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England becomes first team to win after following-on

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Last updated on 20 Dec 2023 | 05:17 AM
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England becomes first team to win after following-on

In current memory, India’s win over Australia in 2001 at the Eden Gardens after getting a follow-on is a classic, while New Zealand’s narrow one-run victory in February 2023 is the last time a team has attained such a feat

Despite Test cricket being labeled as the ultimate test of grit and character of a team that lasts over five days, there have been only four instances in cricket history that a side has managed to turn the game on its head after being enforced a follow-on.

The first time it ever happened was on December 20, 1894, when captain Andrew Stoddart led the English side on an Australian tour for a five-match Test series. The series had seen England leading 2-0 at first before the hosts leveled proceedings after four matches. However, the Englishmen won the fifth and deciding Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

However, the very first Test match of the topsy-turvy, dramatic series had given enough hints about how the tour would fare. 

Batting first in Sydney, Australia banked on exceptional knocks of George Giffen (161 runs) and Syd Gregory (201) to tally a mammoth 586 runs. Whole Giffen and Gregory scored the major chunk of the runs, Frank Iredale (81) and captain-cum-wicketkeeper Jack Blackham (74) had provided the perfect boost to put the outcome seemingly beyond any doubt.

While all English bowlers were hammered across all parts of the ground, Tom Richardson was the only standout bowler with a five-wicket haul. 

England started shakily with Archie Maclaren, captain Stoddart, Jack Brown and Bobby Peel all getting out for low scores. And hadn’t it been for a fighting 75 from Albert Ward and a timely 49 from Bill Rockwell, the visitors wouldn’t be able to make history. Lower-order batsmen Francis Ford (30) and Leslie Gay (33) also provided late support to Johnny Briggs, whose 57-run knock coming to bat at number eight set the tone for the visitors.

England were trailing by 261 runs when John Reedman dismissed the last batsman Leslie Gay. He wasn’t, however, Australia’s best bowler in the first innings. George Giffen led the list with four wickets to his name, as Charlie Turner sat second with a two-wicket haul.  

One couldn’t really blame Aussie captain Blackham for asking England to follow on. The visitors were trailing by over 250 runs and chances of a draw were looking quite slim. However, the visitors played one of the best comebacks with the match at stake. 

After an opening stand of 44 runs, the likes of Stoddart (36), Jack Brown (53) and Bill Brockwell (37) contributed significantly with Albert Ward (117) forming the foundation. Bobby Peel’s dismissal reduced England to 296/6, and the visitors desperately need some late knocks to hand Australia a competitive target.

It was at this time that Francis Ford (48) and Johny Briggs (42) added 100 crucial runs and Bill Lockwood further compounded on it to take England’s tally to 437. Australia was handed a 176-run target for the last two days and the hosts looked to have embarked on an easy win as they ended Day 5 with 113/2.

The sixth and final day required Australia to score just 63 runs with eight wickets in hand. To top that, Giffen and Joe Darling looked set at 30 and 44, respectively. However, English bowler Bobby Peel had other plans. He had already removed opener Harry Trott early on Day 5 and he continued his domination on Day 6 as well.

He ran through the entire Australian middle-order, taking out Darling, Gregory, Frank Iredale, and John Reedman to diminish Australia’s hopes before returning to dismiss Turner and Blackham as the hosts were wrapped up for 166 runs. Apart from Peel’s six-wicket haul in the second innings, Briggs had also taken three wickets.

England were also the second team to win another Test after being enforced a follow-on in 1981 against Australia. In current memory, India’s win over Australia in 2001 at the Eden Gardens after getting a follow-on is a classic, while New Zealand’s narrow 1-run victory in February 2023 is the last time a team has attained such a feat. 

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