History of Australia and its cricket

AUSTRALIA is an island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the Commonwealth of Australia, a self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

MOHANDAS MENON

AUSTRALIA is an island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the Commonwealth of Australia, a self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The continent is bounded on the north by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Torres Strait; on the east by the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea; on the south by the Bass Strait and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Indian Ocean. The commonwealth extends for about 4,000km (about 2,500 miles) from east to west and for about 3,700 km (about 2,300 miles) from north to south. Its coastline measures some 25,760 km (about 16,010 miles). The area of the commonwealth is 7,682,300 sq km (2,966,200 sq miles), and the area of the continent alone is 7,614,500 sq km (2,939,974 sq miles), making Australia the smallest continent in the world, but the sixth largest country.

A general view of the Sydney Cricket Ground during a recent one-day international. The first cricket match in Australia for which the details survive was played at the Hyde Park in Sydney on February 26, 1830. - Pic. ADAM PRETTY/GETTY IMAGES-

The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of six states — New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia — and two territories — the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

The major cities of Australia are Sydney, a seaport and commercial centre; Melbourne, a cultural centre; Brisbane, a seaport; Perth, a seaport on the western coast; and Adelaide, an agricultural centre. Canberra, the national capital, is much smaller in population.

The first people to live in Australia, called Aborigines, migrated there about 40,000 years ago. The continent remained relatively unknown to outsiders until the 17th century. The first European settlement by British convicts occurred in 1788 at Botany Bay in southeastern Australia. Australia grew as a group of British colonies during the 19th century, and in 1901 the colonies joined together to form a unified independent nation.

People of European descent make up 95 per cent of Australia's inhabitants. The majority have a British or Irish heritage, but about 18 per cent of the total population have other European origins. Asians, including Middle Easterners, account for four per cent of the population. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders make up one per cent of the population. In 1991 the largest overseas-born groups were from Great Britain and Ireland (22.5 per cent), other European countries (30 per cent), and Asia and the Middle East (21 per cent). Before World War II (1939-1945) more than 90 per cent of the people were of British or Irish origin. Since then, more than two million Europeans from other countries have migrated to Australia. Since 1975, about 125,000 Southeast Asians have been admitted to the country, mostly as refugees.

English is the official language of Australia. Aboriginal and other minority languages are spoken in ethnic communities.

Cricket was first played in Australia in 1803 in the Sydney areas, although the first clubs there were not established until 1826. The game was first referred in Tasmania in 1815 and the first match was recorded in Hobart some 10 years later. School cricket began in Australia quite early in 1821 at Sydney. A few years later in 1826 the first known cricket club — the Military Cricket Club — was established in Sydney for the military personnel. Later that year was formed the Australian Club, the first club for native-born civilians.

The first cricket match in Australia for which the details survive was played at the Hyde Park in Sydney on February 26, 1830. The scores: Civilians 76 & 136 beat the 57th Regiment 101 & 87 by 24 runs.

The recorded reference to `sledging'— the low slang and insulting remarks so often resorted by Australians, as the Commercial Journal so neatly put it — was reported on February 7, 1838. Incidentally sledging continues in Australian cricket at all grades to this day!

New South Wales has won the title a record 43 times in the annual domestic championship, which is known as the Pura Milk Cup now. It was called the Sheffield Shield till 1999. — Pic. DARREN ENGLAND/GETTY IMAGES-

Cricket was first mentioned in Western Australia in 1835, as the members of the Perth Club played the game on Saturday afternoons. The Melbourne Cricket Club — the first club in Victoria — was formed on November 20, 1838, while the first mention of the game came in 1839 in South Australia when some weekend cricket was played at the London Tavern in Adelaide. The Albion Cricket Club was formed in Brisbane in 1844, the first of its kind in Queensland.

To John Rickards of Sydney goes the distinction of recording the first ever half-century on Australian soil. He scored 57 not out for Single v Married at Sydney in May 1833. The first ever century was by F. A. Powlett for the Melbourne Cricket Club v Melbourne Union Cricket Club on January 17, 1839.

The first inter-colonial match in Australia was played in February 1851 between Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) and Port Philip District (Victoria) at Launceston. This match signalled the start of first-class cricket in the country.

The first cricket touring team to Australia was an English team under H. H. Stephenson, and sponsored by the Melbourne catering firm of Spiers and Pond, in 1861-62. Interestingly, the phrase `Test match' was coined during this tour. Games between H. H. Stephenson's team and each of the Australian colonies were described as `Test matches'. However, those early contests were played against odds. i.e. with the opposition batting and fielding more than 11 men. It was not until the fourth expedition to Australia, by James Lillywhite's professionals in 1876-77, that an English team played on level terms overseas. The first such encounter, against a combined XI from Melbourne and Sydney, has become accepted as the first official Test match.

The first ever Test match began on March 15, 1877, at 1:05 p.m. at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Australian Charles Bannerman faced the first ball from the English round-arm, `length' bowler Alfred Shaw. The first Test run was scored by Bannerman off Shaw's second ball. Play went on up to 5:00 p.m., with the players breaking off for lunch from 2:00 to 2:40 p.m. Bannerman, who scored Test cricket's first hundred (in 160 minutes) remained not out on the first day with 126, with Australia making 166 for six wickets. On the second day, a rising ball from George Ulyett split Bannerman's second finger of his right hand, forcing him to retire with 165 of Australia's total of 240 for seven after batting chancelessly for 285 minutes and hitting 15 fours. His score represented 67.3% of his side's total. This still remains the highest individual proportion of any Test innings. Australian Bill Midwinter (five for 78 in 54 four-ball overs) became the first bowler to take a five-wicket haul in Test cricket. In the second innings Tom Kendall captured seven wickets for 55 runs in 33.1 overs for Australia. The home side won the match by 45 runs.

Although the first inter-colonial match took place in 1851, no regular competition existed until 1892. The Third Earl of Sheffield brought a team captained by W. G. Grace to Australia in 1891-92. This visit was so enthusiastically received that the Earl donated 150 guineas for the development of cricket in the colonies. The newly formed Australian Cricket Council invested the money in a shield measuring 46 inches by 30 inches and bearing the Sheffield and Australian coats of arms. The following season, the annual domestic championship, The Sheffield Shield, was instituted. Only three leading colonies, Victoria (the first winner), New South Wales and South Australia took part. Queensland and Western Australia were admitted in 1926-27 and 1947-48 respectively, while Tasmania joined the fray in 1977-78.

New South Wales has won the title a record 43 times, followed by Victoria 25, Western Australia 15, South Australia 13 and Queensland 5.

In the autumn of 1999, a sponsor was found for the Sheffield Shield. National Food Ltd. paid 22 million Australian dollars per annum and the competition was renamed as Pura Milk Cup.

The Australian Cricket Board introduced a one-day domestic competition in 1969-70. Interestingly, despite its popularity in England in the Sixties, the first ever one-day international match was brought about by chance. A hastily arranged match between Australia and England was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on January 5, 1971, on the final scheduled day of the rain-aborted Ashes Test match to compensate the disappointed public for the loss of cricket. Thus began a new revolution in international cricket, in a match, which attracted a crowd of 46,000 spectators and produced receipts of A$ 33,000.

With the advent of Australian television magnate, Kerry Packer in 1977, the game in Australia and then later, the rest of the world was revolutionised. Innovations such as floodlit (day-night) matches, white-balls, black sightscreens and coloured clothing, coupled with skilful marketing strategies have made the game truly global. Australia has had a large part to play in this development and it comes as no surprise that the Aussies are by far the best team in the world in both forms of the game.