EXCERPT from INTRODUCTION
(from Test Cricket in Australia 1877-2002 by Charles Davis)
Test match cricket enjoys one of the longest histories among international sports. This has created a current of tradition that is one of cricket’s greatest strengths. The published record of basic Test match scores is remarkably complete, and a testament to the efforts of the scorers and record-keepers who have devoted uncounted man-years to recording and preserving the events of Test match cricket. But things do change in the world of cricket, and one unmistakeable trend has been in the increasing detail devoted to the statistical aspects of score reports. This has been a general if slow trend for more than 100 years, recently gaining impetus from the computerisation of records, taking advantage of the ability of computers to simplify the storage and processing of Test match data.
Although standards of reporting Test match scores in the past have generally been less detailed than today, there are a great number of Tests for which detailed information still survives, either in the form of unpublished scorebooks, or in published form but spread thinly through numerous now-obscure books and periodicals. Of course, it is not feasible to gather together modern-style scorecards for every single Test match, but the remarkable thing is that the known information on the great majority of historic Test matches can be substantially enhanced.
The aim of this volume is to bring together, in a format consistent with modern practice, the scores of as many (men’s) Test matches in Australia as possible. The core of this effort has been to gather as much information as possible on performances by individuals in each match, as can be published in a clear format on a single page. In particular, information on individual innings by batsmen, including batting times, boundaries, and where available, balls faced, has been sought. If, by necessity, all Tests are not reported to exactly the same level of detail, this is preferable, in the circumstances, to an enforced conformity among all scorecards, which in reality would consign us to lowest common denominator, in this case being the reporting standards of the 1870s.
The details of the new layout will be explained a little later. Firstly, sources of information for this volume (planned as the first of a series covering all Test matches) are discussed. The sources can be categorised into the unpublished and published records.
A word on scores and statistics: even as the reporting of cricket statistics has improved and developed over the years, it remains a fashion to discount their value. But it is too easy to slip from the truism that statistics do not tell the whole story, to saying that they have little or no value at all. If scores and statistics can mislead, uncorroborated opinion can mislead even more so. Test match history has many dimensions, but if it is told without reference to actual scores it lacks substance. The framework of real, achieved performances is integral. A volume of Test match scores is not a Test match history, but it is a necessary foundation for it.
The original scorebooks for many hundreds Test matches worldwide are known to survive. The author, either directly or through the assistance of colleagues, has gained access to several hundred of those that pre-date the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, the survival of this material varies considerably from place to place and for different periods: it is surprising, for example, that the surviving scorebooks for Australia in the 1920s are much more complete than those for the 1980s. The archives in the India, New Zealand and South Africa appear to be very limited, or even empty in some cases, for matches before 1980. In total, original scorebooks for about 100 Tests in Australia before 1980 have been examined.
The largest single archive, for Tests worldwide, is held by the MCC at Lord’s. Scorebooks for the majority of England’s tours abroad, as early as 1903 (the year of the first MCC-organised Test tour) have survived, and the MCC Library kindly makes copies of these available to researchers. It should be pointed out, however, that the collection is quite limited for Test matches before 1928, and the MCC collection of home Tests is restricted to matches at Lord’s; even then, there are large gaps for earlier periods. Loss of this material is greatly to be regretted: it may be associated with the need to move the collection during wartime.
Scorebooks for Tests at other centres in England have been kept at the grounds by the relevant county associations, with varying success. The most complete records are those kept at Leeds and Manchester. The oldest surviving Test match scorebook, for the match in 1880, is kept by the Surrey CCC at the Oval; unfortunately the whereabouts of most other early scorebooks for Tests in London are unknown.
In Australia, the best archive by far is kept by the Library at Cricket NSW. This includes the best surviving collection of pre-war Test scorebooks anywhere, and even includes the over-by-over running sheets for a significant number of Tests. The core of this collection is a large number of scorebooks made by legendary scorer Bill Ferguson, scorer for the Australian team from 1905 to 1953, and who scored many other Tests besides. The “CNSW” collection covers most, but by no means all, of Australia’s Tests from 1909 to 1953. A couple of other Ferguson books survive elsewhere: the 1905 tour of England book is in the MCG Museum in Melbourne, and the 1910-11 book (Australia v South Africa) has been preserved by the South Australian Cricket Association, and is on display at the Adelaide Oval. Ferguson’s records of some other series are held at Lord’s. Not all of Ferguson’s scores were made as official records for Australian authorities. He often worked for touring teams in Australia and abroad.
