The Jubilee Book of Cricket/Chapter 8
OXFORD UNIVERSITY CRICKET.
By Thomas Case.
I. EARLY HISTORY OF THE CLUB, AND UNIVERSITY MATCHES DOWN TO 1862.
The first Oxford and Cambridge match was played at Lord's in 1827, but was drawn owing to wet; the second was played on the Magdalen ground, Oxford, in 1829, when Oxford won by 115 runs; the third was played at Lord's in 1836, and Oxford again won by 121 runs; the fourth was played at Lord's in 1838, with the result that Oxford won for the third time by 98 runs. From that year the match has been played every year, and at the present moment Cambridge has won 31 and Oxford 28 times. From the beginning only three matches have been drawn—in 1827, 1844, and 1888—all on account of wet.
The fact that the match was played only thrice in the first ten years (1827-36), shows that at first the contest between the universities was rather of a haphazard kind. There are other proofs that it had not then gained anything like its present importance. In the early matches we sometimes find men absent. Thus in 1836 two Cambridge men were absent in the second innings; in 1838 one man was absent in the second innings of Oxford, and one absent in each innings of Cambridge. In 1839, when Cambridge won in one innings, Oxford played with ten men only. Fancy a man nowadays daring to be absent, or only ten men on a side present, in a university match!
Another curious indication of carelessness is the multitude of extras. In 1846, in Oxford's second innings of 200 runs there were 36 byes, 21 wides, and 6 no-balls, making 63 extras; and in Cambridge's first innings of 127 runs there were 45 byes, 9 wides, and 1 no-ball, or 55 extras—nearly half the runs. In 1839 there were 108 extras in the 449 runs scored in the match. In 1842 Oxford gave Cambridge 24 byes and 17 wides in the first innings of 139, and 20 byes and 14 wides in the second innings of 180 runs. The bowling must have been erratic, the wicket-keeping and long-stopping not first-rate; but as far as byes go, the ground was no doubt a main cause, for in old days, as long as the wicket was fairly good, the part behind the wicket was often neglected.
The most convincing proof that the Oxford and Cambridge was at first rather a friendly game than a serious contest is afforded by the indifference to the locality of the match. The first match, it is true, was at Lord's, but the second was at Oxford; and, while no match ever occurred at Cambridge, no less than five were played at Oxford, as follows: on the Magdalen ground in 1829, on the Bullingdon ground in 1843, on the Magdalen ground in 1846 and in 1848, on Cowley Marsh in 1850. Four of these were won by Oxford, yet we never hear of any complaint of Cambridge being at a disadvantage through playing on Oxford grounds. It is difficult from our point of view to realise what cricket at Oxford must once have been; perhaps pleasanter as a game, but certainly conducted at a disadvantage. Most lovers of cricket are aware that about a mile southwards from Magdalen Bridge along the Cowley Road, having passed between uninteresting rows of houses, we suddenly come on the right to the Magdalen ground, the original university cricket-ground, from the beginning of the Oxford and Cambridge matches down to 1881, when the O.U.C.C. moved to the University Park on the north. But the Magdalen ground has itself a history, or, rather, is part of a wider history of early cricket.
The Magdalen ground was the beginning of a very extensive open common, extending on both sides of the Cowley Road right away up the hill past Cowley and Bullingdon, and as far as Horspath at the foot of Shotover. It was partly grass and partly furze. The rights of feeding belonged to the parish of Cowley; but the parishioners encouraged university men to go,and play on the patches of the common, for the very good reason that they thus gave employment of a lucrative, if lazy, kind to a number of Cowley men and boys. Thus was gradually formed that singular type of humanity, well known to and well bemoaned by Oxford cricketers—I mean the Cowley groundman and professional.
In those times of George IV. and William IV. there was very little college cricket. The earliest ground specially set aside for a portion of the university was the Bullingdon ground of the Bullingdon Club, which was on the hill where the Barracks now are, about two miles farther from Oxford than the Magdalen ground, and which is still, since the building of the Barracks, replaced by a ground near the old spot. The old ground was a very good one. On it, in 1843, the university match was played, because it was too wet to play on the Magdalen ground below. Lillywhite is said to have pronounced the Bullingdon turf to be the finest he ever played on, finer even than his own Sussex ground at Brighton. Near Bullingdon, Brasenose and St John's are said to have played. But these were the only approaches to college grounds. How different from our age, when every college has its own ground, club, professional, and list of matches!
One naturally asks oneself the question, Why did cricket go so far off as Bullingdon, when in those days there were plenty of fields in the near vicinity of Oxford? The. answer is to be found in the former life of Oxford, still reflected in the Bullingdon Club as it was when I was an undergraduate. Cricket was connected with riding, the amusement par excellence of those days. One must picture to oneself undergraduates riding or driving out across the Cowley Common undeterred by fences, and on their arrival at Bullingdon Green partly playing cricket in the middle, partly riding races round the match, and finally eating and drinking in a manner adapted to youth, health, and exercise. Happy Elysium, how different from the haste and hurry of our modern life, even when we say we are at play! The modern undergraduate does not even lunch or dine on his college ground.
By these considerations, and only thereby, we can understand why even the University Cricket Club used to play a mile from Magdalen Bridge, when they could have played, so to say, in Oxford itself. They did not think they were far off, partly because they were so used to horses, arid partly because they were so much nearer than Bullingdon cricket. In fact, the common of Cowley was the place for riding and cricket, and the University Club thought itself lucky because it played on the part of the common place for cricket nearest to Oxford. Even now, some of the colleges, like cats, have a lingering affection for the old locality, and though the university and some of the colleges have moved closer to Oxford, the rest still prefer to remain on Cowley Marsh.
