A brief history of New South Wales

Sam Collins

First-class debut 1856
Admitted to Sheffield Shield 1892
Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup1895-96, 1896-97, 1899-1900, 1901-02, 1902-03, 1903-04, 1904-05, 1905-06, 1906-07, 1908-09, 1910-11, 1911-12, 1913-14, 1919-20, 1920-21, 1922-23, 1925-26, 1928-29, 1931-32, 1937-38, 1939-40, 1948-49, 1949-50, 1951-52, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1982-83, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1989-90, 1992-93, 1993-94, 2002-3, 2004-5
One-day cup 1984-85, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06

The saying goes that when New South Wales is strong, Australia is strong, and when you look at the statistics they show that, traditionally, this has not been far from the truth. They are by far and away the most successful side in the history of Australian domestic cricket, having won the Sheffield Shield 44 times, and many of Australia's most iconic cricketers; Donald Bradman, Richie Benaud and Stephen Waugh to name but three, have worn the light blue cap.

Cricket was first played in New South Wales in 1803, when overs lasted only four balls and the stumps were 24 inches high, and the state's first first-class match came against Victoria in 1856. Rumour has it the Victorians were amazed at the informality of their opponents who took the field bare-footed, wearing drill pants and guernsey sweaters. They also underestimated the under-arm style of John McKone, but he proceeded to bowl NSW to victory and started the state's history of success.

The early years of New South Wales cricket were illuminated by the likes of Frederick Spofforth, Billy Murdoch, known as the 19th Century Bradman, and the legendary batsman Victor Trumper. It took them four years to win the Sheffield Shield after its inception in 1892-93, but from 1901-02 they triumphed six times in a row and the culture of success had begun. The late-1920s and 1930s were dominated by Bradman, whose 452* against Queensland in 1930 remains the highest score at the SCG, and the spinner Bill O'Reilly, who Bradman described as the greatest bowler he had ever faced or watched. It was rare if they went two years without winning the Shield during this period, as they jousted with Victoria for the status of Australia's top-dog.

In the 1950s there could be no argument about who ruled Australian cricket, with NSW claiming nine consecutive Shields between 1953-54 and 1961-62, guided now by the allrounders Benaud and Alan Davidson and the runs of Norman O'Neill and Sid Barnes. Even the fearsome Ray Lindwall's defection to Queensland in 1954-55 could not knock them off their stride, and their glittering array of talent was further boosted when Neil Harvey joined from Victoria in 1957.

This success could not last forever, and the 1960s saw the rise of Western Australia and an alarming slump for NSW; between 1965-66 and 1982-83 they went a previously unheard of 17 years without winning the Shield .

Gradually NSW began to return to their former standards, although the rise of the junior states made their dominance of old an unrealistic prospect. The late 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of the Waugh twins and Glenn McGrath, but, ironically given that age-old saying, while Australia swept all before them with a NSW core between 1995 and 2002, the state, deprived of its star players, failed to win a Shield in this period. They put this right in 2002-03, and most recently in 2004-05, but, like the national team, face a period of rebuilding in coming seasons.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London