Ahead of the 4th Ashes Test in the 21/22 series, Richard Spiller looks back on how Surrey men have performed for England during matches held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
While most Australian grounds increasingly resemble a concrete bowl, Sydney still allows itself a nod to history.
The green tiled pavilion and adjoining ladies pavilion – built in 1886 and 1896 respectively – watch over an arena which has otherwise been transformed by the requirements of modern accommodation. The famous Hill has gone although the SCG – as it is generally known – still has a limit of just over 40,000.
Sitting on the edge of Moore Park, it is easy to reach and spectators who live or stay in the city centre can enjoy a stroll back down Oxford Street to start their evening’s activities rather than seeking a bus or taxi.
Australia won all but one of the first six Tests there, although it was the exception – in January 1883 – which pushed England towards a 2-1 series victory and prompted a group of ladies in Melbourne to present England captain Ivo Bligh with the urn for which the two teams have since been competing.
Surrey’s Walter Read was the joint top-scorer with 66 after Bligh elected to bat, 21 in the second innings proving handy as well in a low scoring match which brought success by 69 runs.
Another Read from The Oval, Maurice, enjoyed a Test career which lasted 11 years and incorporated four tours of Australia, few so dramatic as the third Test of the 1884-85 tour. Chasing 214, the tourists were definite outsiders at 92-6 but Read and Wilf Flowers came together and both made 56 in adding 102. Each fell to Fred Spofforth, known as “The Demon”, whose 6-90 eked out victory by just six runs for his country, although it could not save them from losing the series 3-2.
Lohmann, Abel and Richardson shine
When England returned for the 1886-87 series, Read was accompanied by Surrey colleague George Lohmann, whose six cheap wickets were instrumental in snatching victory by 13 runs as they chased 111.
Seamer Lohmann, whose career and life were cut short by ill health, proved devastating in the second match, at the same ground, by routing the hosts for 84 by claiming 8-35. Two more wickets in the second innings completed a fine match won by 71 runs in a series claimed 2-0.
Little over a year later Lohmann was causing more havoc in the only Test of another trip, his 5-17 in the first innings helping Bobby Peel scatter Australia for 42 and then another four each despatching their opponents for 82 for victory by 126 runs.
Just in case Sydneysiders had forgotten Lohmann’s lethal powers, his 8-58 on Lord Sheffield’s tour of 1891-92 was an immediate reminder, brushing aside Australia for 144. When Bobby Abel, the ‘Guv’nor’ of The Oval, then carried his bat for 132 out of 307 it seemed England must prevail. John Lyons (134) was one of Lohmann’s two victims in the second innings, a series of missed chances helping the home side to 391 and then rain affecting the pitch to see England defeated by 72 runs.
Another of Surrey’s great 19th century bowlers, Tom Richardson, enjoyed success in New South Wales’s capital. His appetite for hard work was underlined by finishing with 8-94 from 36.1 overs in the second Test of the 1897-98 series, topping it up with 2-110 from another 21.4 in the second innings but failing to prevent a six-wicket reverse in a series lost 4-1. It had all started so much more promisingly for Archie MacLaren’s men when they won by nine wickets on the game ground, helped to 551 by Tom Hayward’s 72.
Patient Hayward plays key role
Into the 20th century, Hayward had another supporting role by making 69 out of an opening partnership worth 154 with MacLaren (116), the platform for reaching 464 and winning by an innings and 124 runs to launch the 1901-02 series, although once again it proved misleading as the tourists were sent packing 4-1.
They were back two years later, Hayward’s 52 in the second innings of the fourth Test another important contribution to sealing the series and reclaiming the Ashes for the first time since 1896.
As so often, they had to surrender them four years later, two defeats in Sydney coming in a 4-1 reverse. Jack Crawford’s eight wickets in the match and 72 from Jack Hobbs, on his first Ashes tour, saw England take a lead of 144 on first innings yet they were still beaten by 49 runs.
It was not until Hobbs’s fourth tour down under, in 1924-25, that he scored his first century on the ground, making 115 and then adding 57 in the second innings as he enjoyed two century opening partnerships with Herbert Sutcliffe. Yet England lost that opening Test by 193 runs n another 4-1 trouncing and the margin was 307 runs when they returned.
It was to become a much more successful ground for them after that, not least Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline squad enjoying two wins, by 10 and eight wickets respectively, even if the Surrey captain’s own form was modest.
All that changed after the Second World War and if Walter Hammond’s side were concerned by the strength of Don Bradman’s side in the opener at Brisbane in the 1946-47 series, their fears were confirmed by an innings and 33 run pounding at Sydney.
Alec Bedser, having only made his international debut the previous summer, soldiered through 46 overs – yielding 1-153 – as Sid Barnes and Bradman made double centuries. The gap between the sides was closer in the final Test of the series – five wickets – and if Bedser was pleased to finish with four cheaper victims, Surrey colleague Laurie Fishlock had somewhat mixed feelings. Playing his fourth and final Test, having just turned 40, the left-hander made 14 in the first innings and then moved up to open in the absence of the injured Len Hutton. It didn’t work out well, being trapped leg-before to the first delivery of the innings by Ray Lindwall.
Bedser was in his prime for the 1950-51 series but England were still on the wrong end of it, returning 4-107 in 43 overs while the hosts made 426 to win by an innings and 13 in a 4-1 triumph.
