A brief history of South Australia

Sam Collins

First-class debut 1877-78
Admitted to Sheffield Shield 1892-93
Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup 1893-94, 1909-10, 1912-13, 1926-27, 1935-36, 1938-39, 1963-64, 1968-69, 1970-71, 1975-76, 1981-82, 1995-96,
One-day cup 1983-84, 1986-87

South Australia was, with New South Wales and Victoria, a founder member of Australia's domestic competition,the Sheffield Shield, in 1892-93. Despite winning the competition in its second year, the state has since lagged well behind its rivals as they have controlled the domestic game.

Cricket in South Australia can be traced back to 1839, just two years after the founding of the colony, when an advert was placed in the South Australian Gazette and Register publicising a match between the Eleven Gentlemen of the Royal Victoria Independent Club and the Eleven Gentlemen of Adelaide. Despite these early encounters the region's burgeoning enthusiasm for the game was not matched by the requisite improvement in skill and as a result the early touring sides did not visit South Australia.

The South Australia Cricket Association was formed in 1871, and soon after the state moved to the Adelaide Oval, where they entertained an international XI, led by a young W.G. Grace, for the first time in 1873-74. Flanked by the cathedral and with the Adelaide hills stretching into the distance the ground is considered one of the most charming in world cricket, and the serene, almost English atmosphere it generates is often light-heartedly cited as one reason for South Australia's perennial underachievement.

The 1870s saw a rapid improvement in the standard of cricket in South Australia, and whilst they lost their first encounter with Victoria in 1874 by 15 runs, the follow up in 1876 saw Victoria routed by an innings and 70 runs. South Australia's most famous player in this period was the all-rounder George Giffen, who scored over 10,000 runs and took over 1000 wickets in first-class matches for Australia and South Australia. In one match against Victoria in 1891 he scored 271 in seven hours and took 16 wickets as South Australia won by an innings. Also playing during this time was the legendary left-hander Clem Hill who would go on to score over 8000 runs for the state and scored 365* in one Shield match.

After World War One the state was captained by Victor Richardson, an exceptional all-round sportsman who also captained the state in Australian Rules Football and who was to leave an outstanding legacy to South Australian cricket as grandfather to the Chappell brothers: Ian, Greg and Trevor. He was the first South Australian to score a century in each innings of a Shield match and the gates at the Adelaide Oval were named in his honour.

Some of South Australia's most influential players have been imported. Firstly there was the New Zealand-born Clarrie Grimmett, who arrived via Sydney and Victoria and remains an icon of leg-spin bowling today. He was joined by Donald Bradman who moved from New South Wales in 1934. Bradman's influence in the Sheffield Shield victory of 1935-36 was unquestionable, his first three scores for the state being 117, 233 and 357, and he would remain at the Adelaide Oval as an administrator after his playing days finished.

After World War Two Sir Garfield Sobers continued the tradition of high-profile imports, while the dashing South African Barry Richards lit up Adelaide in 1970-71, scoring 1538 runs at 109.8 in Shield cricket. Throughout this period South Australia were always close to the top of the Shield table, winning the competition five times between 1963-64 and 1981-82, probably the most consistent period in the state's history. They also produced several home-grown players, including the spinner Terry Jenner, who would later mentor Shane Warne, the explosive David Hookes, who would go on to coach the state before his tragic early death in 2004, and of course the Chappell brothers. When Greg Chappell left for Queensland in 1973 there was almost state-wide mourning, but Ian stayed and proved one of Australia's most successful captains ever in his spell in charge of the Test team between 1971 and 1975.

Since then South Australia have slipped back towards the lower echelons of the domestic game, with their last Shield success coming in 1995-96. They now have 13 Shield victories, a total put into context by the fact that NSW has won the competition 44 times and Victoria 26, and emphasising the extent of their underachievement.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London