Tiger Double in South Africa - 1936
Tiger double in South Africa-1936.
In a previous segment of "Ron's Recap" we told how the Richmond Cricket Club supplied two players to the very first Australian Eleven in 1877 and suggested next time we would move forward 59 years to 1936 when the Tigers would once again introduced two players Ernest Leslie McCormick and Leo Patrick Joseph O'Brien, into the same national team for a Test Match.
In those intervening 59 years Richmond had only two other players debut for Australia, they were the all-rounder Sam Morris in January 1885 and batsman Dave Smith in June 1912. Although O'Brien first played for his country during the bodyline series of 1932-33 and McCormick had played in the first three Tests of this 1935-36 Australia - South Africa series, it was in the Fourth Test when the two Tigers walked out together in the national team for the first time.
Leo O'Brien was introduced into the Australian Eleven as a top order batsman in 1932 because it was thought that being a left hander the lethal bouncer that the England express bowler Harold Larwood delivered would leave the bat and may not pose as big a threat by exposing him to the body blows that the Australian right hander's experienced by the ball following them down the leg side. He like most of the Australian batsmen had limited success during this infamous" Bodyline" series, but he received great praise for his courage in standing up to the extreme pace and bounce of the English fast bowlers.
It was suggested by teammate Doug Ring that Ernie McCormick, an excellent right arm fast bowler for Richmond, Victoria and Australia was of similar pace to the legendary fast bowling duo of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller and Ring should know because he played alongside McCormick and also played with and against the two Australian champions. Batsmen from opposition District clubs were extremely nervous when Ernie was "flat out", he could be a lethal bowler as he displayed when he sent North Melbourne's Roy Watters to the Royal Melbourne Hospital one Saturday in 1940, and scores of batsmen both home and abroad would attest to his hostility.
The Aussies won the first Test at Durban by nine wickets, the second was drawn and the third in Capetown resulted in an even greater victory for the visitors, winning by an innings and 78 runs. The South African batsman had no answer to the outstanding spin bowling of two of Australian finest in Clarrie Grimett (22 wickets) and Bill O'Reilly (19). At the same time their bowlers were receiving rough treatment from our top order led by Jack Fingleton, Bill Brown and Stan McCabe who more than played their part in a team that was without Don Bradman who did not make the tour on Doctors advice.
The fourth Test followed a similar pattern in that after winning the toss and electing to bat South Africa were sent packing for a lowly 157 by McCormick (2 for 37) Grimmett (3 for 70) and O'Reilly 5 for 20). Australia then batted the Springboks out of the game by hitting up 439 for a first innings lead of 282. In an even batting display, apart from Fingleton's second century of the series (118), O'Brien's 59 was the next best score by an Australian. Ernie McCormick made only 13 but he stayed with Bill O'Reilly while they put on an entertaining 69 run partnership for the last wicket.
McCormick then changed into his bowling boots and proceeded to clean bowl the home team's first three batsmen Ivan Siedle (0), Herbert Wade (2) and Dudley Nourse (3) in a fine exhibition of very quick bowling. After his spell of 3 for 28, Ernie just stood and watched as Grimmett took 7 for 40 and the game was over, a demoralised South Africa were shot out for only 98, and suffered a humiliating defeat of an innings and 183 runs. For McCormick to penetrate the defence of Nourse was a significant achievement because this wonderful Springbok batsman had scored 91 in the first Test and 231 in the second. The Australian team were undefeated on tour with the Richmond boys playing their part in what proved to be a fine Australian team, but history will show the Richmond duo could only manage two more games together under the Baggy Green Cap.
McCormick played in 13 matches on the South African tour and took 49 wickets at an average of 18.06 with his best effort being 5 for 29. In his career he played 97 games for the Tigers taking 270 wickets, he played 43 state games for the Vic’s taking 134 scalps, and in his 12 Tests for Australia he took another 36. He was a fantastic achiever both on and off the field for the Tiger’s, he was made a life member of the club in 1944, named in the Richmond Team Of the Century, and inducted into the RCC prestigious Hall of Fame in 2009.
Because of the strength of the top six batsmen Australia possessed, the 1935-36 tour of South Africa was the only major tour that Leo O'Brien was selected for but he responded to the call up by scoring 523 runs at 47.54 with 2 centuries in 12 tour matches. For Richmond he played 136 senior games scoring 3,808 runs with 6 centuries. He played 40 first class games for Victoria scoring 2267 runs with 5 centuries and in his 5 Tests for Australia scored 211 runs with a highest of 61. Leo was named in Richmond Cricket Club's Team of the Century.
The history of the Tiger Twos will continue in 'Rons Recaps" later. There was to be only a gap of 12 years before another two Richmond greats made all at Richmond proud by striding out onto the MCG together in the same Australian team for a Test match.
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