1924-1925 Ashes Series (lost radio coverage of Test cricket matches; 1924-1925)

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Photo from the first Test.

Status: Lost

The 1924-1925 Ashes Series was the 25th Test cricket series between Australia and England. Occurring between 19th December 1924 to 4th March 1925, hosts Australia defeated England 4-1 to retain the Ashes. Sydney's 2BL provided summaries of key plays during the first and fifth Tests, making this Ashes the first Test cricket series to receive radio coverage. Additionally, Adelaide's 5CL broadcast the third Test, and is credited for providing the first ball-by-ball radio coverage of a cricket match.


The Ashes' origins centred around Australia's dominant victory over England during its team's tour of the country in 1882.[1] The English media was highly critical of England's poor performance, The Sporting Life determining that English cricket died on 29th August 1882 following the series loss, claiming that "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."[1] After England's Ivo Bligh repeatedly claimed his side would "recover those Ashes" during the 1882-83 tour of Australia, future Test matches between the two nations would soon compete for the Ashes urn.[1] Heading into the 1924-1925 Ashes Series, Australia were the defending champions, having won them at home in the 1921, before retaining them in the subsequent 1921-1922 Ashes Series held in England.[2]

This Ashes occurred during the fledgling years of radio cricket coverage.[3][4][5][6] Australia's 2FC had pioneered the medium in 1922 by broadcasting the Charles Bannerman testimonial match in New South Wales.[6][4][3] Heading into the Christmas season, Sydney's 2BL station was interested in covering the first and fifth Tests, as both were set to occur at Sydney Cricket Ground.[5][6][3] Therefore, 2BL had Hyam Marks and Clem Hill, the latter a batsmen who played for Australia between 1896 to 1912,[7] to provide commentary while situated within the ground's scoreboard.[5][6][4][3] The duo did not provide live play-by-play coverage; rather, they promised that "at various irregular times through the match occasional passages of continuous play shall be relayed to listeners".[6][4][5][3] Broadcasts were estimated to have occurred every 15 minutes.[8]

The first Test, henceforth, became the inaugural Test match to receive radio commentary.[5][6][4][3] Similar to the Charles Bannerman match radio coverage, Watt and Hill were simply requested by 2BL's studio announcement to give regular updates where possible.[9] The first wicket described via radio was actually the first to fall in that Test, as Warren Bardsley was caught by England's Frank Woolley.[5][6] These broadcasts, as well as "commentary and scores" coverage for the fifth Test in March, were ultimately deemed successful.[5][6][4][3] In addition, the third Test was to be held at Adelaide Oval; this enabled local radio station 5CL to provide its own radio cricket history, as station manager Bill Smallacombe provided ball-by-ball coverage throughout the entire seven days of the third Test.[10][11][9] Provided exclusively to Adelaide listeners, this is known to have been the first instance where live ball-by-ball radio commentary commenced, with Smallacombe credited for his continuing coverage despite having no backup commentator present.[10][9][11] This piece of history almost never happened, as Smallacombe originally planned to simply "describe the play at short intervals", before changing his mind on the day.[11]

Thus, Australia continued with its pioneering radio cricket broadcasts, with 2FC providing live play-by-play coverage of the Australian XI vs the Rest of Australia Test match in December 1925.[5][4][3] Additionally, the country also successfully relayed commentary of the 1930 Ashes Series in England, Melbourne's 3DB achieving through underwater telegraph cables.[12][5][4] This enabled the station to gain updates every few minutes from a reporter situated in England, whereupon its own commentators would relay this to the listeners.[12] These were known as the "Synthetic Tests".[12][3]

The Matches

First, Second, and Third Tests

The Ashes began on 19th December 1924 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with one rule change mandating eight balls per over.[13][4] After Bardsley was caught by Woolley, Herbert Collins and William Ponsford began a strong partnership, Collins accumulating 114 runs before being caught by Elias Hendren, and Ponsford adding 110 until Arthur Gilligan bowled him out. A consistent campaign was thwarted by Maurice Tate, who took six wickets. Australia were all out on 450 runs. Meanwhile, England's first innings began strongly, John Hobbs accumulating 115 runs and Herbert Sutcliffe gaining 59. However, England began a collapse around the 270-mark, losing three wickets in quick succession with Jack Gregory taking five wickets. Hendren helped England limp to 298 by contributing 74 runs not out, which included the first six of the event. Ultimately, he could do little to stop the final seven wickets being taken, with only 72 runs being accumulated during that time period.[13][5]

Australia's second innings proved equally successful, with Arthur Richardson scoring ten boundaries to score 98 runs overall, with John Taylor later accumulating 108. Australia's batting was again consistent, which Tate taking five wickets could not reverse. This left Australia on 452, setting England a colossal 605 target. Sutcliffe scored 115 before he was caught by Gregory, while Woolley carried the team via 16 boundaries, scoring 123 runs. He proved England's main source of hope as the team lost four wickets between the 260 to 280-mark. However, his dismissal after 404 runs by Arthur Mailey ended any chance of victory, the team's innings ending seven runs later. Australia won by 193 runs.[13][5]