But why was the university cricket-ground called the Magdalen ground? Attached to Magdalen College is a school for the choir-boys, and the Rev. H. Jenkins, a Kent cricketer. Fellow of Magdalen, and master of the school, used to take his choir-boys to play on the common. An enthusiastic cricketer, he handed the part he had used, the first part you come to from Oxford, over to the University Eleven, merely reserving a corner for his choir-boys. Hence the Magdalen ground; and for many years after, the Magdalen College School continued to play on the same field as the University Cricket Club, which was actually called the Magdalen Cricket Club.
Though it got the name of the Magdalen ground, it was still part of the common belonging to Cowley. The University Cricket Club did not own it, and their right to it must have been comparable to the right of the University Boat Club over the river. The right is peculiar. The Cricket Club did not own the ground, and the Boat Club does not own the river. But anybody who interferes with the sole use of these things when these clubs are using them—well, he does not feel exactly comfortable. So it went on for many years on the part of Cowley Common called the Magdalen ground; so it goes on to this day on the part of the river Thames between Iffley and Oxford. We may leave the exact description of this peculiar right to the ingenuity of lawyers.
Under an Enclosure Act, the time came when the parish of Cowley began to part with its common. When Dr Plumptre, Master of University (famous for his height, for the story of F.P. in 'Verdant Green,' and for his refusal to support Thackeray's candidature as member for Oxford on the ground that he subscribed to "that ribald publication 'Punch'"), was Vice-Chancellor, the Magdalen ground was put up to auction in the Clarendon Rooms, and bought by the University.
The Act of Convocation, dated May 30, 1851, authorising this purchase for the special purpose of enabling members of the university to play cricket, runs as follows:—
Thereupon, by an agreement dated June 7, 1851, and signed by Frederick Charles Plumptre, Vice-Chancellor, on the one part, and William Ridding, steward of the University Cricket Club, on the other part, the Magdalen ground was let to the University Club, which thus for the first time became practically permanent lessees of an enclosed ground. This advantage was due to the forethought of Dr Plumptre, and it is a pleasing reflection that throughout the history of cricket at Oxford, as at Cambridge, there have always been seniors who have taken care for the games played by junior members of the university.
The same tendency to enclosure formed the college cricketgrounds at Cowley. Brasenose and St John's came down from Bullingdon to a field, which they shared with Exeter and Wadham, as lessees under the university. In another field Balliol, Trinity, Queen's, New College, C.C.C., Pembroke, &c., became lessees of Christ Church. Part of the university ground was sublet by the University Cricket Club to University College by the agreement of 7th June 1851. Later on, in 1860, another part, between the university ground and the University College ground, was let to Oriel, "on condition that the Oriel Club does not play a match on any day when there may be a match on the Magdalen ground." Finally, Christ Church, which had had a ground not far from the Old White House, and on the right of the Great Western Railway as one goes towards London, made a new ground on the Iffley Road, the nearest to Oxford, the finest up to the time, and even now one of the finest grounds in Oxford. Thus college cricket, which had in 1827 scarcely existed, gradually grew. Starting from Bullingdon, it came closer and closer to Oxford, and by about 1862 was furnished with a series of college grounds, the nearest of which was Christ Church, but all on the Cowley side of Oxford.
Now that we have traced the rise and first development of Oxford cricket, we may pause to notice the early university matches down to 1862, when an important change took place, to be noticed hereafter. At this point a debt of gratitude must be paid to Mr Knight for his work on 'Cricket. Oxford v. Cambridge from 1827 to 1876' (Wisden and Co., 1877), without which the following account of the early matches would have been a task of some difficulty. It is our duty to keep a special eye for Oxford successes.
1. It has already been noticed that the first match was in 1827, and was drawn owing to wet. It was greatly in favour of Oxford, which made 258, while Cambridge made 92 in the first innings. Among the players for Oxford was the Right Rev. Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of St Andrews, as he afterwards became. He clean bowled for only 25 runs seven Cambridge wickets with his fast left-handed under-hand, twisting from the off. Herbert Jenner, the famous wicket-keeper, alone withstood him, scoring 47, or more than half the runs on the Cambridge side. The Bishop has contributed two accounts of the first university match—one, dated January 18, 1887, in 'Inter-University Records between Oxford and Cambridge, 1827-87' (London, Wright & Co., 1887); the other, dated May 16, 1888, in 'The Badminton Library Cricket.' From these accounts it appears that he was instrumental in getting up the match, and had peculiar facilities for doing so, because his father was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, while he himself was at Christ Church, Oxford. One feels, in reading what he says, how difficult it was before railways to organise any concerted action between the universities.
After this first drawn match Oxford won the next three, in 1829, 1836, and 1838. In the match of 1829, which was played at Oxford, Oxford won by 115 runs. H. E. Knatchbull, the Kent cricketer, made 7 and 36, the highest score on either side. As in 1827 he had made 43, his average was 28·2. He was the first on the Oxford side to play in the Gentlemen v. Players. In the interval between 1829 and 1836 Oxford began to play the M.C.C., and the first match, which took place on the Magdalen ground, Oxford, in May 1832, under the title "Marylebone, with Lillywhite, Broadbridge, and Wenman, v. Oxford Undergraduates," ended in a victory for Marylebone by 14 runs. In the match of 1836 against Cambridge at Lord's, Oxford won by 121 runs. The Rev. G. Rawlinson, now Canon of Canterbury, and celebrated for his work on Herodotus and many other books, made 12 and 2 for Oxford. The most striking feature was the number of extras—87 given by Cambridge in the Oxford score of 300, and 62 by Oxford in the Cambridge score of 179 runs! In the match of 1838 Oxford scored her third victory by 98 runs.
2. From 1839 onwards the match has been annually played. Cambridge then scored no less than six victories in succession, only interrupted by the drawn match of 1844. The most remarkable of these matches was that of 1841, when each side scored 103 in the first innings, and Cambridge, having scored 120 in the second, got Oxford out for 112. Close as this finish was, it might have been still closer had not Lord Ward, on the Oxford side, been absent at the crisis.
