Trent Bridge’s third test part of Triangular Tournament


There is in the Heritage Store at Trent Bridge a rather faded and slightly dog-eared photograph of the Australian touring team of 1912 – the team that contested (with England and South Africa) the only Triangular Test Series to be staged in this country.

If we’re honest, the washed-out nature of the photo is entirely appropriate because the Triangular Series – launched with so much good intent – was wrecked by the wettest summer on record (at that time) …including the Test between Australia and South Africa in Nottingham.

That match was the seventh in the series and scheduled to last three days (the norm back then).  It started on August Bank Holiday Monday, which in 1912 meant the first Monday of the month; on 5 August, therefore, the match got under way – an hour late due to rain.

In his excellent and scholarly work, Before the Lights Went Out, Patrick Ferriday describes the start thus: ‘On the dot of midday Tancred and Taylor [South Africa’s openers], buffeted by a nasty breeze and in front of barely 1,000 spectators, walked down the steps of the Trent Bridge pavilion to face the music.’

At the end of day one, South Africa were 266-8, a respectable but not thrilling total.  Indeed, The Times next morning said, ‘It would be idle to pretend that the game possesses much interest for the cricketing world, either locally or generally.’

That fewer than two-and-a-half thousand people paid to watch a Test Match on a Bank Holiday rather supports that newspaper’s assessment.

More showers greeted day two so the pitch, the atmosphere and the crowd were still downbeat as Australia set off in pursuit of South Africa’s 329. Charlie Macartney, as he did so often, played ‘as if without a care in the world’ but otherwise batters struggled with the conditions, especially after another hour was lost to rain.

South Africa finished the day with a first innings lead of 110 and thus a quick flurry of runs might still give them a chance to force a result on the third day.

There was no third day. 

Rain persisted and at two o’clock the game was abandoned as a draw. To compound the misery, gates receipts were under £250, which would not even cover expenses.

Ferriday says, ‘The two bedraggled sides limped away from Trent Bridge with few positive memories.’

For both Australia and South Africa, the seventh Test, was a return to Trent Bridge as each had played the county in a prolonged (especially when compared with today’s abbreviated tours) warm-up.  A strong Nottinghamshire side beat an Australian XI (probably the one in our faded photo) by six wickets in the first match of the tour in May.  An under-strength Aussie squad were, understandably, ill-prepared for a wet English summer and English playing conditions.

The following month, the South Africans (having lost both to England and Australia in the first two Tests of the summer) did rather better at Trent Bridge – playing out a relatively high-scoring draw with their captain, Louis Tancred, finishing with exactly 100no. One of their battery of leg-break bowlers, Sid Pegler, took five wickets in the Notts first innings, a performance equalled by Jimmy Iremonger when the tourists batted (Pegler also took four wickets in Australia’s only completed innings of the Trent Bridge Test).

That Test, a week or two later, was the third to be staged at Trent Bridge and the last (there have now been 65) not to feature an England side. 

The next time the ground staged an international cricket match without England was 63 years later, when Pakistan played Sri Lanka in the 1975 World Cup.

A Test Match in England that did not include the home side took even longer – not until the summer of 2010 when Lord’s and Edgbaston hosted matches between Australia and Pakistan. They also played two T20Is in a short series in which Pakistan were the notional home team but played in England for security reasons.

Charlie Macartney could not have known how prescient his words were when he wrote in his biography of that wet 1912 competition: ‘The arrangement was not a success…it was a venture that had no successful result and, in my opinion, will not be attempted again.’

He was not entirely correct as two Asian Test Championships, involving teams from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, have been staged.  In 1998-99 Pakistan won and in 2001-02, Sri Lanka triumphed. Although the Championship was conceived as a regular event, to be run in alternate years, the pressure of the international cricket calendar has meant that it has not been repeated.

There was also an Emirates Triangular ODI tournament in 1998 when England, South Africa and Sri Lanka contested a short series notable mainly as the first competition in England in which teams wore coloured clothing.  

Trent Bridge hosted the first match of the series – in which Sri Lanka beat South Africa by 57 runs – so our famous old ground can claim yet another ‘first’.  Sri Lanka won the tournament by defeating England in the final, thanks to an unbeaten 132 by player of the tournament Marvan Atapattu. 

This competition seems to have been as short-lived as its 20th Century predecessor and has never been played again.

England won that 1912 series, beating Australia in a final match that was extended to five days, in no small part to combat the bad weather and to give a chance of a full game and a positive result.  The administrators had not drafted any tie-breaking condition for two teams finishing with the same number of points…the last match, therefore, was to be played to a finish. It was thus scheduled as a timeless Test.

Somewhat oddly, at this distance, the win in the ninth Test of the series also meant that England had won The Ashes, which were decided by the three Tests against Australia.

August 2022

More on the Tournament to follow

A copy of Before the Lights Went Out – The 1912 Triangular Tournament, by Patrick Ferriday, is in the Trent Bridge Library.