BUSH CRICKET

Cricket in the Depression era, with an axe handle for a bat, a kerosene box for stumps.

 DEMON BOWLING OR DREADFUL BATTING?

I recently came across the newspaper report of an 1893 cricket match between the rural communities of Exton and Reedy Marsh, in northern Tasmania.

EXTON V REEDY MARSH

A match was played on Saturday between the above clubs on the Exton Club’s ground, and resulted in a win for the Exton men by 40 runs. G. Winch, in the absence of J. Soden, captained the Exton men, as did E. Laredo for the Reedy Marsh men. The principal scorers for Exton were A. Richardson 14 and G. Winch 11, none of the others making double figures; and for the losers, E. Larcombe 6 and E. Laredo 5 were the most successful.

Oh good grief,  the match must have been over before lunch. E. Larcombe was my great-uncle  Esau.  I can’t help feeling proud  that he top scored for The Marsh, albeit with a pathetic 6.

The other team my Larcombe relatives played for was  Willowdale,  a tiny hamlet not far from Reedy Marsh.   I was intrigued to discover that the old scoring shed  and shelter is still there, albeit crumbling gently into the earth.

 

Cricketers shed, Willowdale

Cricketers’ shelter, Willowdale Tasmania.  Courtesy of Bronwyn Harm

During  the summer of 1925 there was an even more extraordinary cricket match at Temora, in  country New South Wales;

In these days of Marathon matches, it is refreshing to note that there are some good bowlers in the bush. Yesterday two senior teams, the James Thomas Store team, and Lintondale played on the latter’s wicket, and some sensational bowling was seen.

Thomas [Store]  batted first, making 27,  J O’Brian and T. Timmins dividing the wickets. Lintondale were all dismissed for 12. E. Dooner bowled 6 for 7 and Pegrem 3 for 4. Lintondale followed on and made 27. Pegram, a right-handed bowler, and as tall as Jack Gregory, secured 8 wickets for 10, including the hat trick. W. Leary got 2 for 8. Thomas then went in and made the runs with 8 wickets to spare.

Dear me, surely Lintondale’s all out for 12 must be some sort of record. Were they all using cardboard  cricket bats in this match?  I wonder if over-confidence played a part, as in this old poem?

THE BATSMAN

He looked so big and talked such piles

The fieldsmen simply stood out miles,

But his first balls he played so strange.

The men came in to shorter range.

I’d call attention here that he

Was guarding wickets one, two, three,

The first ball bounced and caught his head,

Behold the things he saw and said!

The last ball wandered round his hat,

Two stumps felt ill and lay down flat.

And as he hurried back they smiled,

To see the score he had compiled – O

Sometimes the bush batsmen  received a bit of  outside assistance.   In the  NSW Central Western  town of Forbes the story is told of a record innings during a picnic match;

One batsman made a mighty stroke, and the ball went into a rabbit burrow. The umpire declined to declare it a lost ball, contending that they all knew where it was. The batsman kept on running, and before the ball was recovered he  had beaten the performance of the country batsman whose feat is described in “How McDougal Topped the Score”.

The McDougal story is a classic case of a dog being a bloke’s best friend. In this case it was McDougal’s  aptly named mongrel, Pincher.  A  cricket team from Molonga had scored 66 runs;

 

Bush cricket remains as popular as ever in Australia, with  legends  still  being created by demon bowlers and devious batsmen.

 

 

My siblings and I played a lot of  cricket growing up on  a farm in Tasmania. Our bat was usually hacked from a fence paling with the  axe.   A kerosene tin  was the stumps, and over the chook house fence was six and out.  The only other way my sister and I could get our older brother out was to bowl ‘ground grubbers’ when he least expected it.  Yes, we were early proponents of that infamous underarm delivery for which Australians still receive so much grief in New Zealand!

 

3 Comments
  1. Those Tassie folk were resourceful! We used to have picnics in Savernake Forest just outside of Marlborough in Wiltshire when my boys were young. I never managed to conjure up much enthusiasm for that version of the game either – which I know will shock you to the core!
    I do however have a ‘News Chronicle Popular Illustrated Dictionary of the the English Language’ publ.1930, which I inherited from my father. Inside is the inscription (in rather nice handwriting) saying,
    “To My Friend Jack Hobbs, To The Past Happy Memories and Future Friendship, (signed) AH Richards, Dec 16th 1939”
    Jack Hobbs was an English professional cricketer who played for Surrey from 1905 to 1934. He was cricket’s most prolific batsman! I don’t know how my father came to have the dictionary, but suspect it may have been given him by the man who was Groundsman and also ran the Clubhouse at King’s College Sports Ground in Mitcham Surrey. He and my father became great friends. The sports ground was right opposite our home during my teenage years. Our inter-school sports days were held there too. I was allowed to use any of the facilities for free because of the friendship, such as using the tennis courts, or using the Hurdles for training (I was a County Hurdler for a short while).

    • Pauline

      Ah yes, I know all about Jack Hobbs. He is always being compared with Don Bradman. As Geoff Boycott says, it’s not really fair to do that though. Bradman had a much higher batting average at 99.94 but played on better, covered wickets. I have a book signed by Harold Larwood of the infamous ‘Bodyline Series’….the closest we ever came to war with England. Haha.

  2. Apologies. Accidentally deleted the words ‘AND PLAYED FRENCH CRICKET THERE’ at the end of the second sentence. Less haste, more speed should rule.

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