order with a 6-wicket haul as the home team fell apart. England lost their last seven wickets for just 31 runs to be bowled out for 145. Australia, in reply, started well thanks to an opening partnership between Joe Darling and Frank Iredale. They went to lunch without losing a wicket and 45 runs on the board.
An all run four in the second session took Aussies to 75/0 with more than half of England’s first innings total being cleared. But the duo of Darling and Iredale tried for a 5th run only to see the end of Frank’s innings for 30 runs. The 75-run partnership came in only 45 minutes, a short span which was the only good period for Australia with the bat in the whole match. Soon after Iredale’s runout, Joe Darling was dismissed for 47. Australia eventually stumbled to 119 as Jack Hearne claimed a 6-wicket haul.
Australia’s wait continues!
Australia continued to fight with the bat despite conceding a lead of 26 runs in the first innings. They kept down the hosts to 84 with Trumble picking up yet another 6-wicket haul in the match. Though the target Australia got was only 111, the pitch was almost unplayable for the batsmen. WG Grace handed the ball to his spinners Jack Hearne and Bobby Peel after the first over.
The off-spinner Hearne took three wickets to leave Australia reeling at 7/3 before the left-arm spinner Peel showed his magic. Bobby took six consecutive wickets to fall as the visitors collapsed to 25/9 with no batsman scoring more than six runs. At this stage, the No.11 batsman Tom McKibbin scored 16 runs and added 19 runs for the last wicket with Trumble (7*). Hearne picked up the last wicket as the Aussies were bowled out for 44 runs in 26 overs to lose the match by 66 runs.
Jack Hearne completed the match with ten wickets to help England seal the Test series with a margin of 2-1. From the point of Frank Iredale’s try for the 5th run, Australia lost all 20 wickets for only 88 runs. Tom Richardson took 24 wickets in the first two Tests of the series with 5-wicket hauls in all four innings out of which three were 6-wicket hauls. However, he got a chance to bowl just six overs at The Oval due to Hearne and Peel’s dominance.
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