The Philadelphians in England, 1898

THE tour undertaken by the Philadelphian cricketers was far more ambitious than had ever been attempted by them before and if the results were less satisfactory than had been anticipated by the promoters, the fact must be borne in mind that the campaign was arranged mainly for educational purposes and that probably few of those who formed the team expected to win a majority of the matches. When Americans on previous occasions visited this country the contests were always against amateur elevens, and the batsmen consequently were opposed by English professional bowlers. However, those in authority considered the time had arrived when a move should be made into a higher class of cricket and with that idea, Mr. C. W. Alcock was asked to arrange a programme against the leading counties, the two Universities, the Marylebone Club and one or two other sides. Doubtless what caused the Americans to have more belief in themselves was the fact that twice in about three years they had beaten an Australian eleven in Philadelphia. That in their English tour they over estimated their own abilities is now a matter of cricket history, but what they learned here will probably be of great service and we may yet see an American team in England capable of holding their own against the best of our counties. Exception was taken to the statement that the Americans had aimed too high, but it must be borne in mind that only a few of the counties thought it worth while to put their best elevens into the field, showing the public very clearly what estimate they had formed of the merits of the Philadelphian team. From a social point of view the tour was a complete success, the men being popular wherever they went and Mr. George S. Patterson proving himself one of the best and most sportsman-like of captains. Nothing could have been more to the liking of the English public than the manner in which he promptly refuted a charge made in one of the leading American papers that his team had been unfairly treated by our umpires. As a matter of record therefore, we reproduce the letter which he wrote to the Field:

Maidstone, July 26th.

Dear Sir,

-My attention has been directed to a letter signed W. S. in the Field of July 24th, enclosing a clipping from the Philadelphia Public Ledger, severely criticising the umpiring in the Philadelphian matches during our tour through England. I wish to state on behalf of the Philadelphia team that the sentiments expressed in the clipping are not those of the team, and that we emphatically repudiate any insinuation of unfair treatment. On the contrary, we have been received with the most unvarying courtesy and fairness both on and off the field. I wish to take this opportunity of making a public acknowledgement of our indebtedness to Mr. Perkins, of the M.C.C., for the umpires assigned to us, and to testify, unnecessary though it be, to their ability and integrity.-

I am, truly yours,


Captain of the Philadelphia Team.

The tour extended over nearly two months, starting on June 7th, at Oxford and ending on the last day of July at the Oval. As for the first time the Americans had arranged a first-class programme, some natural curiosity was felt as to how they would fare against our best counties, but that feeling soon were off and it would be idle to pretend that the tour aroused any special interest among the cricket public, or in any way distracted attention from the county matches. Just at one point it seemed possible they might create a sensation, when on the Brighton ground they dismissed Sussex for 46 and J. B. King, their fast bowler, accomplished the remarkable feat of taking seven wickets for 13 runs. However, the excitement caused by the accounts of King making the ball swerve in the air after the manner of the baseball pitchers, soon died away and the latter part of the tour fell extremely flat. Fifteen matches were played, two being won, nine lost and four drawn. The successes were against Sussex and Warwickshire, while the defeats were sustained at the hands of Lancashire. Cambridge University, Middlesex, Oxford University Past and Present, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, the Marylebone Club, Kent and Surrey. The drawn games were with Oxford University, Yorkshire, Notts and Somerset. On several occasions the Philadephians played extremely well, but their bowling and fielding would not bear comparison with the batting. As well as in the two matches they won, they were seen to great advantage against Lancashire and Surrey, and had time permitted they would probably have beaten both Notts and Somerset. Notts, however, had a very weak eleven. The figures published at the end of this review show clearly wherein lay the weakness of the team, the bowling not being nearly storng enough for the class of matches engaged in. In this department J. B. King proved himself far and away the best man on the side and had to go through a tremendous amount of work. He bowled more than three hundred overs more than anyone else and took as many wickets, his average of just over 24 runs each for 72 wickets being, under the circumstances, highly excellent. Several fine performances stand to his credit, perhaps the best thing he did being to clean bowl Ranjitsinjhi with the first ball he ever sent down to the famous Indian. Considering that the men were meeting some of the best English professional bowlers for the first time, the batting figures came out well, five of the team having averages between 37 and 20. The place of honour was gained by J. A. Lester, who beginning with 72 not out in the first match, kept up his form all through the tour. When in England with the Haverford College eleven in 1896, he created a great impression by scoring 1185 runs, with an average of over 84 and his achievements with the Philadelphians greatly enhanced his reputation. A record of 891 runs with an average of 37 against high-class bowling was, of course, infinitely more creditable than his higher scoring against school boys. Patterson, the captain, though he started badly and was towards the finish handicapped by injured hands, could show a capital result for his two months" work. He had the distinction of playing the highest individual innings of the tour-162 against Notts-and there is no doubt that he and Lester are really first-class batsmen. A. M. Wood many times rendered capital service and F. H. Bohlen played several good innings, while King, despite the amount of work he was called upon to do in bowling, managed to score 447 runs, with an average of just over 20. After King, there was a marked falling off in the bating and no purpose would be served by dwelling upon the doings of the other members of the side. There were two capable wicket-keepers in Ralston and Scattergood, the latter of whom did not arrive in England till the tour was half over.

© John Wisden & Co