Australia v England
Exhibition Ground, Brisbane
Only three Test matches were ever played at Brisbane’s Exhibition Ground and this one in December 1934 was the last of the three. All future Brisbane Test matches would be played at the Woolloongabba “Gabba” ground.
The Test was played on 28th, 29th and 31st of December, with the 30th, a Sunday, being a rest day. This was not only a new era unfolding in international cricket, but also a new uniform. The Australians would no longer play in frocks, but a new divided skirt, such as that worn by the tennis players. It was more conservative than the one worn by their English counterparts, long enough to cover the knees.
Rain was lurking around, not uncommon in Brisbane in late December and with it an increase in humidity. The local newspapers favoured an Australian victory while Betty Archdale privately wondered how they would dismiss Hazel Pritchard, and how they would deal with the spin bowling of Peggy Antonio and Anne Palmer.
Margaret Peden walked to the centre wicket with Betty Archdale for the historic coin toss: the first in women’s Test cricket and witnessed by 3000 spectators. It was an immediate success for the locals with Peden winning the toss and electing to bat.
Nerves attacked both teams. Twenty two debutants from two teams. The pressure to perform must have been enormous. There were rash strokes and dropped catches.
Archdale opened the bowling with the off spin of Myrtle Maclagan and the pace of Mary Taylor. Hazel Pritchard faced the very first ball in Test cricket. With her at the other end was Ruby Monaghan. Both players from NSW. The first dismissal in Test cricket was… hit wicket. Hazel Pritchard disturbed the stumps from the bowling of Maclagan and the batting gun was out for only 4 runs. Archdale needn’t have worried how to get Hazel out – she did it herself.
The next “first” in women’s Test cricket was the first duck. Maclagan struck again taking out Nell McLarty, caught and bowled. And then another. Maclagan caught Monaghan from her own bowling and then Essie Shevill for another duck. Myrtle Maclagan, the opening batter, had taken 4 wickets for 5 runs opening the bowling.
Australia were already 4/10 runs when disaster struck. Wicket keeper Hilda Hills took a blow to her nose and retired hurt, taking no further part in the match. That was the end of her Test career.
Vice-captain Kath Smith was holding on grimly at one end before the next wicket fell. A body blow, it was the captain, Peden, clean bowled by Taylor. The Aussies were on the ropes and they never recovered. Smith top scored with 25 from a score of 47. Next best was Lorna Kettels with 9. Myrtle Maclagan took the incredible figures of 7-10 in a masterful performance from 14 overs. In her wildest dreams Betty Archdale could not have wished for a better performance. But for the dropped catches, it would have been even worse for Australia.
Peden opened with two left arm quicks in Fern Blade and Kath Smith and followed with Nell McLarty’s right arm medium fast coming on first change. Hazel Pritchard stood in as wicket keeper for the injured Hills.
Australia struggled to break through until spin was introduced, in the form of Peggy Antonio who removed the dangerous Betty Snowball for 15, but by then the England score was 48. Had Peden erred in starting with a three pronged pace attack, given the success of Maclagan for England? It seems so, for the other Aussie spinner, slow left armer Anne Palmer, had a field day. Maclagan top scored with 72 and thus the first half century in Test cricket, Archdale herself remained unbeaten on 32, but the rest succumbed to the spin of Palmer, who took 7/18. England all out 154.
Batting one short, Australia managed to perform with more credibility in the second innings and made England bat again, but it was still nowhere near enough. When Monaghan was runout for 4, there was a steady procession of wickets. Pritchard made 20 before edging one to Snowball, but it was the number 3 batter, Essie Shevill who top scored with an unbeaten 63, that showed with a little application, one could repel the English attack. Anne Palmer, batting at 11, showed some pluck, making 4 runs in 46 minutes, but it only helped Australia to 138, leaving England 32 to win.
Peden opened with McLarty and Palmer, but it was Peggy Antonio who got the sole wicket, that of Maclagan, before England cruised home to win the first Test. It was a comprehensive victory and would leave the Aussies some serious thinking to do before the next Test.
“The wicket was good enough, the outfield was slow, and the cheap dismissal of the opening bats seemed to give several members of the team, who were really not accustomed to big cricket, a bad attack of nervousness.” Peden told the Sun.
It was a frank assessment, but luck was also not with the Australians. “The injury to Miss H. Hills, played a big part in unsettling the girls. Miss H. Pritchard rose to the occasion nobly, donned the gloves, and took Miss Hills’s place behind the wickets. It was an ordeal for Miss Pritchard, who is not used to ‘keeping’ even in the grade games, but she did her job well. Altogether I think Australia shall do better in the second Test.”
Australia 47 (Smith 25, Maclagan 7-10) and 138 (Shevill 63*, Spear 5-15) lost to England 154 (Maclagan 72, Palmer 7/18) and 1/34 by nine wickets