Richmond's first and last ball heroes.
It has been well documented that the first ever Test match was played between England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from the 15th to the 19th of March 1877, and that Australia achieved an unexpected victory. The Richmond Cricket Club was only in the 23rd year of its existence but two of its players were very influential in achieving Australia's historic win.
This is their story.
Up to the present time, (April 2012) 428 young men have been invited to don the famous baggy cap for Australia, but it was cap Nos. 7 - John (Jack) Robart Hodges and 9 - Thomas Kingston Kendall who created a legacy for future Richmond players to strive to achieve in our great summer game.
Cricket teams from the Mother Country began arriving in Australia to promote the game as far back as 1862. Naturally stronger they agreed to the home sides use of from fifteen to twenty two players against England's eleven in an effort to make the games more even. It was during the 1876-1877 tour that teams from the colonies proved they were now competitive and better able to match the visitors, so the March 15 match became the first to be played on equal terms and in time became to be known as the First Test Match.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat. An unexpected event unfolded in that the Colonials were able to bat through until an hour after lunch on the second day, they faced 681 deliveries and put together a very creditable 245 runs. This excellent total was only possible because of a fantastic innings of 165 runs compiled by Australia's 25 year old opening batsman Charles Bannerman.
Late in the Australian's innings, Bannerman was struck on the hand by a rising ball from the Yorkshire player George Ulyett and was forced to retire "hurt". His fine individual effort comprised nearly 70% of Australia's total, and the 165 remains the highest by an Australian on debut in Tests, even though it was compiled 135 years ago.
At 3-30 pm on that second day the English openers Harry Jupp of Surrey and John Selby of Nottinghamshire came out, they looked up the pitch to see the surprise Australian bowling selection Jack Hodges mark out his run to the wicket, and then send down the very first ball by an Australian bowler in a Test match. The Richmond Cricket Club's left arm medium pace bowler Hodges was considered extremely fortunate to be selected in the Australian eleven, when the records showed that he was yet to play first class cricket prior to this historic inaugural Test match.
Jack Hodges was called up from the Richmond ranks to fill in for top South Melbourne and Victorian bowler Frank Allan who declined an invitation to play. Allan claimed he was in the country and the travelling from Warrnambool to Melbourne and back was exceedingly time consuming and he refused to make the effort. Allan himself was expected to take the place of the N.S.W. "Demon Bowler" Fred Spofforth who also declined selection, he said he would only play if his N.S.W team mate and wicket-keeper of choice "Billy" Murdoch was selected, the Victorian wicket-keeper Jack Blackham was chosen so then Hodges became the selectors third choice. Hodges had taken 49 wickets that season for Richmond but had just arrived at Punt Road from a junior Collingwood team, he was hardly a household name.
Hodges not only sent down the first ever delivery in Australia's history but when he had Selby caught at point he had also completed our cricket nations' very first dismissal. England were bowled out for 196, Hodges took 1 for 27 and Jupp top scored with 63. The other Richmond debutant Tom Kendall toiled away with his accurate left-arm slows sending down 152 deliveries in this first innings. Kendall was considered an excellent bowler in Victoria, he had taken 143 wickets for Richmond in six seasons but like Hodges he also had never played first class cricket for the colony, he was a club cricketer. His steady performance netted him 1 for 54 which was handy support for his highly regarded team-mate William Midwinter, who was Australia's bowling star in England's first innings taking 5 for 78.
Australia found the English bowlers very difficult to handle in their second innings and were only able to scratch together 104 runs leaving the visitors with 154 required to achieve victory. Hodges and Kendall were playing well, they compiled a very valuable 29 run partnership for the 10th wicket in that second innings, but it was their bowling efforts that could be the difference between defeat and victory.
Jack Hodges took 2 for 7 in England's second innings and when Tom Kendall bowled lower order batsman Tom Emmett for 9 with what became the last delivery of the game, England's total of 108 saw them defeated by 45 runs.
Kendall bowled unchanged through England's second innings and produced a match winning performance of 7 for 55, not bad for a club trundler. The Richmond left handers had taken 11 wickets for the game and more than played their part in the team's success. They both played only one more Test for Australia and their record in compiling only 4 first class games in each of their careers, means that their names are not spoken about to be among the giants of Australian Cricket.
It was estimated that 20,000 Victorians attended the four days of that historic match in March 1877. They cheered the Australians loudly during the game, and carried them from the ground for their splendid efforts when the final wicket fell. Tom Kendall who played a most important role in the victory received a 23 pound collection for his sterling work from the people of Melbourne.
Australian author, the late Jack Pollard, in his book, 'Complete Illustrated History of Australian Cricket' wrote that "John Conway, sole selector and organiser of Australia's first Test team, overcame some unexpected withdrawals". He also stated that he (Conway) "listened to the views of knowledgeable cricket fans like show-business entrepreneur George Coppin, donor of trophies for competition among Melbourne clubs". Is it possible that because Coppin was a long time supporter of Richmond Cricket ( He was RCC President 1861-62 and 1866-67) that his influence with Conway may have been the reason the two Richmond club players, Hodges and Kendall were the last minute replacements for Spofforth and Allan?. If that was the case they were indeed strange but inspired selections.
Next time"Ron's Recap" will move forward 59 years to another occasion when two Richmond Cricketers were selected in the same Australian cricket team, this time in South Africa.
Return to the list of Ron Reiffel Recaps stories.