3. After 1845 Oxford began to look up again. She had at this time a great bowler, very fast round-arm, Mr G. E. Yonge, whose performances are thus recorded:—
Also 1845 saw the first appearance of a great family of Oxford cricketers, the Riddings, three brothers, all good in batting and fielding. The eldest, Mr C. H. Ridding, who played from 1845 to 1849, was a famous long-stop as well as a good bat, and when we remember the large number of byes that had been let in the earlier matches from the state of the grounds, and perhaps from the erratic nature of the bowling, when we are told that in 1844 Mr Marcon of Oxford bowled so fast as to require two long-stops to keep the byes under, and when we think of the importance of having a first-rate long-stop to the bowling of Mr G. E. Yonge, we cannot but feel the value of Mr C. H. Ridding. From his time byes begin to diminish. The second brother, Mr A. Ridding, who played from 1846 to 1850, for his batting and fielding was a useful man, scoring double figures in all his five matches. The third brother, Mr W. Ridding, who played in 1849, 1850, 1852, 1853 (being prevented by illness in 1851), was a famous wicket-keeper as well as a good bat. Old lovers of the game speak with enthusiasm of the time when Mr W. Ridding was wicket-keeper, and Mr C. H. Ridding long-stop behind him; and they were both played for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's in 1849. In these improved circumstances Oxford won in 1846 by 3 wickets, in 1848 by 23 runs, and in 1850 by 127 runs. In this last match, the last ever played at Oxford and away from Lord's, Oxford had not only two Riddings, but also two Coleridges, who together got 93 runs, and secured 11 Cambridge wickets. Mr C. Coleridge played two years, 1849 and 1850, and scored 109 runs, with an average of 27·1. From 1846 to 1851, then, Oxford and Cambridge divided the honours, each winning in alternate years.
4. From 1852 to 1858 Oxford began to go ahead. Three years in succession she beat Cambridge in one innings; in 1852 in one innings and 77 runs; in 1853 in one innings and 19 runs; in 1854 in one innings and 8 runs. In 1855 Oxford again won by 3 wickets. In 1856 Cambridge won by 3 wickets; but in 1857 Oxford returned to the charge, winning by 81 runs; and in 1858 overwhelmed her opponent by once more winning" in one innings and 38 runs. That must have been an exciting era: for at its beginning Oxford started three behind; the three Oxford victories from 1852 to 1854 made the two universities equal; in 1855 Oxford was one ahead of Cambridge; in 1856 they were again equal; and at last, by winning in 1857 and 1858, Oxford had scored two victories more than Cambridge. Oxford had at that time a fine generation of batsmen on the Magdalen ground, which, it must be remembered, was since 1851 enclosed, regularly leased from the university, and no doubt improved by the lessees, who, for example, built themselves a pavilion. In the match of 1852 they made an innings of 273, and in that of 1853 an innings of 297,—high scores in a single innings on Lord's as it was in the middle of the century, and, in fact, 297 was the largest innings in university matches down to 1872. In 1853 Mr Reginald Hankey appeared for Oxford, as well as in Gentlemen against Players, destined to be celebrated among the exponents of the free style of batting. Later on, in 1856, came Mr C. G. Lane, equally renowned in the correct style, and for his services to Surrey cricket as captain in the palmy days of the old Surrey Eleven: —
May resound with hearty plaudits to the praise of Mr Lane.
In 1857 came Mr A. P. Law (Infelix) and Mr W. PL Bullock, and in 1858 Mr K. E. Digby. In the latter year Mr Digby's innings of 57 was remembered for its leg-hitting; while Mr Bullock's 78 was the largest innings in university matches down to 1870.
If Oxford at that time produced great batsmen, what shall we say of her cricketers who excelled both with bat and ball? In 1852 Mr A. Payne, a very fast left-hand bowler and successful bat, appeared. In 1854 followed Mr Walter Fellows, terrific both for fast bowling and for far hitting. In the very same year came Mr C. D. Marsham, who stands out as one of the very best Oxford cricketers. He was one of three Marshams, worthy successors of the three Riddings. Mr Charles Marsham, the eldest, and now the president of the Harlequins, batted and bowled in 1851, and Mr Robert Marsham played in 1856. Mr C. D. Marsham played five times, and, like Mr G. E. Yonge, achieved a series of fine performances with the ball:—
5. No sooner had "Mynn Marsham," as he was called, disappeared than the tide again turned in favour of Cambridge, who proceeded to win four matches (1859-62) in succession, and thus ended the period of the development of Oxford cricket by a balance of two victories on the side of Cambridge. This misfortune no doubt had some share in producing the reforms of 1862, to which we now come, and must pay special attention.
II. REFORMED CONSTITUTION OF THE CLUB, AND UNIVERSITY MATCHES FROM 1862 TO 1880.
The most astonishing fact in the whole history of the Oxford University Cricket Club, and at the same time the clearest indication of the haphazard way in which at first and for a long time university cricket was played, is the plan on which not only the club but also the eleven itself was managed. From the beginning in 1827 down to 1862 there were three treasurers and no one definite captain. In 1827 Charles Wordsworth was, as he says in his letter of January 18, 1887, "one of the three managers (treasurers we called them—there was no president) of the principal, indeed the only, real playing club in those days at Oxford, called the Magdalen." In 1851 W. Ridding is called steward, not captain, in the agreement for leasing the ground. In the spring of 1862 this rudimentary organisation still continued, for it is graphically described and criticised by a committee of the club, which comprised the following distinguished cricketers: A. H. Faber, K. E. Digby, E. G. Sandford, H. Reade, F. G. Inge, T. P. Garnier, R. D. Walker. The first paragraph of this report is worth quoting:—
In accordance with the recommendations contained in the sequel of the same report, the constitution of the club was reorganised in 1862. Instead of three coequal treasurers, three different officers were henceforth to be appointed—the captain as sole head of the eleven, the treasurer as solely responsible for the finances, and the secretary for the correspondence. The captain was to be chosen by the eleven of the previous year, and he was then to appoint a treasurer and a secretary. Under this reformed constitution the three officers of 1862 were H. S. Reade (captain), F. G. Inge (treasurer), and S. Linton (secretary). Ever afterwards the club maintained this constitution, with the exception that since 1879 the office of treasurer has become triennial, and is held by a Master of Arts. To have one responsible captain is the essential point. It was a much-needed reform when the Triumvirate of the three treasurers became the Cæsarism of the captain. As this will hardly be disputed, let us now return to the matches played under the new constitution.
