Ashes Tests: 15
Off the Mark
Tom Horan inherited the Australian captaincy for the second and fifth Tests of the 1884/85 home series with England. It was a tumultuous time for Australian cricket, and although he had never shown much inclination towards leadership, the competent batsman was handed the role.
In a career spanning 15 matches, Horan was a solid number three, and a more than handy medium-pace bowler. The two time Test captain managed 471 runs for Australia, including one century, and also picked up 11 wickets, including a six wicket haul in 1884/85.
Horan was thrust into the role after the majority of the first choice squad was stood down by the Victorian Cricket Association. His first Test in charge was somewhat farcical, with only two squad members having any experience. While the rookie squad was humbled by ten wickets, Horan played one of the finest knocks in his career. In reply to England’s 401, Horan combined with the likes of Affie Jarvis and Jack Worrall to reach an invaluable 63. Horan, the reluctant leader, had shown why he was the man chosen for the job, with a knock every bit as fluent as his stunning 124 at the Oval two years earlier.
With the captaincy merry-go-round taking its toll on the side, Horan didn’t lead the national team until the fifth Test that series. It was another match shrouded in controversy, with umpires having to be replaced almost daily, while Horan’s decision making left everyone scratching their heads. Faced with a drenched pitch, Horan shocked everyone by electing to bat. The move didn’t have the desired effect, and although Fred Spofforth hit the first half-century by a number 11, Australia still lost by an innings. To the surprise of many, Horan opted against using the roller prior to the commencement of the second innings. The move backfired, as Australia was bowled out for just 125.
As an Ashes captain, Horan will go down as the man who went down with the sinking ship. With the majority of the squad unavailable, Horan could have very easily surrendered his spot in the side to avoid the impending defeats. Knowing that he was looked up to by the younger members of the side, Horan took it upon himself to lead Australia out of its deepening crisis. His 63 showed his fighting spirit, while his ability to switch from captain, to squad member and back again impressed all and sundry.
Played and Missed
Horan scored as many hundreds as he did half-centuries throughout his Test career (1).
Horan was a skilled cricket journalist who wrote under the alias Felix while playing for Australia, and all the way up until his death in 1916.
In one article, Felix wrote that Horan (who had been dismissed for 95) had actually scored 103, as the scorers had robbed him of two boundaries.
He was the first Irish born cricketer to captain the Australian Test side.