The History of Cricket in Australia

By Cricket Australia

An exploration into the evolving game that has united
and inspired our sporting rich nation for over 200 years. From grassroots to elite. From men's to women's. This is the story of
Australian cricket.

Bradman's 100th First Class Century by Dave ThomasBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Heritage

Australian Cricket has a history spanning over 200 years. The earliest reports of the sport in Australia appeared in the Sydney Gazette - the first newspaper printed in the country in 1804 - and by 1826 there were records of clubs being formed in Sydney. 

First International Cricket Match, Melbourne Cricket Ground (1862) by Henry BurnMelbourne Cricket Club

By 1832, clubs were forming in Tasmania; known at the time as Van Diemen’s Land. In Western Australia, there is a record of labourers and mechanics taking on the builders of the new Government House as far back as 1835. The Melbourne Cricket Club was formed in 1838, and South Australia was participating in club cricket by 1839. From east to west, the sport was beginning to animate all corners of the nation.

Photograph of the Victorian cricket team - Intercolonial Cricket Match, Victoria v NSW, December 1894 (1894)Melbourne Cricket Club

In 1851, Victorians travelled to Tasmania to play the first intercolonial match, with 15,000 spectators in attendance. Such matches were known as Intercolonial matches until Federation in 1901, when they became Interstate matches.

World Series Cricket, First White Ball (1978) by Mark Kelly Photography. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The burgeoning sport required administration, with Boards of Control formed in New South Wales in 1857, Victoria in 1864 and South Australia in 1871.

Village Cricket Match (1884) by George Goodwin KilburneMelbourne Cricket Club

There were tours of Australia by English sides in the summers of 1861/62 and 1863/64 before a team of Indigenous Australians became the first side to make a reciprocal tour to the northern hemisphere in the summer of 1868. That tour was led by Charles Lawrence, an Englishman who was part of the 1861/62 tour to Australia. He liked the country so much, he decided to stay.

The First Test Match (1877) by UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Another English side – including the most famous player of the era, Dr W G Grace – toured Australia in 1873/74 before, in 1876/77, a combined New South Wales and Victorian side took on a touring English team at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for what became recognised as the first Test match. The Australians won by 45 runs and the match included an innings of 165 "not out" by the home side’s Charles Bannerman, the first individual three-figure score in Test history.

Ashes Obituary, Sporting Times 1882Melbourne Cricket Ground

An Australian side toured England in 1878 but the first Test match there did not occur until 1880 when the two sides met at The Oval in London. In 1882, after Australia’s first victory on English soil, the legend of The Ashes – the mythical trophy that the two countries compete for in Test match cricket – began.

Sheffield Shield Final - TAS v QLD (2013-04-12) by Getty ImagesCricket Australia

The Sheffield Shield domestic competition in Australia was initiated in 1892 by the Australasian Cricket Council, the first attempt at a national governing body. The Shield was the result of a donation by Lord Sheffield, the financier of an England tour of Australia in 1891/92.

As for the Council, it featured representatives of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia with the aim of regulating Intercolonial cricket and organising international tours.

Cricket cap, yellow with Australian Cricket Board crestAustralian Sports Museum

That latter role was one the players resisted, as private tours were a means for them to earn a living by playing the game. Indeed, in 1912, six of Australia’s leading players - Warwick Armstrong, Vernon Ransford, Victor Trumper, Tibby Cotter, Hanson Carter and Clem Hill - all declined to tour England for a triangular tournament that also involved South Africa.

The public motive for their disquiet was that their choice of team manager had been rejected by the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket – the body formed in 1905 to replace the Australasian Cricket Council, which had been disbanded in 1899. But the underlying reason was the question of who should have access to the funds raised by such tours.

Watercolour, W Armstrong (2001) by Robert IngpenMelbourne Cricket Club

The trip took place without what became known as “The Big Six” and the control of the game by administrators over players became established. Armstrong would later go on to captain Australia to its first-ever clean-sweep of an Ashes series, a 5-0 success against a war-ravaged England team in 1920/21. That victory was spearheaded by fast bowlers Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald, establishing another principle in cricket that was to stand the test of time – whichever side had the best pace bowlers was more likely to prevail.

