Its the 100 anniversary of the legendry Arthur mailey’s nine wicket haul against England at Melbourne cricket ground
A look at the life and times of one of post-colonial Australian cricket’s great characters.
It’s 100 years today since the conclusion of the fourth Ashes Test against England at the MCG, a game in which Mailey – making just his fourth appearance for Australia – returned second innings figures of 9-121 from 47 (eight-ball) overs.
In doing so, he became the first bowler to claim nine wickets in a Test innings on Australia’s turf and remains the only Australia player to have done so with New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee (9-52 at Brisbane in 1985) and Pakistan’s Sarfraz Nawaz (9-86 at the MCG in 1979) the only others.
The next-best by an Australia bowler over the ensuing century remains Glenn McGrath’s 8-24 against Pakistan at Perth’s WACA Ground in 2004.
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It was the years he spent hunched over a furnace in a galvanised iron shed, twirling a four-feet length of metal pipe through which the molten glass was blown, that saw him develop strong, calloused fingers as well as the hefty lung capacity and heat tolerance needed for long days in the field.
The money he earned also enabled him to pursue dual boyhood passions.
Mailey attended art classes where he honed his talent for painting and drawing, most famously caricatures, and he also purchased a cricket ball that he would devote hours to bowling at any willing batter or – if none was available – a compliant stretch of bare wall.
Having idolised Victor Trumper to the extent that the sole decoration on the canvas wall of the lean-to that doubled as his bedroom was a photo of the Australia batting maestro, Mailey found himself in the Redfern team to play Trumper’s Paddington in Sydney’s first-grade competition.
According to Mailey’s version of this meeting in his 1958 biography ’10 for 66 and All That’, Mailey barely slept the night before the match for the fearsome misfortune that might befall Trumper such as being “taken ill or knocked down by a tram” thus meaning their meeting might never eventuate.
Then, after being summoned to bowl at his idol who belted Mailey’s second delivery to the cover boundary, the spinner produced a ‘bosie’ so exquisite in its execution that Trumper not only missed it as he leapt from his crease, he didn’t even try to regain his ground so comprehensively had he been beaten.
“As he walked past me he smiled, patted the back of his bat and said, ‘it was too good for me’, Mailey wrote of having his inspiration stumped.
“There was no triumph in me as I watched the receding figure.
“I felt like a boy who had killed a dove.”
Trumper died from Bright’s disease five years before Mailey made it to Test cricket, so the apprentice was never able to showcase his mastery to his mentor at international level.