THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

29 June 2012

Notes on the Beginning of a Rivalry: England vs Australia

 England 11 (1861-62)

First England Eleven in Australia, from ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]

Ok, we'll come clean. Team Americas is actually Team Americas AND Australasia but there aren't enough of us to keep a regular blog going on Australasian topics. Since Dr Phil is now having to cover the area due to Nicholas's departure to pastures new (literally - he's gone off to farm in France!), he's sneaking in this post on one of his favourite subjects. And if you're interested in things Australasian, we do have a Twitter account @BL_Australasia.

Given today is the beginning of Australia’s One Day International Series in England it seems appropriate to interrupt the blog’s usual service for some notes on Australia and England’s cricket heritage.

The focus here is very much on beginnings as the Library holds works relating to both the first England tour of Australia and vice versa. The first England touring eleven to visit Australia did so in 1861-62 and their matches are recounted later, in 1899, by William Caffyn in ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]. This wasn’t quite the England tours we are used to seeing; the team was gathered by a commercial sponsor (Messrs Spiers and Pond), the team itself was not exactly ‘all-England’ (most of the North declined to tour) and they played Australia teams of eighteen and twenty-two players.

The tour was a success as it drew large, enthusiastic crowds to every game and it proved that subsequent tours would both be of enjoyable quality and financially viable. Caffyn seems pleased with the quality of the matches but devotes an awful lot of his narrative to the activities of Australia’s mosquitoes – it would seem they plagued him more than the opposing bowlers. Subsequent England tours to Australia would follow, although the fractious relationship which has defined this rivalry was soon to develop.

Sydney Cricket Ground (1898)
Sydney Cricket Ground, 1898, from ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]

Australian teams would soon be visiting England too, although the first tour (that of the Australian Aboriginal Cricket Team) is only recorded in Library holdings such as Wisden (Shelfmark: RH.9.X.1553) and the cricket-minded newspapers. The 1878 tour of England, which was captained by D. W. Gregory and also played in the United States during these travels (and is thus the best link to this blog’s usual content I could make) has marginally better representation, including a lengthy discussion of the impending tour in the Melbourne-published Conway’s Australian Cricketers’ Annual [Shelfmark: P.P.2638.fa].

Of course, the 1878 tour saw a strong Australian team begin to build the reputation and legacy which stands today. While this post merely charts some beginnings the Library’s collections of cricket publications, newspapers and other materials tell the history of what was to come; Ashes, Dons, Bodylines and all.

[PJH]

Comments

Here is a photo of the Australian cricket team of 1878:

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3822594

They took their cricket seriously in the 19th century. While researching the history of education at the State Archives of New South Wales, I came across a minute of a meeting of the New South Wales Council of Education about cricket. This august body decided to give their office employees time off to attend the England v New South Wales cricket match in 1876. Are there any employers who give their workers time off for cricket today?

For more of this story: http://stumblingpast.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/cricket-in-sydney-1876/

Thanks for this, I think it must be a thing of the past but we'll find out the next time an Ashes series goes to the wire! That said, the crowd records available through archived tweets, RSS feeds and other e-resources will be fascinating to future researchers.

Australia and England are the countries which started cricket.Please share if you have other records about their first cricket matches.

Hi Kev, I'm afraid the earliest materials on formal matches we have are noted above. There are earlier mentions of informal matches in other works we hold (such as Charles Darwin writing about cricket being played in New Zealand) but that's all I can offer. Other materials and miscellanea of use to you might be held at the MCC library.

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