On this day: England become the first team to win a Test after following on

Test cricket has witnessed several historic matches over the years. And 20th December marks the anniversary of such a special Test match between Australia and England. It was on this day in 1894 that England became the first team to win a Test after following on.

The famed rivalry between Australia and England was reignited for the first Test match of the series in Sydney. The hosts won the toss and elected to bat first in the series opener on a benign surface. However, they were in a pickle after losing three wickets without much on the scoreboard.

George Giffen and Frank Iredale kept the visitors at bay initially with their solid partnership for the fourth wicket. George Giffen compiled a glittering  161 to drag his side out of trouble. However, his compatriot Syd Gregory stole his thunder after smashing a swashbuckling double century. He helped the home side post 586 in their first innings.

England’s miraculous comeback

England, in their reply, were rocked early. Albert Ward consolidated for the visitors with a stubborn knock but could not help them avoid the follow-on as they were bundled out for 325 runs. Ward, who was the lone warrior in the first innings, turned into a hero in the second after England followed on. His century helped the visitors to a respectable 437 runs.

The fightback from England meant that Australia were set a tricky target of 177 runs in the fourth innings. John Lyons, the Australian opener, started briskly for the visitors but fell on the score of 25. Despite a couple of wickets, Australia found themselves in a commanding position, thanks to Joe Darling and George Giffen’s defiant partnership.                                                 

Despite losing Darling and Giffen in quick succession, the hosts were marching towards victory. However, there was a twist in the tale as Australia lost five wickets for just eight runs in a horrendous collapse, handing England an unlikely victory.  The visitors’ triumph meant that they became the first team ever at the time to win a game after following on in a Test match.