August 13, 1902 – England’s greatest turnaround in a Test match chase

The English team were reduced to 48/5 while chasing a target of 263 at The Oval.

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Published - Aug 13, 2020, 10:24 IST | Updated - Aug 13, 2020, 10:24 IST


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Australia ended their wait for an Ashes series win in 1891-92 home season but waited until 1899 for their maiden Ashes series victory in England. It was one of Australia’s 3rd successive Ashes series win between 1897-98 and 1901-02 home triumphs. Australia toured England in 1902 with the confidence of retaining the urn for the 4th consecutive time. The 5-match series that began in May itself witnessed Australia escaping with a draw at the Edgbaston after being dismissed for mere 36.

The second Test at the Lord’s ended in a draw as only 105 minutes of play was possible due to rain and poor pitch conditions. By July, the weather improved so did Australia’s performances. They cruised to a 143-run win in the 3rd Test which was played at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, a venue that was making its Test debut. The 4th Test in Manchester had a lot of significance and both the rival teams responded in same fashion making it a thriller.

Australia, batting first, made 299 and while England responded with 262. The track became tough for batting as the match progressed and the Aussies were bowled out for only 86 in their 2nd essay. Chasing a target of 124, the English team reached 92/3 as four of their top five batters scored in excess of 15 runs. The home team looked set to level the series but lost their last seven wickets for only 28 runs. They ended up losing the Test by mere three runs as Australia retained the Ashes with a series-winning lead.

A thrilling to finish the series!

The final Test match of the series at The Oval didn’t have much of a significance but England had a lot to play for. The English team managed to win only two of the previous 19 Test matches leading to which they lost four successive series. Troubles continued for England at The Oval despite George Hirst’s 5-wicket haul as Australia reached 324 on the first day. Hugh Trumble took an 8-wicket haul bowling unchanged for the hosts to reduce England to 183 in the first innings.

Much like the Manchester Test, the English team fought back with the ball as Bill Lockwood’s 5-fer collapsed the visitors to 121. But the target of 263 looked like a mountain for the hosts as the left-arm bowler Jack Saunders claimed the first four wickets of England’s innings. The home team was almost out of the contest as they were five wickets down for 48. But Stanley Jackson and Gilbert Jessop blossomed hopes for England with a crucial partnership.

The No.7 batsman Gilbert Jessop was aggressive through his innings and made most of the support from Jackson. Jessop got his fifty in only 38 deliveries as he kept finding boundaries. The 6th wicket stand was worth of 109 runs came to an end after Jackson fell for a 100-ball 49. Jessop continued to score runs at a rapid pace and reached his hundred in only 76 deliveries. Unfortunately, he got out on 104 with England needing another 76 runs but only three wickets in hand.

No tension for England!

England’s line-up at The Oval was a rare one as all 11 players had at least one first-class century to their credit. Post Jessop’s dismissal, the No.8 batsman Hirst took the charge of the chase with a sensible knock. He kept the scoreboard ticking and also had an eye on the resources available at the other end. He added 27 runs for the 8th wicket with Lockwood (2) and 34 runs for the 9th wicket with the keeper Arthur Lilley (16). Trumble dismissed both the batters to extend his match tally to 12 wickets.

England was left to chase 15 runs with one wicket in hand but there was no reason to panic for them. The batsman who walked to bat was Wilfred Rhodes who was also known for his exploits with the bat. The duo safely got England over the line with Hirst completing his fifty in 75 balls. This 263-run chase by England was the only successful chase of 200+ target on England soil until the 2nd World War. As on today, the 215 runs scored by England after the loss of 5th wicket are the 2nd highest during a successful Test chase.