In most standard terminology, the selection of cricketers is more often than not, based on players who are excellent with their willow, brilliant with the control on the cricket ball and of course a trustworthy fieldsman. But what if someone comes up with a team which consists of players who all have excelled in batting? Well, at the beginning of the 20th century, on 29th May 1902, England did come up with a team which had a unique set of cricketers in a Test match against Australia.
Not only was it the commencement of the 20th century, but it was also the beginning of the inaugural Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham, and guess what, England fielded an XI that summer which many still regard as their sturdiest ever. They picked an XI who had all scored first-class centuries.
It was undoubtedly one of the greatest XI one could ever witness. Legends like Archie MacLaren, CB Fry, Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, FS Jackson, Johnny Tyldesley, and wicketkeeper Dick Lilley made the batting look remarkably stronger.
The lower order was filled with huge names such as George Hirst, Gilbert Jessop, Len Braund, Bill Lockwood and Wilfred Rhodes. In fact, Rhodes, who was England’s No.11 batter, had scored almost 40,000 runs in his first-class career.
The three-day Test began with England winning the toss and electing to bat first. Despite England’s massive batting line-up Aussies did manage to strike three wickets for just 35 runs. However, then the hosts bounced back as the pair of Jackson and Tyldesley added a crucial 77-run stand.
Tyldesley – the Lancashire batsman, loved Edgbaston and he once again showed it in the first international game at the venue. He scored a magnificent ton and guided England to post 376/9 when skipper MacLaren announced the declaration. Jackson, who made 53 and Lockwood who smashed 52 not out, were Tyldesley’s chief assistants.
Then it was the turn of England’s bowling, and they proved that their bowling was equally brilliant. On a good wicket, Australia were dismissed in less than an hour for just 36 – their lowest ever Test score. Rhodes, who contributed with the willow by adding 38 runs, demolished the Aussie batting line-up after he bagged 7 for 17. He was well supported by Hirst, who took 3 for 15. For the Kangaroos, Victor Trumper’s 18 was the highest score in their first innings.
The Australians were asked to follow on, but constant rain acted as a villain. The Aussies were 46 for 2 as the game ended unfortunately for England in a draw.