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.
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?
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 a whack 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!
Mind you, I don’t think we were ever guilty of ball tampering.
Bring back the innocent joy of bush cricket I say.
Note…there is always a dog.