Yeah. We can all do the Ashes for these dates now until the middle of January, but let’s look at something a little more obscure today. On this day 90 years ago, Leo O’Connor took a Queensland state team on to the field for the first time in Sheffield Shield Cricket against New South Wales at the Exhibition Ground.
Queensland would lose what looks from the scorecard to have been a cracking game of cricket. New South Wales posted 280 and conceded a first innings lead to the home side, only to fight back with 475 in their second innings, and Kippax completing a century in both innings. I note that the supremely talented Archie Jackson (born in Scotland) made 85 in the second dig – he’s a cricketer that has always intrigued me, dying so young, but so talented.
Queensland chasing 400 to win, got to 391, and skipper O’Connor led from the front with 196 before being run out eight runs short of winning the match. There’s a piece on Cricinfo about the game.
Despite the occasional absence of the later Australian international star left-arm bowler, Percy Hornibrook, the Eleven was a strong one. O’Connor immediately performed magnificently as wicketkeeper while only a classic 127 innings by NSW captain Alan Kippax saved his side, who totalled 280. O’Connor opened the innings and saw schoolteacher Cecil Thompson score Queensland’s first Shield century in the first innings and the remarkable allrounder Ron Oxenham push on with a fine match record of 62 and 57 while also taking 7 for 132. A great NSW recovery was led by Kippax with another century and the home State was set 522 to win in the final innings.
Undaunted, Queensland set about the task. Three batsmen, including Thompson, went cheaply and then Oxenham helped his captain in a long partnership. O’Connor showed all his dour fighting spirit and concentration and, after Oxenham’s dismissal, battled on grimly with Brisbane medico Dr Alec Mayes to reduce the gap from 22 to 14 runs. Last man in, H. D. (Bill) Noyes, defended strongly as O’Connor slowly reduced the margin by deftly placed on-side shots-a necessity occasioned by all fieldsmen being placed on the off side to contain the flashing cover shots. Noyes desperately survived the last four balls of an over from Ray McNamee to give O’Connor the strike.
Unfortunately, the famous run-out story has to be recalled. O’Connor – batting with great confidence and with 196 runs against his name – was facing the bowling and on sure placement shots had reduced the runs needed for victory to eight; he had instructed Noyes to run on the last ball of the over. O’Connor steered the ball slowly just to the off side and ran with the ball . . . then tragedy struck as Noyes forgot to do so in the excitement of the occasion! A desperate O’Connor raced back to his crease from more than halfway up the wicket but, alas, just failed to make ground ahead of the throw of Gordon Amos.
“Some people blamed me for that mistake,” said a thoughtful Leo O’Connor, “but, after all, I had scored 196, in first and last out, and Alan Kippax later expressed his opinion that, in any case, I had even then beaten Amos’ throw home!”
It would take Queensland a long time to win the Sheffield Shield, but it seems good to commemorate their start in state competition 90 years on…