The second Test commenced from 1st-8th January 1925 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia's early campaign proved problematic, ending up on 47/3. However, the arrival of Ponsford and later Victor Richardson dramatically changed their fortunes, Ponsford accumulating 128 runs before Tate bowled him out, while Richardson landed 13 boundaries to reach 138 runs by the time he was ran out. A further 80 by Albert Hartkopf ensured Australia reached 600 runs. Motivated to reach this high target, Hobbs scored eleven boundaries to earn 154 runs, before being bowled out by Mailey. Sutcliffe was also in strong form, carrying England through 17 boundaries to reach 176. However, his dismissal by Charles Kelleway left England 404/5, and the team struggled to capitalise on that early momentum. Arthur Chapman and Tate ensured England scored another 75 runs, reaching 479 all out.[14]

Tate's bowling was on top form in the second innings, him and John Hearne leaving Australia on 27/3. Taylor's arrival contributed 90 runs, helping Australia reach a respectable total. Alas, Tate taking six wickets, including Bardsley, A. Richardson, Ponsford, and Taylor, meant Australia's second innings was comparatively weaker, losing all ten wickets after scoring 250 runs. This left England needing 372 runs. While Hobbs was dismissed for 22 runs, Sutcliffe carried the team as wickets were lost around him, scoring 127 runs. Alas, his departure at the 280-mark triggered a full collapse just ten runs later, with three batsmen being out for ducks. Mailey, who took five wickets, and Gregory taking four others, contributed towards England reaching only 290 by 106.3 overs. Australia won by 81 runs, thus leading the series 2-0.[14]

The decisive third Test commenced from 16th-23rd January at the Adelaide Oval. For the third consecutive instance, Australia won the toss and elected to bat. This initially proved a disastrous choice as Australia lost three wickets with only 22 runs to show for it. A. Richardson contributed 69 runs before he was bowled out by Roy Kilner, but it was John Ryder's appearance that helped turn Australia's performance. Scoring 13 boundaries, Ryder proved impossible for England to eliminate, as he reached 201 runs overall. He could have scored more were it not for his teammates' dismissals, Thomas Andrews' 72 being the other notable contribution for Australia. The team eventually reached 489 runs. England's early innings proved disastrous, ending up on 69/4 and requiring Hobbs to bail the team out. He delivered seven boundaries to earn 119 runs, before Gregory caught him. Following Hobbs' dismissal, Hendren delivered 92 runs, with his capture by Taylor ending England's innings at 365 runs.[15]

Ryder was again crucial for Australia during its second innings, scoring 88 runs which included seven boundaries. Alas, Australia's batting performance was below average; when Ponsford was caught by Hendren, Australia was on 215/4. Four wickets later, Australia only scored an additional five runs. Kelleway contributed another 22 runs to help Australia limp towards 250 all out. Thus, England needed 375 runs to keep their Ashes hopes alive. Most batsmen successfully scored at least 20 runs, but ultimately, none were able to achieve a significant score. William Whysall scored 75 runs, while Chapman scored two sixes and seven fours to reach 58. Alas, their dismissals among others left England on 312/8. Gilligan scoring 31, and Alfred Freeman earning 24 helped edge England make a decisive final stand, but ultimately, the innings ended at 363 runs. Australia edged out England by 11 runs to retain the Ashes.[15][2]

Fourth and Fifth Tests

Commencing from 13th-18th February at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, England finally won the toss, and elected to bat first. Hobbs and Sutcliffe started with a successful 126-run partnership, ending when Hobbs was taken out by William Oldfield. Sutcliffe scored 143 runs, including 14 boundaries, before he was dismissed via an lbw. Other prominent scorers included Hendren contributing 65, Whysall reaching 76, and Kilner delivering eleven boundaries to score 74 runs. By the time England were all out, the team had reached 548 runs. In comparison, Australia suffered a disastrous innings, Ryder being dismissed for a duck by Tate, with all of Australia's prominent batsmen being dismissed early on. Taylor did contribute 86 runs via nine boundaries, but little else proved positive for the side, as Australia fell to 269 runs after only 63.3 overs.[16]

The sizeable difference in scores forced Australia to follow on.[17] Their second innings saw Australia on 5/2 as Collins was caught by Whysall and Bardsley was dismissed for a duck by Tate. A partnership between Gregory and Taylor improved matters, Gregory accumulating 45 runs and the latter 68 before both were caught. Despite Ryder adding 38 and Kelleway 42 runs, Australia again fell considerably short as Tate took five wickets. Australia ended on 250 runs, meaning England won by an innings and 29 runs.[16] This marked England's first Ashes Test victory since winning the second Test of the 1911-1912 Ashes Series.[18][2]

