April 16, 2000

The Initial First-Class Match in Australia

Thomas Rose

It was in March 1850 when the Melbourne Cricket Club issued a challenge to the Launceston Cricket Club for a match between the representative cricketers of Port Phillip and Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Launceston accepted the challenge and asked if the match be played in Launceston in the next month April.

However, this reply was not received in time for this to take place, so the challenge was reissued, and taken up in the following 1850-51 season. The match was scheduled for February 1851, and what an event it would be.

The Victorian team wore red, white and blue colours. It was selected by the MCC and sailed to Launceston by the SS Shamrock. After a lot of banqueting on its arrival, the team didn't have much preparation time before the big clash.

The first ball in Australian first-class history was bowled at the Launceston Racecourse (now known as the NTCA Ground) in Launceston at 11 a.m., on 11 February 1851 in front of 2500 people. The ground was extremely rough and it was difficult for umpires Lyon and Weedon to decide where to play.

The first ball was bowled (underarm) by William Henty of Tasmania to Duncan Cooper of Victoria. Cooper made four runs in the end, and then Victorian total only reached 82. Victorian captain William Philpott equal top-scored with James Brodie on 17.

The Victorians had implemented the overarm delivery into their attack, and it was expected that the Tasmanians would not stand a chance against the sheer pace of the ball. Thomas Antill was one of these overarm bowlers, and like many had suggested, the Tasmanians had problems dealing with the pace. Antill finished with sterling figures of 7/33 off only 12 overs. 3 of these wickets were in 4 balls.

Whatever Tasmania lacked in the batting department was helped by the erratic bowling of the Victorians, bowling 24 extras, 11 byes and 8 no-balls. Tasmania finished with 104, a lead of 22.

The Victorian second innings was a poor effort, the total runs of nine batsmen and extras adding up to a meagre 22. It would've been an innings win to Tasmania if it hadn't been for Thomas Hamilton, whose 35 added a little bit of respectability to the Victorian score. So, Tasmania required 36 for a win. Victoria's hopes relied on overarm bowler Antill once again.

Tasmania scored 37 runs to give them the win, but not without a fight. Antill once again produced the goods, taking 6/19 out of the Tasmanian innings of 7/37. Had Victoria had another bowler with equal capabilities to that of Antill, the result could've changed invariably.

The 2500 strong crowd of mainly Tasmanian supporters went home knowing they had seen a piece of cricket history, the first first-class match in Australian cricketing history.

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