Charles John Eady (1870-1945), an all-rounder, was one of Tasmania’s earliest cricketing stars. He became the second player from the island state to play Test cricket for Australia after Kenny Burn.
While Burn played two Tests on the 1890 England tour, Eady debuted at Lord’s on the 1896 tour and then in the 1901-02 Ashes, played his second and last Test at Melbourne. In these two Tests, he scored only 20 runs but did take seven wickets with his right-arm fast bowling.
He had made 116 and 112 not out for Tasmania against Victoria in 1895 and thus was picked for the 1896 tour. However his greatest achievement came in 1901-02 in a South Tasmanian championship (non first-class) club game for Break O’Day, of which he was the captain, against Wellington.
Tasmania were not inducted into the Sheffield Shield until 1977-78, so these sort of club tournaments were what the budding Tasmanian cricketers relied upon to prove a point and gain regular fixtures with the other established states.
This game in 1901-02 was to be played as a single-innings match, strangely over four Saturdays in March and April, to decide the championship winner. Incidentally, Burn, aged 49, was the Wellington captain and as it happened, he was the only one to score well for his side after he elected to bat.
Opening the innings, Burn made an individual score of 161 but hardly found any support from his team-mates and the team total was a below-par 277 in 106 overs early on the second Saturday. Only two other batsmen crossed twenty.
Eady, opening the bowling, warmed up for what was to follow with a haul of 7/87 in 46 overs, which included the prized wicket of Burn. With plenty of time to bat Wellington out of the match, the result of the game was probably a foregone conclusion already.
But Eady, now opening the batting as well, launched into the Wellington bowling attack to put even the slightest hopes of a fightback by Burn’s team out of question. Just like Wellington’s innings, wickets were constantly tumbling at the other end, but Eady was immovable at the crease and the target was easily passed.
With the score at 312/6 early on the third Saturday, William Abbott came in to join his captain. Abbott was apparently caught without opening his account, but since the umpire had failed to see his shot, he was given the benefit of the doubt. With Abbott for company, Eady marched on relentlessly. At the end of the third Saturday, the score had swollen to 652/6. Eady and Abbott were still batting, the partnership an unbeaten 340.
Eady himself was unbeaten on 419, while Abbott completed a century of his own. It would have been easy for the Wellington players, having already lost the Championship, to refuse to take the field on the final Saturday. But to their credit, they came back to complete the formalities.
Actually, they had no other option – it was decided before the game that a result would only be determined if both teams completed their full innings, the number of runs notwithstanding.
So out came the Wellington fielders on the final day, 5th April 1902, and so did Eady, ready for a fresh session of clean stroke-making. He did not disappoint, carrying on from where he left, and was finally out – stumped off one Loudoun MacLeod – for an unbelievable score of 566.
Eady hit 67 fours in all and while he did not hit a single six, he managed 13 fives. One can only sympathise with the Wellington fielders and at the same time, applaud Eady’s determination to stay at the wicket despite his team already having sealed the title. He batted for nearly eight hours – 477 minutes to be precise.
Break O’Day’s final total was 911 all out in 165 overs. Abbott was the second-highest scorer with 143, while MacLeod, though he took four wickets, hemorrhaged 217 runs in his 28 overs. This match had begun on 8th March 1902, just four days after the final match of the 1901-02 Ashes – also Eady’s second and final Test as mentioned above – at Melbourne, which Australia won by 32 runs to complete a 4-1 series win.
Just a few months later, Australia were in England to defend the Ashes. It was believed by many that Eady was overlooked for the touring party to England only because of the selectors’ continued bias against Tasmania and its cricketers. Australia were successful in their defence, managing to win the series by a 2-1 margin.
The next Australian Test cricketer from Tasmania after Eady was the fearsome fast bowler Ted McDonald, who made his name during the 1921 Ashes. In the modern era, the likes of Max Walker, David Boon and most significantly, Ricky Ponting are among the few Tasmanians who have made it big on the international scene.
Eady’s 566 was – and still is – the second highest individual score in any form of competitive cricket, after the 628 made by 13-year-old schoolboy Arthur Collins – who later became a soldier and died during World War I – for Clark’s House against North Town in a junior school cricket match at Clifton College in England in 1899 (Collins also took 11/63 in that game).
Eady’s record of second-best came quite close to be surpassed by Prithvi Shaw, a 14-year-old Mumbai schoolboy, when he scored 546 in just 330 balls for Rizvi Springfield against St. Francis D’Assisi in a Harris Shield school game in 2013-14.
As for Eady, he retired from first-class cricket in 1908 and later served as the president of the then-named Australia Board of Control (now Cricket Australia). His talents were not just limited to cricket, for he was also a renowned Australian Rules football player and served as the president of the Tasmanian Football League as well.
Outside the sporting arena, he was a lawyer and later, the president of the Tasmanian Legislative Council for a year just before his death in 1945. The C. J. Eady Memorial Cup has been competed for annually since 1947 by the country cricket associations of Tasmania.
Match Scorecard – http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/318/318340.html