I. From 1862 to 1865 Mr R. A. H. Mitchell marked the new era of the club by his masterly batting. He was probably the greatest university bat down to this moment, and before the appearance of Mr Grace the best gentleman bat in England. Though not quite so safe in dealing with slows, he was, on the whole, the greatest amateur master of the commanding style. He seemed never to play the ball without making a stroke. His strokes, too, went everywhere on the ground, and sometimes out of it. His forward-play, his drives, his cuts, and, above all, his leg-hits, were a study and a delight. At the university he played so well in his first year that he was made captain in the second, and for two more years: a captain in every sense he was. I may perhaps mention from my own experience two instances of his judgment. In 1864, in the second innings of Cambridge, Mr Maitland was bowling his round-arm slows from the far end; I was long-on; and when Mr C. G. Lyttelton (now Viscount Cobham) came in, Mr Mitchell sent that good all-round cricketer, Mr Voules, into the country between long-on and square-leg. Immediately Mr Lyttelton hit a tremendous skier. I felt my heart beat, but to my great relief the ball fell into the safe hands of Mr Voules, placed in exactly the right spot by our captain. Similarly, in 1865, in the second innings of Cambridge, when Mr E. P. Ash, a hard hitter on the off-side, came in, Mr Mitchell sent Mr R. D. Walker between cover-point and mid-off where I was standing, to what was then a novel place in the field but is now the familiar extra-cover. The result soon followed: E. P. Ash, c R. D. Walker, b Maitland, 8. It was a hard hit, and a good catch by a field exactly placed by a real captain. With such a cricketer and captain as Mr Mitchell on the Oxford side, it was lucky for Cambridge that Mr R. D. Walker in 1865 was the last man who played five matches for his university, while Mr Mitchell only played four. Here are his batting performances:—
His average therefore was, in 7 innings (1 not out) yielding 254 runs, 42·2, a long way the greatest achievement in the Oxford and Cambridge match up to his time. He was the forerunner, and to some extent the founder, of an improved school of university batting, at once safe and brilliant.
Also it must be noticed that he pulled Oxford out of the fire. For four years she had been beaten by Cambridge. In the last of these years Mr Mitchell played for the first time. Cambridge had a first-rate slow round-arm bowler in Mr Plowden, and a very fast bowler in Mr Lang, who was then at his best. On Lord's, as it then was, it was no trifle for Mr H. M. Marshall of Cambridge to back-stop, or for Mr R. A. H. Mitchell of Oxford to play, Mr Lang. But, while there was only 1 bye in the first and 4 in the second innings, Mr Mitchell in the first innings made 37 out of 64, and in the second 53 out of 158. This was a fine thing for a Freshman: he saved Oxford not from defeat, but from disgraceful defeat. But Mr Mitchell did even a finer thing as captain: he won Oxford the match. In my first year, 1864, when the ground was bad from wet, and Oxford, going in the second time to make 125, had lost three wickets for 17, Mr Mitchell went in, and after, it must be confessed, having been almost bowled by the slow round-arm bowler, the Hon. F. G. Pelham, won the match by his splendid not-out innings of 55. In short, Mr Mitchell was captain for three years (1863-65), led Oxford to victory every time, and when he went down took with him the proud memory of having once more placed Oxford one victory ahead of Cambridge.
2. In the following year, 1866, Oxford won again, partly by the 51 of that good bat and bowler, Mr W. F. Maitland, who had an average of 26·1 in these university matches, but mainly by the fine bowling of Mr E. L. Fellowes (recently dead), who in the second innings of Cambridge took 7 wickets, 4 bowled, for 46 runs, and by a narrow margin of 12 runs changed the prospect of defeat into victory. Oxford then, by her four successive victories (1863-66), was two ahead. But these were followed by four successive defeats (1867-70) at the hands of Cambridge. As one of the sufferers in 1867, and as having many friends in the subsequent inglorious years, the author of this history begs to pass over these misfortunes in silence, except the last, the downright disaster of 1870—one of the most extraordinary of the curiosities of cricket. In the second innings of Cambridge Mr Yardley had scored exactly 100, the very first century in university matches, and Mr Dale had scored 67, and been splendidly caught at long-leg by Mr Ottaway with the right hand and over the ropes. Oxford were left to get 178, but by an incredible error of judgment it had been arranged to play up to 7·30! At 7.10 Mr Ottaway was out for 69, but Oxford had still 5 wickets to get 19 runs, and, after losing 2 more wickets, had still 3 wickets to get 3 to tie and 4 to win. Then Mr F. C Cobden, the Cambridge fast bowler, bowled the Cobden over. The first ball gave Mr Hill a run, which would have been 4 but for the fielding of Mr Bourne; the second got Mr Butler caught by Mr Bourne for 0; the third bowled Mr Belcher for 0; and the fourth bowled Mr Stewart for 0. It is true that these gentlemen were two bowlers and a wicket-keeper; nevertheless, the conclusion is that Oxford threw the match away by playing in the dark, and, instead of equalising matters, put Cambridge two victories ahead.
