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Wisden on the Ashes
Grimmett, O’Reilly, Lindwall, Miller, Lillee, Thomson, Warne and McGrath – took 14 wickets, and suddenly England could no longer take success against Australia for granted.
It hurt. The English press could hardly believe it, and one young journalist, Reginald Brooks, was moved to place a mock obituary in the Sporting Times: “In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket, which died at The Oval on 29th August, 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P. N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
That’s how it all began: a semi-private joke in a sporting paper. Little acorns, and all that. Actually Brooks is rather fortunate to be remembered as the man who sparked off all the fuss, as two days before his announcement, the weekly newspaper Cricket included something very similar: “Sacred to the memory of England’s supremacy in the cricket field, which expired on the 29th day of August, at The Oval. Its end was Peate” (the last part referred to the last man out, Yorkshireman Ted Peate).
Fortuitously for the infant legend, an England team was planning to tour Australia that very winter, and someone leapt on the bandwagon to announce that the Honourable Ivo Bligh, the Surrey player who was going to lead the latest adventure, was going Down Under to recapture those ashes.
Young Mr Brooks couldn’t possibly have imagined what he had started. S. L.
Australia v England 1876‒77
James Lillywhite’s team left England on September 21, 1876. They steamed away from Southampton on calm water and under a sunny summer-like sky, roars of good hearty English cheers from shore wishing them “God Speed”. The compiler of this book hopes they have had a pleasant voyage out; wishes them a successful career in Australia, and trusts they will have a safe return home to Old England.
First Test At Melbourne, March 15, 16, 17, 19, 1877. Australia won by 45runs.
Gordon Ross, 1976
Having cheerily farewelled James Lillywhite’s team in 1877, the following year Wisdengave only the briefest of mentions to the results: “This team played 23matches; won 11; lost four; and eight were drawn.” The omission was rectified some 99years later, when an article looking forward to the centenary of Test cricket included reports of the 1876–77 Tests:
It was warm and sunny in Melbourne on March 15, 1877, when Charles Bannerman took guard and prepared to receive the first ball from Alfred Shaw in what has come to be universally regarded as the first Test match. Bannerman did not commit his name to history purely because he scored the first run: he happened to make 165. Both sides were very much below full strength. W. G. Grace was missing to begin with, while spite of being the home side Australia had considerable difficulty in their selection. Evans, Allen and Spofforth (three bowlers who had caused the England players some problems) all declined to play, the latter stating categorically that the absence of Murdoch to keep wicket was his reason for refusing to take part.
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