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Abhishek Mukherjee, cricketsoccer’s prolific writer, brings to you the words, verbal or written, almost never intended to be pathbreaking quotes in the history of cricket in this fascinating series…….

 Quote: “Give me the ball, Mr Stoddart, and I’ll have t’boogers out before loonch.”

 By: Bobby Peel to Drewy Stoddart, before the start of play, December 20, 1894, at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Only thrice have teams won Test matches after following on. And only one of them had taken place in the first 104 years. This is the story of the absurd final session of that Test.

Stoddart’s team were away from England for over seven months, leaving Tilbury on September 21 and returning Plymouth on May 8. In Australia, they won the first two Tests and lost the next two before clinching The Ashes with a 6-wicket win.

The tour yielded a profit of £7,000. Wisden assessed it as the most successful since George Parr’s XI visited Australia and New Zealand in 1863-64.

Before we delve deeply into that incredible sixth day’s cricket of the first Test (timeless, as was the norm in Australia in those days), let us talk a bit about George Giffen’s superhuman effort in the Test. It will only be fair.

Batting first, Australia piled up 586 after being reduced to 21/3. Syd Gregory scored 201, overshadowing Giffen’s 161. Then Giffen took 4/75 to bowl out England for 325.

Perhaps unwisely for a timeless Test, Jack Blackham enforced the follow-on. Ten Englishmen got into double figures, but other than Albert Ward (117 after top-scoring in the first innings with 75), nobody else went past 53. This time Giffen took 4/164.

Australia needed only 177, and JJ Lyons quickly polished off 25 of these before he and Harry Trott fell in quick succession. There was no rest for Giffen, who, after that huge first-innings score, had bowled 118 overs. He rose to the challenge for the fourth time. By stumps, Australia were 113/2 with Giffen (30) and Joe Darling (44) batting serenely.

Also read: Cricket history in quotes, part 8: “When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn…”

England were not there in the match at this point by any stretch of imagination – or that was what Giffen thought till that fateful morning. He later recollected the rendezvous in Bat and Ball, his autobiography.

On that fateful morning, Giffen met Blackham outside his room in the Baden Baden Hotel. Blackham broke the dreaded news: “It had been pouring half the night, George.”

The English hotel portrayed a different picture. They had an extremely potent attack – consisting of Johnny Briggs, Tom Richardson, and Bill Lockwood – but even these men could not match Peel’s prowess on a wet wicket drying rapidly.

But Peel was far from in a state to bowl. He lay stone drunk in his room, having had an ordinary match till then. If anything, his agony had been aggravated by the extraction of five teeth the day before.

Stoddart, knowing fully well that he needed Peel to defend those 64 runs, put the Yorkshireman under a cold shower. Peel emerged from the bathroom and famously announced: “Give me the ball, Mr Stoddart, and I’ll have t’boogers out before loonch.”

The pitch was tailor-made for Peel. “The sun shone bright and hot, making the wicket sticky and very difficult, and more so as it had been laid with stiff black soil,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

“When I first saw the wicket this morning, I gave the Australians another 40 runs – no more,” recollected Philip Sheridan after the day’s play. One of the trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sheridan was one of the sponsors of the tour.

In his first over, Peel “cut a flake out of the pitch half as big as his hand,” Darling later admitted. Richardson commenced at the other end.

Bobby Peel
Bobby Peel. Image Courtesy: ESPNcricinfo

Darling soon lofted Peel for five (for a six you needed to hit the ball out of the ground). He and Giffen batted aggressively to bring the target down to 47 before Peel struck. Darling (53) tried one shot too many and holed out to long-on.

Giffen then survived a leg-before appeal off Briggs, who had replaced Richardson at the other end, before lobbing one to point for 44. His contribution in the Test – 205 runs and 8 wickets, one of the most outstanding in history – had finally come to an end.

Briggs then had Frank Iredale caught off his own bowling as the latter tried to clear the ground, but the fleet-footed Gregory found support in Jack Reedman. The score crept up to 158/5 (including a four from Gregory, the first of the day). Surely Australia would get those 19 runs?

But the relentless Peel had Gregory caught behind. Reedman stepped out to Peel and missed, but so did wicketkeeper Leslie Gay. The ball hit Gay on the chest and ricocheted on to the stumps – with Reedman still out of the crease. It was Peel’s fifth wicket of the innings (he had snared Trott the evening before).

Peel also got Charlie Turner, caught at cover-point by Briggs. Ernie Jones backed his muscles against Briggs, but the ball found Archie MacLaren, who ran in to take the catch some distance behind the bowler.

Blackham, nursing a split thumb and cursing his luck throughout the morning, now emerged at No. 11. They needed another 15, and the onus was on Blackham to help Charlie McLeod. Unfortunately, the stand yielded just four before Blackham hit one back to Peel.

As the Englishmen celebrated, The Prince of Wicketkeepers, the captain of Australia, dragged himself back to the pavilion. He would never play Test cricket again.

Peel finished with 6/67 and Briggs 3/25. The Test was won by 10 runs.

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