3. Oxford after the disaster of 1870 began to recover lost ground. In the five years from 1871 to 1875, though badly beaten in 1872, she won four times. In truth, there were at this time many good Oxford players, and they were needed to beat their Cambridge rivals. With the bat Mr C. J. Ottaway, who played from 1870 to 1873, was one of the very best. If Mr Hankey was a master of the free, Mr Lane of the finished, Mr Mitchell of the commanding style, Mr Ottaway was in his turn a master of the defensive. His cool patience made his runs all the more valuable to his own because it tired and exasperated the other side. His scores were 16 and 69 in 1870, 21 and 13 (not out) in 1871, 11 and 41 in 1872, 41 and 52 in 1873, with the fine average of 37·5, or only 2 less than that of his great Cambridge contemporary Mr Yardley, who, more brilliant but less safe, scored 100 in 1870 and 130 in 1872, the two first centuries in University matches. Next to Mr Ottaway in merit came Mr B. Pauncefote, a stylish bat (1868-71), and Mr E. F. S. Tylecote, a sure run-getter (1869-72). A little later, in 1871, came Lord Harris, who, however, was not so good a bat at Oxford as he became afterwards for Kent; later still, in 1873, the great hitter, Mr W. H. Game; and finally, in 1875, Mr A. J. Webbe. Since that year, for now nearly a quarter of a century, the name of "Webbie" has become a household word in cricket. He has devoted himself with untiring energy to Oxford cricket, not forgetting that of Cambridge. He is the kind friend of every young school and university cricketer. From his Harrow days he has been a first-rate bat and field. In 1875, as a Freshman against Cambridge, he scored 55 and 21, and at a critical moment, in the final innings of Cambridge, caught the Hon. E. Lyttelton off Mr Buckland at the top of the ground, close to the ropes, by a memorable running catch, which contributed greatly to the close victory of Oxford. Never was a more deservedly popular cricketer. Long life to you, dear old fellow!
At this time Oxford also boasted several fine fast bowlers, such as Mr C. K. Francis and Mr S. E. Butler. To the latter more than to any other single man must be imputed the first victory of Oxford in this period, that of 1871. Oxford having got 170 in the first innings, Mr S. E. Butler got all ten wickets of Cambridge, no less than 8 clean bowled, for 65, and made them follow on. In their second innings he clean bowled 4 wickets and got a fifth caught, and thus ably assisted in getting Cambridge out for 129, leaving Oxford only 25 to win, which they accomplished after the loss of 2 wickets. Mr Butler got 15 wickets in all for 95 runs. This is acknowledged to be the greatest single bowling performance of the university matches. It is this sort of thing which throws light on the difference between cricket then and now. The ground was not so true. Bowled at a great pace, many of Mr Butler's balls shot and broke in that day, whereas those of a similar bowler now seem comparatively harmless. Then to play wrong was to be out: now many a bowler, if he has not the commanding height of a Richardson, may be played almost anyhow. At any rate, the new stroke of playing a straight ball of a fast bowler round to square-leg could not have been practised formerly, because what the ball might do after the pitch was too uncertain.
Out of the three other victories of Oxford at this time, the first, in 1873, when Oxford won by 3 wickets, was mainly due to the batsmen, and especially to Mr Ottaway and to Mr C. E. B. Nepean, who was most unlucky in not having played for Oxford before: in this, his only match, however, he revenged himself by scoring 22 and 50. The second, in 1874, when Oxford scored 265, and won by one innings and 92 runs, also showed the excellence of the Oxford batsmen. The third, in 1875, brings us to another remarkable bowling performance, and another curiosity in cricket. The two elevens were very evenly matched. In the end Cambridge went in to make 174 runs, and got as far as 161 for 7 wickets, with Mr W. S. Patterson and Mr H. M. Sims well set. Thereupon the Oxford captain, Mr A. W. Ridley, went on to bowl his under-hand slows. He bowled Mr Patterson, who had made 18, with his first ball. Mr Macan now joined Mr Sims, and made a single, which Mr Sims followed up with a four over Mr Ridley's head. Then a leg-bye and a no-ball were obtained from Mr T. W. Lang, the Oxford bowler at the other end. The score now stood at 168, when Mr Sims, who had made 39, was finely caught off Mr Lang by Mr Pulman, fielding at long-on, in the direction of the Members' gate. Mr A. F. Smith was last man, and played two of Mr Ridley's slows; but the third beat him. Oxford thus won by 6 runs. This third exciting victory also gave her one victory in hand against Cambridge.
4. As usual, Cambridge again began to come to the front. It is curious that as Oxford in the five years from 187 1 to 1875, so Cambridge in the five years from 1876 to 1880 won four victories, interrupted by one defeat, and that defeat, too, following after the first victory in each case. In 1876, in spite of Mr W. H. Game's 109, whereby he scored the first century ever made for Oxford, and saved his side from being beaten in one innings, Cambridge won by 9 wickets, and once more equalised the victories. Then in 1877 Oxford again went ahead, winning by 10 wickets in a match distinguished by the 117 (not out) of Mr F. M. Buckland, and by the happy ease with which the brothers Webbe knocked off the runs, Mr A. J. scoring (not out) 27, and Mr H. R. (now unfortunately dead) (not out) 19, in the final innings of Oxford. But after this brilliant success, which placed Oxford once more in the van, Cambridge achieved three successive victories, by 238 runs in 1878, by 9 wickets in 1879, and by 115 runs in 1880. Cambridge at that time sent up splendid elevens, boasting well-known names, such as those of Lucas and the Lytteltons, of Steel and the Studds. Oxford was overmatched. Hence in 1878 Cambridge again drew level with Oxford, each having won 21 matches. By 1880 Cambridge had two victories to the good; or to the bad for Oxford, which has been struggling ever since for equality, in vain. Alas! 1878 was the last year in which Oxford was on a level with Cambridge.
III. REMOVAL OF THE CLUB FROM THE MAGDALEN GROUND TO THE UNIVERSITY PARKS, AND UNIVERSITY MATCHES FROM 1881 TO 1896.
We now come to an event in Oxford cricket on which I happen to have some right to speak, because I was treasurer of the O.U.C.C. in the ten years between 1879 and 1888. I allude to the migration of the club in 1881 from the Magdalen ground, a mile south of Magdalen Bridge, to the University Parks in the north of Oxford. As this change has led, and will lead, to momentous consequences, the history of Oxford University cricket would be incomplete without some account of its nature and reasons.
We have already seen how Oxford cricket arose at a riding distance on Bullingdon Green and the common of Cowley, and gradually came nearer to Oxford without being exactly in Oxford. The Magdalen ground was inconveniently distant for the students of the university. It was a good ground, with a magnificent turf, but it required fine weather; and, as the Oxford cricket season is essentially the spring, it was often slow, and sometimes wet and even flooded. We have referred to an occasion in 1843 when the Oxford and Cambridge match itself was played on June 8 and 9 at Oxford, but could not be played on the Magdalen ground on account of wet, and had to be played on Bullingdon Green. Again, the pavilion and general arrangements on the Magdalen ground dated from earlier days, and did not afford the conveniences and comforts expected in modern cricket. In all these respects Oxford was very much behind Cambridge, which for a long time had possessed at Fenner's an exceptionally good and convenient ground, and had later on built a very comfortable pavilion.
The idea of making cricket-grounds in the University Parks, in order to prevent the waste of time entailed by playing at Cowley, was in the air when I was an undergraduate, 1863-67, and was keenly supported by the Rev. Edwin Palmer, afterwards Professor of Latin and Archdeacon of Oxford, and by Mr R. A. H. Mitchell as captain of the University Eleven. But it failed to be realised, partly because its supporters wanted to bring all cricket whatever into the parks, where there was hardly room, and where the Dons did not like the prospect of a number of pavilions, and partly because some of the undergraduates, looking to the present rather than to the future, preferred to retain their cricket-grounds on the slow and distant marshes of Cowley. There can be no doubt, however, that, had all cricketers combined at that time, the University Parks would now have been the playground of the university, and what temporary inconveniences might have been incurred from want of space in the Parks would long ago have been remedied by annexing fields in the neighbourhood, many of which are now covered with buildings that do not concern the university.
Many years afterwards, the Vice-Chancellor, the Rev. Dr Evans, Master of Pembroke College, suggested to me that we should get up a petition to the university, signed by resident Masters of Arts, asking for a ground for the university, not for the college clubs; and the shrewd old gentleman added, with a twinkle in his eye, "Don't give any reasons, or you will not get so many names." Accordingly, we drew up the following memorial:—
"The undersigned members of Convocation, having been informed that the University Cricket Club has applied for a ground in the Parks, desire to support the application."
I then undertook the task of getting signatures, with the satisfactory result that 158 resident masters showed their devotion to the interests of the undergraduates by signing their names. This practically decided the matter. Yet we must not forget to record our debt of obligation, for carrying the proposal through, to two men now dead—Jowett, whom all the world knows, and especially Alfred Robinson of New College, than whom no more generous-hearted man ever breathed.
After the university had made the ground, it was finally let by Decree of Convocation on May 3, 1881, to the treasurer of the University Club, which thus has become lessee of the ground, holding directly of the whole university, resident and non-resident—a privileged position from which it could be dislodged by nothing but another decree of the whole university in Convocation.
This was not the only advantage to the O.U.C.C. They had now a ground close at hand. They had lo acres of cricketground in the middle of the Parks, containing a match-ground, with a practice-ground always available. Had they waited much longer they would not have got so much, because planting, football which has immensely increased since 1881, and other interests, would have been too strong. They had what is wanted for the early Oxford season—a hard, fast ground, much more fitted to prepare them for Lord's. They had a pavilion worthy of the club, exactly behind the wicket as at Lord's, and exactly at the same distance from the wickets as at Lord's. This was one advantage which I obtained with great difficulty, in opposition to those who wanted to put the pavilion in every corner of the ground, and everywhere but where every cricketer wants to see the match, and in opposition to those who wished to have it farther behind, in which case much fewer spectators would have cared to sit in it. The club had further the financial success of the step, an advantage which proves all the rest. The club had incurred an expense of about £1000, besides;£100 a-year additional rent. Yet such was the improvement in the finances that the whole thing was done without that most odious of all things, sending the hat round for subscriptions.
Perhaps the best way of showing this new prosperity of the club is to quote the Preface to the Accounts from 1879 to 1882, premising that in 1879-80 we were on the Magdalen, and in 1881-82 on the Parks. It is as follows:—
The university paid for laying down the Park ground, and voted £2000 to build the pavilion. But this university expenditure was not of the nature of a grant; it was an outlay of capital, subject to rent. The club pays a rent of £30 for the use of ten acres of ground to the curators of the Park, and another rent of £100 to the curators of the chest for the capital expended on laying down the ground and building the pavilion. Further, the club itself spent, from 1880 to 1882, £164, 3s. 5d. on the improvement of the ground; and in 1881 added an extra expenditure of £835, 5s. to the £2000 expended by the university on the pavilion, which has therefore cost on the whole £2835, 5s. Again, since 1882 the club has rented from the curators of the Park the pasturage of thirty additional acres, together with the right of letting football-grounds at rents which the Football Clubs have loyally consented to pay. The club at once ran a railing across the part of the Park thus secured for games, at a cost of £101, 8s. 3d.; but the further results cannot appear till the accounts for 1883 are published.
