Cricket: Woods the goods for first-class question

In a typical pre-Christmas work-avoidance email conversation with some fellow Almanackers, the cricket savvy Tony Roberts offered us (the finest literary, mathematical and anagrammatical minds of the Almanac brigade; his words, not mine), a sporting quiz that was used at the Victorian ASSH Christmas dinner.

One question of particular interest to me was the following:

For the first time since the birth of Test cricket in 1877, a male cricketer represented Australia in an international match in 2009 without having previously played in a first-class (e.g. Sheffield Shield) match. What is his name?

Hats off to Tim Ivins, who correctly answered the Suburban Boy i.e. Dave Warner.

This got me thinking about the curious situation of cricketers who had not played either Sheffield Shield or Inter-Colonial cricket and yet still played Test cricket for Australia.

One such (and possibly the only) occurrence was the all-round sportsman (aren’t they always) Sammy Woods, who played Test cricket for Australia without ever playing Sheffield Shield or Inter-Colonial cricket. He played first-class cricket for Cambridge University, MCC and Somerset. He grew up in Sydney, moved to England as a teenager and was then plucked Mike Whitney-style to play for the Aussies in England in 1888.

Tony Roberts takes up the story of SMJ Woods:

Ah, the 1888 Ashes series, where the bowlers (e.g. Terror Turner) wreaked nearly as much havoc as Jack the Ripper, very shortly thereafter. Woods had a spectacular academic career at Cambridge – never passed (probably never even sat) an exam. In the very first (retrospectively designated) Test at the MCG in 1877, a Richmond club bowler called Hodges filled in when some established top-liners backed out – Spofforth wouldn’t abide a Victorian keeper (Blackham, who went on to play for nearly 20 years!) and another bowler (Evans or Allen?) preferred to attend the Warrnambool Show.

Woods later played Test cricket for England. Others who have been dual internationals include such luminaries as Billy Murdoch, Albert Trott, Johnny Ferris and Billy Midwinter. I reckon Murdoch was the first substitute fieldsman to take a catch in Test cricket. The problem was he was substituting for the opposition, in this case England! Albert Trott (another incredibly interesting but ultimately sad story) is famous for bludgeoning Monty Noble over the Lord’s pavilion in 1899.

The selection story that I love the most concerns the Tassie ‘custodian’ Ken Burn, who was selected as reserve wicky for the 1890 tour to England. An important criterion for his selection was that he could keep wicket. It was discovered soon after he joined the boat that he couldn’t keep bees. Wisden dryly described his selection as a ‘serious mistake’. Maybe Hilditch et al aren’t that bad after all.

Are there any other curious selection stories (or associated digressions) similar to the above?

We would love to hear them.


  1. Flynnie – Probably not remarkable, but still inspiring a “good news story” is Geelong drafting James Podsiadly at the age of 28 in yesterday’s rookie draft. If he plays seniors he’ll be the oldest first gamer at Geelong since about 1945 I believe. Good on ya Pods.

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Further to the above, Sammy Woods was one of only six bowlers used in the 1888 Manchester Test.

    I believe this to be the least number of bowlers used in a completed Test match.

    For England, the attack used was Bobby Peel, George Lohmann (check out his stats) and Johnny Briggs.

    One day at Sheffield in 1897, Peel, who had imbibed one too many at lunch, allegedly (and possibly apocryphally) urinated on the pitch in front of the Yorkshire supremo Lord Hawke. He was promptly dismissed by Yorkshire.
    It was reported in a later Wisden that, “Lord Hawke put his arm round me and helped me off the ground – and out of first-class cricket,” Peel said. “What a gentleman!”

    Briggs died early of an epilepsy-type affliction.

    For Australia, joining Woods were Terror Turner and JJ Ferris.

  3. Dips,

    I assume this is a function of Geelong not taking part in the 1942 and 1943 seasons due to travel restrictions.

    I note that Basil Flynn debuted for Geelong in 1983 aged 27 years.

    Pity Jack Dyer isn’t around to completely butcher Podsiadly!

  4. Flynnie – good call. I reckon Jack would give it the “Podily” or Pudardly” treatment.

  5. Peter Flynn says


    I remember Jack on League Teams having to get his tongue around Frangalas.

    After a couple of false starts, I reckon he ended up offering Frangerlahras.

    Fair dinkum Bobby was in hysterics.

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