The fifth and final Test would commence at Sydney Cricket Ground from 27th February to 4th March. Australia won the toss and chose to bat first. After their first five batsmen failed to reach 30 runs, Ponsford scored six fours to reach 80 runs, with Alan Kippax delivering 42. Alas, Tate and Kilner proved strong once more, both taking four wickets each. Australia left their first innings with 295 runs. In contrast, England's first innings went terribly as Hobbs was dismissed for a duck, and England ended up on 28/3. Woolley scored 47 runs, which included five boundaries, but he and four others were swiftly bowled out by Clarence Grimmett. Having completed fewer than 50 overs, England were all out on 167.[19]

In the second innings, Andrews earned six boundaries on-route to accumulating to accumulate 80 runs, eventually being caught by Woolley. Other significant contributors included 73 runs from Kelleway, and 65 from Oldfield, the latter ultimately being unbeaten. Alas, Tate taking five wickets, including two back-to-back ducks on Mailey and Grimmett, ended Australia's final innings at 325. This left England needing 454 runs to obtain. Ultimately, England's second innings proved an even worse performance than the previous, with Sutcliffe bowled out for a duck by Gregory, and Tate being the only batsmen to exceed 30 runs. Thanks to Grimmett taking six wickets, England were swiftly bowled out for 146 after just 44.4 overs, enabling Australia to win by 307 runs and achieve a conquering 4-1 series victory.[19][2]

Despite losing 4-1, England's defeat was not considered a major failure back home.[20] Under Gilligan's captaincy, the 4-1 outcome was deemed by some sources, including The Cricket Captains of England, to have been a notable success, triggering a display of welcome by the English public as the side returned home.[20] Some even argued that England should have perhaps won the third Test, and that a 3-2 outcome would have accurately reflected both sides' performances. However, Gilligan's Men did criticise the captain for bringing an excessive number of players, reducing the performances of key players like Kilner, who were unable to retain their tip-top forms as they were often left out of the final team line-ups.[20] Additionally, a player imbalance was noted, with Hobbs and Sutcliffe often carrying the team during its innings, and Tate taking most wickets without major support from other bowlers.[20] Despite the criticism, England improved overtime, and would go on to win the next two Ashes at home in 1926 and in Australia in 1928-1929.[2]


Ultimately, the radio broadcasts occurred during a period of infancy for radio, with recordings seldom happening.[21] Acetate and lacquer discs were possible options to record some output, but these proved bulky and generally impractical for usage outside radio studios, especially when it came to sporting events. Thus, most early radio sports output, including that for the 1924-1925 Ashes Series, is forever lost.[9][5] Nevertheless, some photos and newsreel footage can be publicly accessed online.



Reuters newsreel of the first Test.

British Pathé newsreel of the second Test.

British Pathé newsreel of the fourth Test.

See Also

External Link


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lord's Cricket Ground detailing the origins of The Ashes. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 ESPNcricinfo listing the outcomes of every Ashes Series. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 ESPNcricinfo briefly summarising early radio cricket history. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 No-Balls and Googlies: A Cricket Companion summarising 2Bl's coverage and subsequent cricket broadcasts. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 The Guardian providing a detailed summary of 2BL's broadcasts and subsequent milestones achieved by Australian radio stations. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 The Guardian summarising the 2BL broadcasts and its promise to provide regular updates. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  7. ESPNcricinfo page on Clem Hill. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  8. The Roar noting updates on the Ashes were made around every 15 minutes. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Wisden summarising 2BL and 5CL's historic coverage, and noting no recording of the 1924-1925 Ashes Series radio coverage occurred. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 Senator John Faulkner crediting Smallacombe for providing the first ball-by-ball coverage. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Radio's Changing Relationship with Australian Cricket: 1932-1950 noting Smallacombe pioneering ball-by-ball coverage, which was initially intended to merely provide regular updates. Retrieved 22nd Jun '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Museum of Lost detailing 3DB's success in providing the "Synthetic Tests". Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Archived Cricket Archive detailing the results of the first Test. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 Archived Cricket Archive detailing the results of the second Test. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  15. 15.0 15.1 Archived Cricket Archive detailing the results of the third Test. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 Archived Cricket Archive detailing the results of the fourth Test. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  17. Lord's Cricket Ground explaining the follow on rule. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  18. ESPNcricinfo noting England's 1911-1912 Ashes Test victory, the last until the fourth Test of the 1924-1925 Ashes. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  19. 19.0 19.1 Archived Cricket Archive detailing the results of the fifth Test. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Old Ebor assessing England and Gilligan's performances at the 1924-1925 Ashes. Retrieved 20th Jun '23
  21. Ngā Taonga noting most early-1920s airings were never recorded. Retrieved 20th Jun '23