Experiment fails to stand test of time

A triangular tournament held in England 100 years ago does not augur well for the ICC Championship

Test cricket is dying a slow death. The full, happy houses in England, as witnessed again this summer, are merely laughing in the face of disaster. Everyone connected with the game knows this and have solemnly pledged to do something about it.

Pledging and doing are different things, of course, and the favoured course of action, the World Test Championship, has been postponed by the International Cricket Council until 2017. Then, it has been pledged, solemnly, it will definitely take place. Time will tell.

It may not, in any case, provide the succour that is so fervently desired. One hundred years ago today the first and so far only Triangular Test Tournament began in England. Australia played South Africa at Old Trafford. It had been five years in the making but here it was, at last, featuring the only teams that played Test cricket at the time, England, Australia and South Africa.

The tournament was the brainchild of a South African millionaire called Abe Bailey, a pioneering property magnate who was a henchman of the great Empire builder Cecil Rhodes. Bailey was cricket daft and had the money to do something about it, a forerunner of men such as Kerry Packer and Allen Stanford.

He first proposed the idea on a trip to England in 1907, stating: "Inter-rivalry within the Empire cannot fail to draw together in closer friendly interest all those many thousands of our kinsmen who regard cricket as our national sport, while secondly it would probably give a direct stimulus to amateurism."

It was immediately embraced by MCC, who were then lords of all they surveyed, and 1909 was the first year designated for it. But the administrators could not agree and by the time 1912 was alighted on, world cricket was in conflict.

The story of what transpired has been painstakingly assembled in Before the Lights Went Out by Patrick Ferriday. Somewhat inappositely, it was published last year but the lessons to be gleaned are timeless.

Nowhere was the turbulence in cricket at the start of 1912 more apparent than in Australia, where the board were involved in a power struggle with the players. It was to result in six of their leading cricketers not playing in the tournament.

The dispute was not helped by Australia being given the runaround by England in the 1911-12 series. With the conflict at its height the captain, Clem Hill, and his fellow selector Peter McAlister came to blows. "You've been looking for a bloody punch in the jaw all night," said the mild-mannered Hill, "and I'll give you one." There ensued a brawl lasting 20 minutes, after which they tended their injuries and sat down to pick a team. But there was no rapprochement and Australia sent a weakened side.

In South Africa there were also problems about availability. Abe Bailey might have resolved them with the flourish of a chequebook but as is the wont of rich men sometimes he kept it in his back pocket. It meant a South African team already past its brief peak sailed without its blue riband bowler, Ernie Vogler, a leg-break and googly merchant, and its preferred captain, Percy Sherwell, who claimed business commitments.

English cricket was run on autocratic lines then and CB Fry, without much recent form, was appointed as captain for the series because Lord Harris said he should be. Fry and the selectors met once before the series and not again for the whole summer.

Despite such a gestation period there were a few oversights in the organisation, not least how the winner should be arrived at. When at last it began on 27 May, it was to be blighted by bad weather throughout. South Africa turned out to be woeful.

The first Test on Whit Monday had a first-day attendance of 8,609, fewer than would have attended a county match. Yet the second day contained a unique feat. The Australia leg-spinner Jimmy Matthews took two hat-tricks 90 minutes apart, one in each of South Africa's innings.

But the competition failed to engage the public; South Africa managed only one draw in a rain-ravaged match and five defeats; England at least won the ninth and final Test against Australia when Fry was booed by the crowds at The Oval.

The total receipts were little more than £12,000, the touring players earning much less than they had in the golden age only a few years previously. Bailey said nothing. It was generally considered an abject failure.

The 100th anniversary of the Triangular Tournament coincides with the Test at Trent Bridge and the Indian Premier League Twenty20 final. It is not difficult to foretell, if gloomily and if we do not act quickly, where the future really lies.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines