The opening round of the 2017-18 Plunket Shield season saw the two Districts, Central and Northern, pitted against each other at Mount Maunganui on a pitch that was loaded with early-season runs.
With 50s to each of the six Northern batsmen who faced a ball, the home side declared their first innings at 439 for 5.
In reply, Central had just 7 runs on the board when debutant Brad Schmulian walked in to bat with three wickets down.
More than 65 overs later, Schmulian was finally dismissed for 203. Having lost the opening day to rain, and with the runs evaporating from the pitch, the game ended in a draw.
Schmulian’s innings saw him break one of the longest standing records in New Zealand cricket.
Central Districts batsman Brad Schmulian has broken a record held since the late 19th century with his double ton against Northern Districts in the Plunket Shield on Wednesday.
…he motored to a century from 105 balls and was eventually out for 203…
Stuff.co.nz, Oct 25 2017
Born in Mumbai, India, in 1855, George Watson was the son of the Reverend Thomas Watson a senior chaplain in the Bombay Residency. George spent most of his youth being schooled back in England before, in 1868, he joined his father at his new posting in Tasmania.
In 1876, the 21-year-old George Watson emigrated to New Zealand, working on farms before beginning his career as a teacher in Rangiora. Watson would enrol in the University of New Zealand in 1877, studying towards a Bachelor of Arts degree while continue to work as a teacher.
When Watson graduated with his BA in 1882, he was in esteemed company at the graduation ceremony as sisters, Lilian and Kate Edger received their Master of Arts degrees. Five years earlier, Kate had made history as the first woman in New Zealand to gain a university degree.
George’s teaching career saw him take up a role at Christchurch Boys before moving on to Christ’s College, likely ahead of the 1882 school year. He left a strong impression on his colleagues at the school, with his work ethic heavily praised,
As a teacher we all know how thorough, painstaking, and zealous he was. No time or trouble was spared to make his teaching effective. He came early to school and went away late, often merely to resume work for his class at home.
Christ’s College obituary
Outside of work, George found love with Sarah Smith and the happy couple were married in 1879. Their first son, Harold Nelham Clement Watson, was born two years later and, in 1884, the Watson family learned that they would soon be welcoming another member.
That child, George Norman Nelham Watson, was born in 1885. He would never meet his father.
George Watson joined the newly-established Midland Cricket Club ahead of the 1876-77 season, his arrival heralded as offering a point-of-difference for a side which was billed as having Christchurch’s best bowling line-up,
He will be a decided acquisition in the bowling line, as he is the only left-hand bowler in the team.
Press, Sept 28 1876
The reputation that preceded Watson was perhaps a little misguided, however, as he quickly made his mark with the bat. In November 1876, playing for a Colts fifteen against a Canterbury representative eleven, Watson was not out in both innings. His innings of 27 and 10 led Longstop, the local newspaper correspondent to note,
Watson showed excellent form, fully bearing out my opinion of him.
Lyttelton Times, Nov 10 1876
Watson’s form with the bat saw him included in the Canterbury 22 to face the touring All England XI at Hagley Oval in February 1877. The home team’s additional players helped to even out the match, with James Lillywhite’s English side winning by 23 runs in a game that saw more than 30 innings end with the batsman being bowled. Watson’s innings in the match saw him make 9 and 6, a reasonable return in a low scoring affair.
The following season, Canterbury sent a team to Australia with Watson among the party that toured the state of Victoria. None of the games on the tour were First-Class but the team were fortunate to play two matches at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In the first of those games, against the Melbourne Cricket Club, Watson top-scored in each innings – making 24 and 29 – in a match won comfortably by the home side.
Watson missed out on Canterbury selection during the 1879-80 season but was back among their expanded team of fifteen that faced the Australian eleven twice in January 1881. From the first of those matches he could claim the distinction of being bowled by the most formidable bowler of the age, The Demon Bowler, Fred Spofforth.
Having missed out on selection in the Canterbury team that played in the annual match against Otago every year previous, Watson was finally selected to debut in February 1881.
Otago travelled north to Hagley Oval as Canterbury took their turn to host the annual match between the provincial neighbours, a feature of summers since 1864.
Batting first, Canterbury effectively won the match in the first innings as they amassed 381, a huge score for the time, with George Watson opening the batting and hitting 175.
Backed up by 8 wickets in one innings from Billy Frith and 7 from his brother Charles in the other, Canterbury eased to an innings and 232 run win.
Watson’s century was the first to be scored in New Zealand First-Class cricket and set the mark for the highest score by a First-Class debutant on our shores.
That record, for a First-Class debutant, is not one that Watson would’ve been aware of and came about through the later determination and acknowledgement of games at that level.
