Ashes Tests: 9
Off the Mark
For the early part of his career, Hugh Massie would much rather work as a banker than travel to England as a part-time cricketer. He passed up on the 1880 tour to focus on his new job in the banking sector, and it wasn’t until 1882 that he finally accepted a spot on the boat.
By the lunch interval on the first morning in England, Massie had already raced to 100. He added another 106 in the second session before falling for a whirlwind 206. The little know opening batsman forged an unlikely partnership with Charles Bannerman, whose patience complemented Massie’s more attacking approach.
Massie finished his nine Test career with 249 runs, including a maiden half-century at the Oval. His free-scoring temperament was well received in England, and made the Australian side a more attractive business proposition for people trying to market the game to fans.
Massie made his captaincy debut during the controversial 1884/85 series in Australia. With off-field dramas surrounding the make-up of the squad, Massie was handed the job for the third Test at the SCG. After electing to bat, the rookie skipper’s plan backfired when a mid-afternoon hail storm left the pitch soaked. A last wicket stand of 80 helped Australia to some respectability. The bowlers then stood up; especially Horan, who had just been replaced as captain. The one time skipper took 6/40 to give the hosts an unlikely 50 run lead. Massie chipped in with 21 in the second innings to set England a challenging 214 for victory. The visitors looked on track, needing just 20 more runs with four wickets in hand. After toiling away all day, Australia’s main man, Fred Spofforth, finally ended the England resistance to seal a spectacular six run win.
Massie’s one game in charge was a success. He goes down as one of only four Australian leaders to hold a 100% winning record in Ashes matches. Massie’s appointment was based on the same grounds as Horan’s ascension to captain. His attacking style as a batsman made Australia an economically viable option for the English sides to take on.
Played and Missed
During the voyage to England in 1881/82, Massie’s teammates predicted he would be the weakest performer on tour.
The public humiliation spurred Massie on, who followed up his 206 with an equally valuable 55 at the Oval in just 57 minutes.
Massie’s 252 runs at Oxford remains the best output by an Australian batsman on debut overseas.
Unlike many players of his generation, Massie was solely a front foot player who loved to come down the wicket; even against the quicks.
After losing the captaincy in 1885, Massie never represented Australia again.