The surprising history of cricket in Australia

Of cricket in Australia 🏏

Cricket spreads throughout the colony – early 1800s

The first reports of cricket being played in Australia go back to 1804. These reports appeared in the Sydney Gazette, and by 1826 there were clubs already being formed in and around Sydney. After Sydney, clubs began to take shape in Tasmania, known as Van Diemen’s Land. Western Australia followed, then came the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1838 and South Australia in 1839. 

It’s important to remember that the nation was still an infant colony during these heady years of cricket in Australia. This means that matches were sometimes made up entirely of convict players. Some could bowl well, and some could bat. Most, however, simply joined teams in order to get away from the gruelling labour that came with being a convict in Australia.

Australia puts England on notice – late 1800s

Australian standards for cricket performance began to rise as more and more domestic matches were played. Then, something amazing happened in 1878, when a representative team were sent to England. 

Players such as Billy Murdoch, Fred Spofforth and Jack Blackham attracted a bunch of public interest due to the show they put on. In 1880 Australia visited England once again to play their very first test against a strong national English side at The Oval. 

Australia eventually claimed victory in 1882, which led to The Sporting Times newspaper in our Mother Country to report that “English cricket had died, and that the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. The following English tour of Australia was henceforth known as the quest to regain The Ashes. 

 

Bradman and his record-breaking feats – early 1900s

Jumping forward to the 20th century and Australia is well on the way to becoming a cricketing superpower. Between WWI and WWII, a weakened England team were picked apart by Australian batters such as Bill Ponsford, who was known as an absolute destroyer of opening English bowlers. The best batter of the century (and possibly in the history of cricket) was yet to arrive though.

Born in Cootamundra and raised in Bowral, Don Bradman was 20 when he made his Test debut against England in the 1928-29 series. He made 18 runs and was dropped for the next test. He was then recalled for the third Test in Melbourne, only to score 112 in the second innings and become a mainstay in the Australian team for the next 20 years. 

Bradman was a run scoring machine and during his career he held, at one time or another, records for the highest individual Test innings, the most centuries in Test cricket and the highest Test batting average – the last record he still holds. He is also the only Australian to score a century of centuries and was knighted for services to cricket.

 

The modern dominance of Australian cricket – late 1900s to now

From Shane Warne, the world’s greatest spinner, to Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and a host of other famous Australian crickets, the late 1990s will forever be known as the era when we began to dominate the sport.

We went on an unprecedented run of World Cup successes. We finished runners up to Sri Lanka in 1996, we won in England in 1999 and we then battled through all 11 matches of the 2003 World Cup to claim another victory in South Africa.  

We also won at home with a 5-0 thrashing of England in the 2006-2007 Ashes, before taking out the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean and the 2015 Cricket World Cup against New Zealand in front of a massive crowd of 93,010. What can we say though? cricket is as Australian as meat pies, barbeques and pokies.  

 

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