August 12, 1884 – When an England keeper took a 4-wicket haul with lob bowling

August 12, 1884 – When an England keeper took a 4-wicket haul with lob bowling

Australia batted a total of 311 overs for scoring 551 in the 1884 Ashes Test match.

Alfred Lyttelton
Alfred Lyttelton. (Photo Source: Twitter)

England won the first-ever Ashes Test series in 1882-83 tour of Australia and later stood hosts for the first time in 1884. The first Test in Manchester ended in a draw where Australia held the upper hand. But England retained the Ashes in the 2nd Test at the Lord’s with a margin of an innings and five runs. Australia still had a chance to draw the Test series in the last game of the 3-match series at The Oval starting on August 11th.

Australia made a solid start after electing to bat first with as many as three players scoring centuries on the first day itself. Charles Bannerman got out scoring four runs but his partner Percy McDonnell struck 14 boundaries on his way to a 168-ball 103. He put on a 143-run partnership for the 2nd wicket along with skipper Billy Murdoch. Henry Scott, who walked in at No.4, ended the day at an unbeaten 101. Murdoch remained unbeaten on 145 helping his side to finish on 363/2.

Everyone gets a chance to bowl!

Back in the 19th century, the over rates were quite high and the number of balls per over varied. During this Test in 1884, each over had four balls which saw the England team bowl as many as 183 overs on the first day. This could have translated into 122 overs of 6 balls which is still a big number compared to the 90 and less bowled in the modern day cricket.

It turned out to be a tough day for the England bowlers as the home skipper Lord Harris went on to ask the wicket-keeper, The Honorable Alfred Lyttelton to have a bowl. Lyttelton, towards the end of the day, bowled three overs giving 11 runs in what was his first bowling innings in four Test matches. Alfred was the 10th bowler to be used by England on the first day’s play and Walter Read kept the wickets.

Towards the end of Australia’s first innings on the second day, Arthur Shrewsbury rolled his arms for the first time in Test cricket which helped England create a rare record for using as many as 11 bowlers  in a Test inning. It stood as the only instance in first 100 years of Test cricket where all 11 players of a team bowled in an innings. This has been replicated only three more times till date.

The 4-wicket haul with lob bowling!

Alfred Lyttelton wasn’t a specialist at bowling and hence he ended up with lob bowling which loosely translates to underarm bowling. The trajectory of his deliveries came in a high arc that ended up in the line outside leg-stump. His bowling was once again required as Australia continued to bat and showed no urgency on the second day. Scott added only one run to his overnight score before his partnership of 207 for the 3rd wicket with Murdoch came to an end.

The Australian skipper went on to score 211 off 525 balls during an innings spanned across 490 minutes. Lyttelton was brought into the attack for a second spell in the 295th over of the innings when Australia were 532/6. WG Grace kept wickets this time who ended up affecting a dismissal on the very first ball. Billy Midwinter (30) ended up edging a loopy delivery from the Lyttelton. This made Alfred the first player to claim a Test wicket while playing as a wicketkeeper and it was also the first Test wicket through lob bowling.

Couple of overs later, another set batsman Jack Blackham (32) was trapped in front by the England keeper. Just as Aussies inched close to the 550-run mark, Fred Spofforth was cleaned up Lyttelton. The lob bowler then went on to bag four wickets as the last man Harry Boyle was caught at mid-on by skipper Harris. Australia was eventually bowled out for 551 playing as many as 311 overs.

The England team faced 42.4 overs before stumps on 2nd day where they made 71/2. Australia’s innings win seemed to be certain when England lost their 8th wicket at the score of 181 shortly after lunch. But No.10 batsman Walter Read smashed 117 from only 155 balls and shared a 151-run stand in two hours with opener William Scotton (90). Australia enforced the follow-on after England were bowled out for 356 in 198 overs. England made 85/2 in 26 overs in the second essay before the match ended in a draw.

A record to stay forever!

Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, till date, remains the only player to claim a 4-wicket haul in Men’s International cricket while playing as a wicketkeeper. In fact, only two players managed to pick more than one wicket while playing as a designated wicketkeeper after Lyttelton in a Men’s International game but none could do it in a Test. However, Ingrid Jagersma of New Zealand took 4/38 during a Women’s Test match against India in 1985 and remains as the only Woman to take a Test wicket while playing as a keeper.