The items just taken from the payments up to 1882 show that the club, besides paying a rent to the university of £130 a-year, has also spent capital to the amount of £1100, 16s. 8d. It is a matter of congratulation that, though such liabilities have been incurred and discharged, the club has not appealed for private subscriptions, and is out of debt.
The explanation of this financial success is to be found in the improved revenue of the club. In the first place, the club came to the Park with a balance of £319, 8s. gd. Secondly, the M.C.C., recognising the value of the university match at Lord's, has agreed to make an annual grant to both university clubs, according to their necessities. £450 have been received by the O.U.C.C. from this source. Thirdly, the subscriptions to the club have very largely increased. In 1880, the last year of the Marsh, they had fallen to £162. In 1881, the first year of the Park, they rose to £328, 10s. In 1882 they again rose to £417, 12s. 6d. This is the most satisfactory point in the accounts, because it means not mere financial success, but the renewed popularity of the University Cricket Club. In such circumstances, the committee can with confidence appeal for support in the measures which are from time to time necessary in order to ensure the advantages of the club to its members.
Another document of the time may amuse the reader. The officers of the Cricket and Football Clubs dined with me at Corpus Christi College, and after dinner we signed the following agreement between the Cricket Club and the Football Clubs as its lessees:—
Meeting in C.C.C, 28th April 1882.
The Football Clubs agree to pay £6 per ground per season—the maximum rent fixed by the curators of the Park.The committee of the Cricket Club agrees to secure the Football Clubs as many and as good grounds, in the opinion of the football officials (unless the university takes their ground for building), as they have had in the season 1881-82; and when the Cricket Club wishes to level a ground, it agrees to secure the Football Club which had that ground in the previous year, another ground as good within the enclosure let to the Cricket Club.
Norman M'Lachlan, Captain.
Harry Vassall, Captain.
P. C. Parr, Captain.
Returning now to the university matches, for which since 1881 Oxford Elevens have been trained on the new ground in the Parks, we find that Oxford has, on the whole, made a gallant, though not altogether successful, fight to recover the equality lost since 1878. In 1880 Cambridge had got two victories ahead of Oxford. From 1881 to 1896 we can distinguish three periods: the first from 1881 to 1887, during which Oxford reduced its disadvantage from 2 to 1; the second from 1888 to 1891, in which she fell back to 4 behind; the third from 1892 to 1896, during which she has now reduced the disadvantage from 4 to 3. At this moment Oxford remains 3 behind—Cambridge having won 31, Oxford 28 times. If Oxford were to win every remaining match this century, she would still be only on her old equality with Cambridge.
1. In the first period (1881-87) Oxford began with a very good eleven, who in 1881 made a great many runs on the new ground in the Parks, and ended up by defeating a very good Cambridge Eleven, containing Mr A. G. Steel and three brothers Studd, Mr C. T. among them. Mr A. H. Evans was the Oxford captain—a man of great character and determination. He had been the fast bowler against the three victorious Cambridge Elevens of 1878, 1879, and 1880, in the last of which years, by the way, he had a curious bit of luck in getting Mr Steel stumped in the second innings off the wicket-keeper's pads. But nothing daunted, though thrice defeated, he wound up his fourth year, 1881, by a magnificent bowling performance, which was the main cause of Oxford's victory. The summary of his four years' bowling is as follows:—
In his victory of 1881 Mr Evans had under him that finished bat, Mr W. H. Patterson, and that dashing bat, Mr A. H. Trevor, both playing for the second time, and two distinguished Freshmen, Mr C. F. H. Leslie, well known to Middlesex, and Mr M. C. Kemp, the Kent wicket-keeper. The second innings of Oxford has become historical on account of two incidents. Mr Patterson had his finger ripped open, but with great courage continued his innings, and made 107 not out. Mr Leslie, soon after he went in, batting at the pavilion end, sent a ball hard into Mr Ford's hands at mid-on. It appeared to be a catch, and Mr Leslie began to walk away. But Mr Patterson appealed; Mr Leslie was given not out, and played a grand innings of 70. In the end, Oxford left Cambridge to get 258 runs; but the determined deliveries of Mr Evans disposed of Mr Steel, the Messrs Studd, and the whole Cambridge Eleven for 123. Oxford by this victory was now only one behind.
