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"God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure."

Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire

CT Studd and the Ashes

A label with the following words on it is attached to the Ashes trophy

When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.

The words are a verse of a song published in Melbourne Punch on 1 February 1883.

Ivo is Ivo Francis Walter Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley, who captained the England team in the first ever Test series against Australia with the Ashes at stake in 1882/83. Studds refers to Charlie Studd, better known as CT Studd.

CT Studd made his England debut on 28, 29 August 1882 at the Kennington Oval. It was a low scoring game with Australia making 63 and 122. England’s 101 and 77 left Australia winning by 7 runs. Studd did not distinguish himself; he was dismissed third ball for 0 in the first innings, was not out 0 in the second without facing a ball. He bowled 4 overs taking 0-9 and held one catch.

When Ted Peate, England's last batsman, came to the crease, England needed just ten runs to win, but Peate managed only two before he was bowled. When Peate returned to the pavilion he was reprimanded by his captain for not allowing Studd the chance to get the runs. Peate replied, "I had no confidence in Mr Studd, sir, so thought I had better do my best."[]

This was a surprising attitude – as was Studd coming in at number 10 in the second inning – given that Studd had already scored two hundreds against Australia that summer. Studd played in the 1882-83 test series in Australia when England regained the Ashes.

How good a cricket was CT Studd is hard to say. He played only 5 tests – all against Australia scoring 160 runs at an average of just 20 – highest score 48. He took three test wickets at an average of 32.66. In first class cricket he scored 4391 runs at 30.49 and took 444 wickets at 17.25. His best performances were 175 not out and 8-40. His entire test career lasted just 6 months with his first game in August 1882 and his last in February 1883. He retired from test cricket aged 23.

However his achievements outside of the test arena were more significant.

· He twice completed the double (1000 runs and 100 wickets) in a season;

· In 1882 he scored 100 for the Gentlemen v Players;

· He scored 113 for Cambridge v Gentlemen of England, a test trial;

· Playing for Cambridge v Australians in 1882 he scored 100 and took 5-64.

To the modern observer these may appear insignificant events but in the 1880s – in the very infancy of organized international cricket - these games represented the highest level of cricket short of test matches. The evidence suggests that had he continued to play cricket for the next 10 years, he would have become an outstanding test cricketer.

WG Grace called him, “the most brilliant member of a well-known cricketing family and from 1881-84 had few superiors as an all round player”. A contemporary cricket publication, The Cricket Annual, ranked him “the premier position as an all-rounder for the second year in succession”.

CT Studd was the son of a wealthy tea-planter with significant investments in India. Charlie and his brothers George and Kynaston had a privileged life, living in a large country house in Wiltshire and going to school at Eton followed by Cambridge, where the three achieved the remarkable distinction of captaining the cricket team in successive years.

In 1877 Edward Studd (the boys’ father) was soundly converted to Christianity through listening to the American evangelist, DL Moody. CT and his two brothers came to faith in Christ, through a friend of their father.

CT Studd gave up test cricket at the age of 23 to devote his life to missionary work first in China, then India and finally Africa, where he died in 1931. Norman Grubb, his biographer and son in law, wrote of him, “Let it be carefully noted that CT was not just a ‘born cricketer’, nor was cricket to him just a pastime to wile away spare hours. He made a serious business of it and he set himself to get to the top of the tree at cricket as thoroughly as a scholar sets himself to get a first-class in his tripos. CT never regretted that he played cricket (although he regretted that he had allowed to become an idol), for by applying himself to the game he learnt lessons of courage, self denial and endurance, which, after his life had been fully consecrated to Christ, were used in his service. The man who went all out to be an expert cricket player, later went all out to glorify his saviour and extend his kingdom”.*

As his devotion to God grew so his attitude to cricket changed. “Formerly I had as much love for cricket as any man could have but when the Lord Jesus came into my heart I found that I had something infinitely better than cricket. My heart was no longer in the game; I wanted to win souls for the Lord. I knew that cricket would not last and honour would not last and nothing in the world would last but it was worth while living for the world to come.”*

While this attitude might seem extreme to us, it was common in that era. Bishop JC Ryle, (1816-1900) for example, had been cricket captain of Eton and a triple Oxford Blue. He took 10 wickets v Cambridge in1836. However, he never played cricket after ordination. His attitude is summed up in his Who’s Who entry which records his interests as “cricket until ordained”.

He make the same point in two letters to family members, “I cannot tell how the very much the Lord has blessed us… what a different life from my former one; why cricket, racquets and shooting are nothing to this overwhelming joy …I do not say don't play games and cricket and so forth. By all means play and enjoy them, giving thanks to Jesus for them. Only take care that games do not become an idol to you as they did to me. What good will it do to anyone in the next world to have been the best player that ever has been? And then think of the difference between that and winning souls for Jesus.”*

In India he did play some cricket with the army in India, joining a tour and making two double centuries. The motive attributed to him by his biographer “in order to get opportunities of holding meetings with soldiers at night after they played the regimental teams”*.

Cricket continued to influence his language. Writing of one sermon, he said that he had spoken with “the gusto of making a century against the Australians”. Urging people to be more adventurous in their ministry he said, “Take the long handle, only a few minutes to stumps are drawn”. On another occasion he described a prayer meeting which finished before he had prayed –“before I could have my innings, the leader pronounced the benediction”.

That most of the England cricket team came to Victoria Station to see him off to China and that some of them came with him as far as Dover speaks volumes about the impact he had on them.

As we celebrate a stunning Ashes win – and let’s be honest, there are few more satisfying sports occasions than a victory over the Aussies! – it is nice to think that the name of CT Studd who also won the Ashes in Australia is remembered.

* All quotations from C T Studd, cricketer and missionary, Norman Grubb, Lutterworth, 1970.

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