Some earlier scorebooks have survived for Tests in Australia. The earliest is from 1886-87, and it is fortunate that the handful of known 19th Century scores includes the great Sydney Test of 1894-95. The earliest complete full-length series surviving is the 1903-04 scorebook (apparently recorded by several different scorers) at Lord’s.
The Australian Cricket Board has reportedly been sent many original scorebooks over the years. Access to their archive is tightly restricted. However, it is understood that the surviving material is largely non-statistical: there is very little material of a statistical nature from earlier than the mid-1980s.
Apart from the Ferguson scorebooks, some other scores for Tests in Australia survive at State associations or in private hands. Cricket NSW has running sheets for nearly all Tests in Sydney from 1954-1978 (mostly recorded by Dave Sherwood), and Jack Cameron of the ABC has kept his own scores of all Tests in Melbourne (and some elsewhere) since 1958. Other states’ records are less deep; there were cases in the 1960s and 70s where scorebooks were thrown out, which unfortunately appears to include such important matches as the Tied Test in Brisbane in 1960-61. That such material could be deliberately discarded is amazing; for one thing it would have had great value to collectors even back then.
The efforts of those archivists and others who have preserved the surviving material should be recognised. Those currently active include Dr Colin Clowes and Bob Brenner at Cricket NSW, Bernard Whimpress at SACA, and Allan Miller and the WACA in Western Australia.
One final comment on scorebooks: as information sources or resolvers of anomalies, they are not always the cure-all that might be hoped for, especially for very early Tests. Some of these scores lack timing information, for example, and some (it should be whispered) just do not tally. (If Victor Trumper scored 185 not out at Sydney in 1903, why do his scoring strokes add up to 187?) The available copies of others are unclear and ambiguous in places.
There may well be some other surviving scorebooks in private collections. If any readers are aware of any, the author would be delighted to hear from you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The traditional published style of scorecards is a venerable one indeed. The classic source for early scorecards is the pages of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack; this, along with the seminal Wisden Book of Test Cricket, provides a continuous and reliable source of information. Unfortunately, Wisden, constrained by its outdated format, has hardly changed its scorecard style in the last 130 years. The cricket world has moved on, and for more detailed information on Tests we must look elsewhere.
The reporting of greater detail in Test scorecards goes back further than might be supposed. Most of this early enhanced reporting can be found in the pages of Australian newspapers. During the 1880s leading Australian newspapers often included complete listing of each batsman’s scoring strokes, although batting times were usually not recorded. The earliest published example of complete batting times and boundaries for individual batsmen, that the author is aware of, is in the pages of the Melbourne Argus of 1898. The two Tests in Melbourne in that summer were reported there in great detail, and included material not normally listed today, including face-to-face runs by each batsmen off each bowler. It suggests that a form of linear scoring must have been in use before the time of Bill Ferguson. However, there is no mention of balls faced as a statistic. Unfortunately this reporting practice did not catch on, and the Argus let it drop.
Meanwhile, the descriptive elements of newspaper reports became very detailed. For Tests in Australia from 1894 on, batting times were given for nearly all significant innings (and many insignificant ones) in newspaper reports, and the style was usually in a straight narrative format that makes it possible to glean a great deal of statistical information. It becomes possible to “re-construct” the detail of some Tests almost completely. The author has carried out this task for about 130 Tests worldwide, about 30 of which appear in this volume. Up to a dozen published sources for each Test have been used in this process. The reader should appreciate that the process contains uncertainties, especially given the fact that when multiple independent sources are available, they will rarely agree on every last detail, but the final result is hopefully a useful and reliable guide to the progress of the matches involved.
The first time a newspaper reported both minutes batted and boundaries for all batsmen in a complete series was in 1928-29, again by the Argus, while complete individual innings data for Balls Faced was published for the first time in PGH Fender’s tour book of that series, Turn of the Wheel.