May’s century sets up Tyson typhoon
There were fears of another shellacking four years later, having suffered yet another roasting at Brisbane and then being bowled out for 154 at the SCG. Keeping the deficit down to 74 was vital in turning around the match but Peter May’s 104 was among the Surrey great’s finest Test moments and it enabled England to set the hosts 223 before Frank Tyson blew them away to level the series.
May hit 79 in the final Test too, a match which did not until the fourth day because of rain and, not surprisingly, finished in a draw with Len Hutton’s side already 3-1 ahead.
When May led England’s defence of the Ashes in 1958-59 they were rated one of strongest squads to travel. Yet by the time they reached Sydney for the third Test, the favourites were fighting for their lives following two heavy defeats. May’s 42 was the top score out of 219 all out, next best his young county colleague Roy Swetman – making his Test debut in deputising for the injured Godfrey Evans – who received a standing ovation for battling through almost three hours in his 41. He was also familiar with the wiles of spin pair Jim Laker (5-107) and Tony Lock (4-130) as Australia made 357, the captain’s 92 and Colin Cowdrey’s 100no giving their side a chance before the match fizzled out into a draw.
The Ashes were surrendered 4-0 and it would be 12 years before they were reclaimed. In the two series down under in between, which both ended 1-1, the SCG proved a happy ground for Surrey batsmen. Ken Barrington failed twice when Australia won the third Test by eight wickets in 1962-63 but made up for it in the drawn fifth, following 101 with 94.
Three years later Barrington didn’t get to the wicket until England had reached 303-2, having watched Bob Barber (185) and Geoff Boycott (84) flourishing and then departed for a single six runs later. But he had the compensation of watching Surrey team-mate John Edrich make 103. That drove Mike Smith’s men to 488, enough to win by an innings and 93, although they returned frustrated.
Lethal Lillee gives Edrich a ribbing
Edrich was a key figure for Ray Illingworth – who died last week – when the urn was finally recovered in 1970-71, both successes in their 2-0 win coming at Sydney. Half-centuries in each game underlined the worth of the nuggety left-hander, not least in the final and deciding Test given Boycott was absent after having his arm broken in an up country match.
It was at the SCG where Edrich was to captain England for the first and only time, Mike Denness dropping himself for lack of form with his side 2-0 down after three matches. The Surrey skipper saw his Oval colleague Geoff Arnold claim 5-86 in Australia’s 405 and batted with familiar stubbornness for 50 in the reply of 295.
But set 400 and needing at least a draw to keep the series alive, England were once again rocked by the fearsome pace partnership of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, the former hitting Edrich just below the rib cage and sending him off to hospital.
It was typical of Edrich that he should return later in a vain attempt to save the game, fighting his way to 33no, but he could only watch from the other end when Arnold was caught at short-leg off Ashley Mallett as the match was lost by 171 runs and the urn handed back on the ground it had been won four years earlier.
Richards relishes the limelight
Another three series down under would pass before a Surrey player would be involved again, Jack Richards helping Mike Gatting’s side to retain the Ashes in 1986-87. Wins at Brisbane and Melbourne had already ensured success and, although England lost this dead rubber by 55 runs, it proved a wonderful tussle which the hosts won with six balls to spare.
Cornishman Richards, having scored his maiden century at Perth, contributed impressively with four catches plus 46 in the first innings and 38 in the second, one of the highlights of his eight appearances.
England were back under the cosh when Graham Gooch led them back there in 1990-91, arriving in Sydney having lost the first two matches. Australia’s 518 left another defeat looming but centuries from Mike Atherton and David Gower were augmented by Alec Stewart hitting what was then his Test best of 91, only prevented from reaching his maiden international ton by a harsh leg-before decision for Terry Alderman which the age of DRS would almost certainly reverse. A total of 469-8dec enabled the pressure to be put back on the hosts for once but they claimed a draw and won the series 3-0.
When Stewart led his side in 1998-99, Sydney had reverted to staging the final Test and although the tourists had been up against it for much of the series and failed to wrestle back the Ashes, a 12-run victory at Melbourne meant they were still capable of winning the series.
Darren Gough’s hat-trick cut short the Australian innings at 330, Mark Butcher’s 36 leading the response which fell well short at 220. A controversial decision which saved Michael Slater from being run out early in his 123 proved key, though, and while Stewart (42) and Butcher (27) made a start of 57 in pursuit of 287, England went down by 98 runs.
Classy Butcher sets up victory
Both had much happier memories of returning in 2002-03, Nasser Hussain now in charge and finding his men 4-0 down and facing another whitewash.
Butcher’s classy 124 on the opening day changed the tone, Stewart cracking an aggressive 71 down the order and they followed it up with 34 and 38 respectively in the second innings. It enabled Hussain to set a target of 452, sufficient to earn victory by 228 runs.
Applying the final touch to seal victory is special moment for any player – particularly when it ends a gap of 24 years since the last one – and Chris Tremlett relished his moment at the end of the 2010-11 series. The lofty Surrey paceman had claimed only one wicket in Australia’s first innings of 280 but could enjoy England’s batsmen making a massive 644. With the Ashes already retained, the home plunged towards a third innings defeat and Tremlett (3-79) was the man to launch the celebrations by castling last man Michael Beer.
Since then it’s largely been a tale of misery for England down under again. Beaten by 281 runs at the SCG in 2013-14 – suffering another whitewash – they were thrashed by an innings and 123 runs in 2017-18, where Mark Stoneman and Tom Curran found there was little they could do to reverse the tide.