Australia’s humiliating loss – 100 years ago today
100 years ago today (30 September 1912) Australia’s cricket team lost a thrilling match by just two runs. Their opponents? England? South Africa? Neither.
It was the Gentlemen of Philadelphia who inflicted the loss when their star swing bowler, Bart King, bowled Bill Whitty in the last over of the match.
Australia had first played at Philadelphia on their way back from the first tour to England in 1878. This particular loss seemed the icing on the cake for arguably the worst tour by an Australian cricket team.
It had begun with the withdrawal of six top class Test players including Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Clem Hill who boycotted the tour in protest against the Australian Board of Control’s attempt to run the game at a national level.
The kind-hearted Syd Gregory found himself in charge of an inexperienced squad in which 10 out of the 15 had never played in England before. They took part in a triangular series with South Africa and England- an experiment deemed to be a complete disaster. During a very wet summer they won just 9 of their 38 matches.
More damaging than the poor on-field performances was the behaviour off it. Stories of constant rudeness to the locals, foul language and drunken brawls abounded.
So bad did matters get that W. P. McElhone, Chairman of the Board, sent a telegram to the team manager, G.S. Crouch, asking him to consider abandoning the tour half way through it. Yet still the rain fell and the players found comfort in the bars.
By the time the team, minus Charlie Macartney and Warren Bardsley, arrived for the six matches in America and Canada, the behaviour had worsened.
The match itself against Philadelphia began with the home side making 185. Australia’s Jimmy Matthews took 5 for 65 including a hat-trick.
Incredibly this followed two hat-tricks in each innings of the Test against South Africa earlier in the summer. His slow medium leg breaks were mixed with some that did not turn at all and clearly confused batsmen.
Yet he was outdone by Bart King, the home side’s opening bowler. Nearing 40 years of age, King took 9 wickets in the match and was given the responsibility of bowling the last over with Australia needing 12 runs to win with one wicket left.
A single off the first ball was followed by Whitty hitting a boundary. The keeper then let through four byes but King held his nerve to clean bowl Whitty as the tourists were dismissed for 135 in their second innings.
When they finally arrived home after keeping passengers on their boat awake all night, manager Crouch lodged a report with the Board about the poor conduct and ill discipline.
The tour made a loss of £1286 but the Board took full control over the players, who did not rebel until 1977. That is unless we forget that only a few months later a team of first class Australian players undertook a 53 match tour of America and Bermuda without the Board’s sanction.
The loss to Philadelphia 100 years ago must surely rank as one of the most humiliating by an Australian cricket team. Are there others to challenge it Roarers?
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