In 1932-33 (the Bodyline series), the Melbourne Sun printed minutes batted and boundaries in the now familiar tabular form in the main scorecard. The Sun reported all home Tests in this format for the next 20 years or so. It actually took a long time for the style to be picked up by most major Australian papers, becoming standard in the 1950s (by which time, ironically, the Sun had discontinued it). It is interesting to note here that most English newspapers did not adopt this style until well into the 1980s.
Reporting of Australia’s Tests abroad remained less detailed until 1948, when a couple of afternoon dailies began to report minutes batted. It was many years before this was applied to non-Ashes Tests, presumably due to communication limitations.
Full format reporting of scores began to appear in Australian cricket magazines and annuals in the mid-1970s. The introduction of Allan Miller’s cricket annuals in Australia in 1988 brought the detailed reporting of scores involving Australia to a new high.
Even so, tracking down full format reporting of some Tests for other countries, even in the 1990s, has been difficult. Charlie Wat’s annual books from 1992 on are the best source, although they received only very limited circulation. The advent of cricket reporting on the Internet has brought the availability of this material to a new level, and CricInfo, in addition to their invaluable reports of current matches – they have been reporting all Test scores in full format since about 1997 – have added considerable earlier material to their archive.
There is a basic anomaly in the traditional reporting of cricket scores, which derives from the way scores have been recorded. This is: since the very beginning, the number of balls bowled by each bowler, and even the number of maiden overs, have been assiduously recorded, counted, and reported, yet the balls faced by each batsman was not. It took almost 100 years of Test cricket before it was widely accepted that the latter was at least as important as the former, as a tool for understanding the progress and quality of play.
The linear system of scoring, with each over getting a single line of the scoresheet, and several pages often being devoted to a whole team innings, was developed by Bill Ferguson for his scoring of the 1905 tour of England. The running sheets for this tour have been lost – what survives is a conventional but very detailed scorebook that Ferguson copied out in the evenings from his running sheets – and the Balls Faced for each batsman were not listed. Ferguson realised quite early the value of the statistic and that it was fairly easy, if time-consuming, to calculate; his 1909 scorebook has a complete set of Balls Faced.
However, interest in the statistic only cropped up occasionally, and Ferguson did not always record it after 1911, and not at all after 1921. The statistic was indeed published at times in 1920-21, when the Sydney Morning Herald and the Argus reported the stat, although not for the entire series. They did not cite Ferguson as source, and again, it did not catch on.
The Balls Faced for some Tests in this volume have been calculated from Ferguson’s original sheets. For some other Tests, the sheets have been lost, but Balls Faced can be calculated by re-scoring the Tests into linear form, using information on bowling spells in the conventional scorebook. This is a (very) time-consuming process, but ultimately worthwhile.
As over rates declined in the 50s through to the 70s, it was gradually recognised that Balls Faced for batsmen was a very useful statistic, and a better way of comparing scoring of different eras than simple time batted. Ferguson’s successors in Australia had continued the linear system, and it was adopted and expanded by Bill Frindall of the BBC in 1966. Balls faced appeared in isolated reports in some tour books, but the statistic did not find sustained application until the mid-1970s. Frindall’s published scorebooks of the period, beginning in 1975-76, presented a new paradigm. Ball faced became a regular part of score reporting only slowly – as recently as the early 1980s some English official scorebooks lack the statistic – but once it was adopted by major English cricket magazines it became a standard style of report, although by no means universal.
To date, balls faced information has been found for almost two-thirds of all Tests worldwide. For Tests in Australia, the figure is almost three-quarters. Batting times are available for over 92% of individual innings worldwide, a figure that should rise with further research. Times for 97% of individual innings in Australia have been found, including all scores over 70, and 99% of scores over 50; gaps in the dataset since 1894 are generally only minor. Times for Tests before 1894 are in most cases estimates based on careful reading of reports. It should be appreciated that the stated batting times, especially for early Tests, are often not as precise as we would like. While it is unusual for major discrepancies to arise, independent sources rarely agree on every last detail. Even though it should be understood that a few minutes uncertainty is often implied, the times still convey valuable information..