The date was 1 February 1929, and Australia’s teenage Test debutant scored what has often gone down in history as the perfect innings.
In front of a sold-out Adelaide Oval crowd, Australia’s new batsman scored an incredible 164 in his first-ever innings of international cricket at the age of 19 against nemesis England. England’s opening bowler at the time, Percy Fender, even commented on the young man’s talent, stating, “He made every conceivable stroke, (with) perfect timing”.
But why isn’t this Australian batsman considered as one of the greatest of all time? And why isn’t his name as iconic as Donald Bradman’s?
This is the tale of Archie Jackson.
Jackson was born on 5 September 1909 in Glasgow. When he was just three years old his family decided to move to Balmain in Sydney. Jackson attended Birchgrove Public School before moving to Rozelle Junior Technical School. He was always heavily involved in sport and took particular interest in cricket and soccer.
He later formed a community cricket team with his friend Bill Hunt and would have to sneak onto the nearby cricket ground, Birchgrove Oval, to play. Quite often they would get kicked off the oval by local authorities, so they would resort to practising and playing among themselves on the streets.
To put it in context for how strong this cricket team was, Jackson and Bill Hunt ended up playing Test cricket together while two other members played for New South Wales.
At the ripe old age of 14, Jackson began playing lower-grade cricket for the Balmain Cricket Club, and by 15 he was picked for the first-grade squad and was doing well. In the 1926-27 season he finished with 879 runs and a batting average of 87.9.
At just 17 years old he was signed by the New South Wales Sheffield Shield team and scored his maiden century against Queensland. At 18 he was attending the prestigious ‘Sydney school of batsmanship’, and huge crowds would draw in every time he played or even just trained. Now, in 1929, when Jackson was only 19 years old, he was picked to play for Australia against England.
On 1 February 1929 Archie Jackson opened the batting for Australia alongside cricket legend Bill Woodfull. Australia at one stage were in a bit of strife at 3-19, but due to Jackson’s batting masterclass, worth 164 and 368 minutes, Australia held on to get a strong score of 369. Despite losing the Test, Jackson got 36 in the second innings and scores of 30 and 46 in the next Test in Melbourne, which was more than enough to secure his place in the team for the upcoming tour of England.
Jackson played phenomenal cricket in England, scoring 1023 runs and having a record fourth-wicket partnership with Don Bradman of 243. Despite all of this, Jackson was very ill in England and after the next series against the West Indies he was dropped from the team due to health concerns.
In 1932 he went to Brisbane in hope of warmer weather. Unfortunately, his illness became much worse than originally expected and Jackson was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Archie Jackson died in Brisbane on 16 of February 1933 at the age of only 23.
Jackson’s story and legacy were bought up and popularised again within the media and the general public in 1974 when David Frith released a book titled The Archie Jackson Story: A Biography.
Jackson will forever be one of Australia’s greats, as his superb Test batting average of 47.40 alongside his love for the game will live on forever. Long may we remember the man and the legend that is Archie Jackson.