Having played for Canterbury against international opposition, Watson probably felt he was reasonably well versed in representative cricket and would’ve looked at making the first century in provincial matches as the crowning achievement.
175 runs on First-Class debut would, however, remain a New Zealand record for 136 years.
[A century] has not been attained until the match under notice by any player on either side since the commencement of inter-provincial matches in 1864.
Lyttelton Times, Feb 25 1881
In the seasons after his century, Watson rose to be chairman, captain, and secretary of the Midland Cricket Club. His on-field performances remained steady and he retained his place for the annual matches against Otago in the following two seasons.
In January 1882, Watson top-scored for the Canterbury 18 in their match against Alfred Shaw’s English XI. Shaw’s team had just taken part in Test cricket’s first draw in Australia – a match that was drawn as the tourists needed to board the boat for the New Zealand portion of their trip. For being Canterbury’s highest scorer in the match against Shaw’s side, Watson received a silver cup.
Later that year, he hit a match double of 36 and 52 as Canterbury beat the touring Auckland side by 27 runs at Lancaster Park.
In what would turn out to be his last match for Canterbury, Watson played a key role in one of the most exciting and famous red and black victories when they faced Tasmania in February 1884.
Batting first, the visitors made 226 with Vere Harris hitting 60 at the top of the order. It was Harris’ highest First-Class score and was described by TW Reese as “one of the best innings seen for some time”. Canterbury’s reply was built around George Watson’s 82 and a stubborn 24 from wicketkeeper John Fowke, batting at 10. Reese, an astute judge of the game, was full of praise for the pair,
Thanks to Watson, who played the best innings of his career, considering the bowling, and Fowke, who stonewalled successfully, the home score reached 203.
TW Reese in New Zealand Cricket; 1841-1914
Tasmania were dismissed for 125 in their second innings, leaving Canterbury 149 to win. When their number 11, Arthur Chapman, joined Fowke, 9 runs were required. Repeating his first innings’ heroics, Fowke farmed the strike with singles and a famous victory was achieved by a single wicket.
The following season, Watson once again laced up his boots with Midland, captaining the side in the senior club competition.
On Saturday 15 November, Watson led his side out against an Addington side who had been granted the advantage of an extra four players in their playing side for the season to help even the odds against the more experienced clubs.
Midland dismissed their opponents for 136 and reached 27 for 1 before play ended for the day. Watson went home on 4*, no doubt eyeing up a big score to help overhaul Addington’s first innings.
But Watson wouldn’t take the field the following week, he had taken ill with a stomach ailment – something he was probably feeling some effect of while playing the first day of the game. When they arrived for the resumption of the game, his teammates were relieved to hear reports that he was on the improve.
On Monday 24 November, the newspapers carried two mentions of George Watson.
In view of the forthcoming cricket matches with Otago and Auckland … the following players have been selected to practice. Messrs D. Ashby, Barnes, Buchanan, E. J. Cotterill, W. J. Cotterill, Dunlop, Fowke, Helmore, Longden, Millton, Moorhouse, McMurray, McDowall, Raynor, Secretan, Strange, Watson, Washer, and Wilding. The first practice will be on Tuesday next.
Press, Nov 24 1884
We grieve to have to report that Mr George Watson’s illness terminated fatally last night.
Star, Nov 24 1884
At 29 years old, his wife pregnant with his second son, George Watson was dead.
Although one historian believed that Watson’s death was caused by a blow from a cricket ball, Watson’s death certificate cites his cause of death as “intestinal obstruction; peritonitis”. It seems unlikely that this was brought on by something that happened on the field, although it is noted that his illness began on the previous Saturday when he was playing for Midland.
Through his five First-Class appearances, George Watson would finish with an average above 40 – something quite remarkable for the era he played in. TW Reese wrote of Watson, describing the impact his loss had on Canterbury cricket,
…Canterbury lost a fine cricketer, a wise counsellor and an excellent judge of the game. Watson was an unusual lefthanded batsman, in that he was a steady batsman always, and lacked those brilliant shots to cover and leg that one usually associates with first class left handers.
New Zealand Cricket; 1841-1914
At Christ’s College, they remembered him for the example he set for his students and all who knew him, paying him what must have been a very high compliment for the time,
To put much in little, George Watson was a thorough Englishman in his love for sport, and in his conscientious performance of the hard duties of life; and in this respect he is thoroughly worthy of imitation.
Christ’s College obituary
When the Midland Cricket Club proposed to raise funds for a memorial to George, Sarah Watson requested a cross be placed on his grave.
Sarah never remarried, raising the couple’s two sons on her own. She died in 1944.