It was a momentous but momentary success. In 1882-83 Cambridge again won. But in 1884 Oxford came again under another good captain, Mr M. C Kemp—a man of spirit. Early in the year Oxford had played the Australians for the second time, and beaten them by thoroughly good cricket. Nothing could have been better than Mr Whitby's bowling—8 wickets for 82 runs in the first innings of the Australians; nothing grander than Mr (now Sir. Timothy) O'Brien's hitting for his 92 in the first innings of Oxford; nothing more spirited than Mr Kemp's 63 not out in knocking off the runs in the second innings. Mr Kemp's year is memorable in Oxford annals as that in which Oxford beat first the Australians and afterwards Cambridge, and both by 7 wickets.In 1885 Cambridge won again, and thereby had three victories in hand. But in 1886-87 Oxford won twice in succession, and thus came within one of Cambridge, where they have never been since. Thus, beginning with Mr Evans's great victory in 1881, there had been an oscillation of success between the two universities. This oscillation was due to many causes, one of them the batting performances of two men, Mr C. W. Wright on the Cambridge and Mr K. J. Key on the Oxford side. Mr Wright (1882-85) for Cambridge made 17, 102 and 29 (not out), 16 and 34, 78 and 15, or in all 291, with an average of 48·3—the highest aggregate and the highest average in Oxford and Cambridge matches down to 1885. Mr Key (1884-87) for Oxford scored 17, 5 and 51, 6 and 143, 64 and 8 (not out), or in all 294, with an average of 49; and he was warmly congratulated when he thus obtained the highest aggregate and average up to 1887. Both these gentlemen may perhaps be called exponents of the useful style, encouraged by the increasing keenness of competition to win the match rather than to play the game. But there can be no doubt of Mr Wright's importance in Cambridge's victory of 1883, and with Mr Bainbridge in Cambridge's victory of 1885. Similarly, Mr Key's 143 with Mr Rashleigh's 107 in the second innings decided the victory for Oxford in 1886, and his 64 in the first innings came at the right moment in 1887. At the same time, in the latter match a still more important factor in Oxford's victory was the performance of Lord George Scott, who, although he only got his colours at the last moment before the match, scored 100 in
W. H. PATTERSON.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
2. By the victory of 1889, Oxford had crept up to within one of Cambridge. But she was destined to be disappointed in her hopes of equality by the accession of one man to the Cambridge side. From the moment that that great athlete, Mr S. M. J. Woods, went up to Cambridge, what one constantly heard from Oxford men was the mournful complaint, "So long as Sammy Woods bowls against them, Oxford has no chance." Let us pass over this time as quickly as possible, merely remarking that in 1888 Oxford was lucky in having the match drawn by the clerk of the weather, while in 1889-91 she suffered three successive defeats. Mr Woods has the chief honour of having placed Cambridge in the advantageous position of being in 1891 four victories ahead of Oxford.3. From 1892 to 1896, since Mr Woods has left Cambridge, Oxford has done well, and on the whole better than Cambridge. Oxford has won 3 to 2 matches, and reduced the advantage, of Cambridge from 4 to 3 victories in hand. These matches are so recent that it is hardly necessary to recall them. They have been most interesting. There has been high scoring; first one university has won and then the other; and the matches of 1892 and 1896 have never been surpassed in interest. In 1892, Oxford going in first, Mr M. R. Jardine, the splendid fieldsman, played a very good innings of 140, and Mr V. T. Hill a very hard-hitting, somewhat lucky, innings of 114. Against Oxford's 365 Cambridge compiled 160 only, but following on scored 388. Then Oxford hit off the required 187 with 5 wickets to spare, Mr L. C. H. Palairet making 71 (not out) and Mr Jardine 39, so that he alone scored 179 runs in the match. In 1893 Cambridge won by 266 runs. In 1894 Oxford, thanks to Mr C. B. Fry's 100 (not out), won by 8 wickets. In 1895, in spite of Mr H. K. Foster's 121 out of a total of 196 in the second innings of Oxford, Cambridge won by 134 runs. In 1896 Oxford won once more by 4 wickets, after a match memorable for fine weather, very high scoring, some good bowling, sustained interest, and great excitement. Cambridge led off with 319. Oxford made 202. Cambridge added 212. Then Oxford achieved a victory without a parallel in Oxford and Cambridge matches for the large number of runs the side had to make to win with the small number of wickets lost in making them. As this Oxford second innings is also the last innings made in the
K. J. KEY'S PUSH-STROKE IN THE SLIPS.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
Unfortunately, this imperfect sketch would be still more defective if all mention were omitted of two events in the matches of 1893 and 1896. In 1893 the bowling analysis of Cambridge contains the statement that "Mr Wells bowled 4 wides and 4 no-balls." Oxford in its first innings, when the last man came in, had to make 8 runs or follow on. The two Oxford batsmen, Mr Wilson and Mr Brain, were seen to converse, and Mr Wilson was supposed to be playing carelessly on purpose that Oxford might follow on. On this supposition the Cambridge bowler, Mr C. M. Wells, purposely bowled a no-ball, which went to the boundary, then a ball which would have been wide had not Mr Brain exerted himself to stop it, and finally a wide to the boundary which prevented Oxford following on. Again, in 1896 the bowling analysis of Cambridge contains the statement that "Mr Shine bowled 8 no-balls." Oxford in its first innings, when the last man came in, had 12 to make or follow on. Mr Shine bowled 2 no-balls to the boundary, and then a ball which went for 4 byes, and prevented Oxford following on.
The hypothesis of these exceptional devices in both cases was, that it was the interest of Oxford to follow on and the interest of Cambridge to prevent it. Opinions differed on this question of policy. But they differed still more on the question whether it was right to purposely play bad cricket as a means to such ends. There can be no doubt that it was within the laws of cricket. But the real doubt is whether it was within the ethics of cricket. Is it to the advantage of the game to play it in this way? It is a mistake to suppose that whatever is not forbidden in written laws may be done without self-condemnation. Nor does it follow that what is felt to be contrary to the advantage of cricket ought to be made matter of legislation. If good cricket consists in batting as well as you can, and bowling as well as you can, then, in the interests of the game, the Oxford men in 1893 had no business to bat badly in order to follow on, and the Cambridge men in 1893 and in 1896 had no business to bowl badly to prevent them, whether it was in the written laws of cricket or not. Opinions, however, will differ about this matter. It is for the historian rather to point out that these events were really effects of a general cause at work in recent cricket—the growing keenness of competition, which is slowly changing a pleasant game into a serious business. The Oxford and Cambridge match was at first, perhaps, too much of the former: it is now tending in the direction of the latter.
No human institution is perfect: it will always tend to excess or defect. But how nearly perfect in its own way is cricket, and especially Oxford and Cambridge cricket! It is a game which keeps boys out of mischief. It is a training of youth for a manly life. It lays up a store of strength and health against old age. It makes individual men lifelong friends. It unites whole schools and universities. Learning itself has gradually learnt to take up a different attitude towards cricket. It has discovered that the waste of time formerly imputed to cricket is really due to frivolity, that cricket is consistent with study, and that the cricketer makes a good schoolmaster. The truth is, that athletics are an integral part and a powerful support of all education: they make it popular. Oxford and Cambridge are like twin stars shedding the light of learning from a distance. The Oxford and Cambridge boat-race and cricket-match are the two anchors of the universities in the heart of the English people.