VIC v NSW - Sheffield Shield: Day 1 2017/18 (2018-03-03) by Getty ImagesCricket Australia

The first meeting of the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket featured two representatives from each of New South Wales and Victoria. For its second meeting one delegate from Queensland was permitted to attend, and in 1906, three representatives of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria plus one Queenslander were present. Tasmania’s first delegate attended in 1907 and six years later they were joined by a single Western Australia official.

In 1914 and 1974 respectively, Queensland and Western Australia increased their representation to two delegates. By 1973, the body had become the Australian Cricket Board. It stayed that way until 2003, when the game’s national governing body became Cricket Australia.

Photograph, Victoria v Tasmania 11-14 Nov 1983 (1983)Melbourne Cricket Club

The Sheffield Shield was played between three states – New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria – from its inception in 1892 until 1926/27, when Queensland joined. Western Australia was admitted in 1947/48 and Tasmania became the sixth state to play in the competition in 1977/78. Matches were timeless up to 1926/27, before becoming four-day contests. From 1982/83 the top two sides in the competition each season have played off in a final.

The first domestic one-day competition took place in the summer of 1969/70, although New Zealand competed until 1974/75, claiming victory three times. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had a side compete for three seasons from 1997/98.

Adelaide Strikers v Hobart Hurricanes, BBL|07 FinalCricket Australia

A domestic Twenty20 tournament started in 2005/06. For its first six seasons, the competition was state-based before it was replaced by the Big Bash League in 2011/12 featuring eight teams; two each from New South Wales and Victoria plus one from Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart. Unlike several other Twenty20 competitions around the world, Cricket Australia - as the governing body - retained overall control of the teams.

Belinda Clark, newly selected (1990) by UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Progress

The history of women in cricket can be traced back to 1894, when a Tasmanian created the first local women's competition in Australia’s history books. In 1931, the Australian Women’s Cricket Association would form, with the Australian women’s team taking to the world stage against England in 1934 in the first ever Test match. From Ruby Monaghan to Ellyse Perry. From grassroots to elite. This is the evolution of women’s cricket in Australia.

Alex Blackwell (2018-02-24) by Getty ImagesCricket Australia

Women’s cricket in Australia is believed to have started in 1894 when a Tasmanian, Lily Poulett-Harris, created a local competition. Just over a decade later, in 1905, the Victorian Women’s Cricket Association was formed, followed by the Australian Women’s Cricket Association in 1931.

During the summer of 1930/31, the first Australian Women’s National Cricket Championships (WNCC) took place. Three years, later women’s international cricket was born when the Australian Women’s Cricket Council invited the Women’s Cricket Association of England to send a team on tour. That trip featured 14 three-day matches and included the first-ever Women’s Test match.

WBBL launchs in Sydney (2015-07-10) by Cricket NetworkCricket Australia

From 1972/73, Australian domestic teams have taken part in the WNCC and play for the Ruth Preddey Cup, named after the former New South Wales player and journalist who helped to organize finance for a tour of England herself. A women’s Twenty20 Cup was first played at national level in 2008/09, although the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania were not admitted until the following summer.

The governing body for the women’s game then merged with Cricket Australia in 2003, ensuring that the men’s and women’s sport was run by one single and unified body. That body formed the Women’s Big Bash League; a domestic Twenty20 competition featuring the same sides as the men’s short-form tournament in 2015.

Cricket with School KidsCricket Australia

Today

In 2018, a record breaking 1,558,821 Australians actively engaged in cricket competitions or programs across the nation; an increase on nine per cent from the previous year. Six in every 10 new participants were females, and multicultural participation rose by four per cent, making up 22 per cent of all participants. Indigenous participation is also on the rise, with an increased participation level of one per cent. 

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