The Centenary Test

One of the great
sporting events at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 1977 Centenary Test brought 218 former English and Australian players to the MCG
to celebrate 100 years of Test Cricket.

Oil on canvas, "Centenary Test, Melbourne 1977" by John Bloomfield (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

The idea for a commemorative Test Match was first raised by Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) Committee-man, Tom Trumble, with Club Vice President, Hans Ebeling, over a quiet drink in 1973.

Four years later, the MCC hosted one of the most significant sporting events ever to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1877 (1877)Melbourne Cricket Club

The First Test Match began on 15 March 1877 and was played over four days. One of the most significant games in cricket history, this match between Australia and England began one of the longest traditional rivalies ever to be seen in the world of sport.

Australia won the game by 45 runs, with Charles Bannerman scoring the first Test Century in the opening innings with 165 retired hurt and proving the major difference between the sides.

An appreciative crowd of more than 20,000 people over the four days enjoyed the spectacle of the Australian side triumphing over the English.

Oil on canvas, "Centenary Test, Melbourne 1977" by John Bloomfield (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

1977 Centenary Test - David Studham MCC Librarian

The Centenary Test of 1977 brought together hundreds of former players in one of the largest gatherings of Anglo-Australian Test cricket greats ever assembled. It was the 800th Test Match ever played and the 225th played between old rivals Australia and England.

Photograph, Centenary Test tram - 1977 (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

As the centenary anniversary of that match drew closer, so also grew the scale of the occasion itself. To celebrate her Silver Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II was touring most Commonwealth countries and Her Majesty's visit to Melbourne, Australia was scheduled to coincide with the match.

Newspaper lift out, "The Sun" - 11 March 1977 (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

The Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC), Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) worked together to create the biggest sporting event held in Melbourne since the 1956 Olympic Games. 10,000 visitors from overseas and interstate flocked to the city.

Photograph of Australian & English Test players, officials and umpires, Centenary Test 1977 (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

In the week prior to the Centenary Test, past players began arriving in Melbourne. Between the 218 former players they held memories that spanned the lifetime of Test Cricket.

Sir Donald Bradman, for instance, had met Charles Bannerman, the man who had carried Australia to victory in the First Test 100 years earlier.

The English and Australian players who had previously competed so fiercely on the Ground came together now in a spirit of friendship and celebration.

Dinners and functions for past, officials and families were held almost every evening, offering plenty of opportunity to reminisce or contemplate the state of the game with friends, new and old.

Menu, 1977 Centenary Test Match Dinner (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

The sense of occasion around the Match was not limited to activities on the field. The unprecedented gathering of cricketing elite was worthy of celebration. A commemorative dinner marking the event took place on the evening of the third day, celebrating the links between the Melbourne and Marylebone Cricket Clubs.

Painting, depicts Australian cricket team - 1977 Centenary Test (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

The Centenary Test Match itself lived up to the sense of occasion. On the opening day England captain, Tony Greig, put Australia in to bat, as much to avoid the bowling of Dennis Lillee on the firm pitch.

The morning session was eventful with Australia losing wickets, including Rick McCosker to a bouncer that broke his jaw before dropping onto the stumps.

Painting, depicts English cricket team - 1977 Centenary Test (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

By lunch Australia had slumped to 5/51 and by the end of the day Australia was all out for a dismal 138 runs. Former Australian Captain, now commentator, Richie Benaud observed “there has never been a more disastrous day for Australian cricket in the 100 years the game has been fought between the two countries”.

Painting, Dennis Lillee c1977 (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

Facing humiliation, Australia turned to bowlers Dennis Lillee and Max Walker. They demolished the English batsmen to have them all out for 95 midway through the second day of play, Lillee taking 6/26 and Walker 4/54.

The Australians fared much better in their second innings reaching 9/419 declared.

Drawing of proposed trophy design, 1977 Centenary Test (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

In a truly extraordinary quirk of fate, the final winning margin for Australia of 45 runs was the exact same margin and result as the First Test, 100 years prior.

Commemorative wine cooler, 1977 Centenary Test Match (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

During tea on the final day the players lined up to meet the Queen. In the presentation ceremony at the end of the match, VCA president Ray Steele presented Dennis Lillee with a silver cup, a replica of the 1877 trophy awarded by The Australasian to the best colonial bowler. Derek Randall earned the Man of the Match award for his epic seven-hour stand at the crease in the face of a barrage of aggressive Lillee bowling.

Cricket bat, 1977 Centenary Test Match - autographed by Australian and English team members Cricket bat, 1977 Centenary Test Match - autographed by Australian and English team members (1977)Melbourne Cricket Club

The Centenary Test was a unique sporting moment, bringing together some of the most famous names in Australian and English cricket. It was a fitting celebration of 100 years of Test cricket, and worthy of being recognised as one of the most important ever Test matches in its own right.

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