History

A brief history of Tasmania

Martin Williamson

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First-class debut 1850-51
Admitted to Sheffield Shield 1977-78
Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup Runners-up 1993-94, 1997-98, 2001-02
One-day cup 1978-79

Tasmania was the last state to be admitted to Australia's first-class competition in 1977-78 but it has a cricketing pedigree longer than any others. The first game recorded in Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land) was 1826, and the first inter-colonial match was in February 1851 when the gentlemen of Port Phillip (Victoria) played the gentlemen of Van Diemen's Land at Launceston. Against the odds, the locals won.

Development was slow - not aided by a steady exodus to the mainland. While Tasmania was not ignored, its remoteness meant it was never quite admitted to the elite and a number of their leading players moved to the mainland to further their international ambitions, although a few bucked the trend and broke through despite staying at home.

Tasmania played regular first-class fixtures from the 1870s for a century, initially against Victoria, and then New South Wales. In 1903-04 the touring MCC played two matches during their Australian visit, and that also became a regular fixture as did games against other touring sides.

The First World War checked progress and it was not until 1923 that club cricket resumed with any regularity. The games against other states were also of variable standard with state games often against weakened or virtual second XIs. Funds were also an issue, and in the 1930s Tasmania turned down a chance to join in a new competition with state second XIs plus Western Australia on financial grounds.

After the Second World War things slowly declined and took a marked turn for the worse in the 1960s. Performances deteriorated and Victoria dropped the fixture and even the tourists' games were stripped of first-class status.

Although Tasmania's applications to join the Sheffield Shield were rebuffed by the ACB, results improved and they were admitted to the one-day knockout when that started in 1969-70, and in October 1977 they were finally admitted to the Shield. Their debut season was memorable - they lost in the final of the Gillette Cup and beat the Indians in four and one-day matches. The following summer they went one better, defeating Western Australia, the champions, in the Shield, and then in the final of the Gillette Cup.

Those early seasons were under the leadership of Jack Simmons aided by John Hampshire and enthusiastic locals, but gradually the locals began to take charge. In the 1980s performances fluctuated, but Rod Tucker led Tasmania to their first Shield final in 1994. David Boon and Jamie Cox emulated the feat in 1998 and 2002 respectively, but a win still eludes them.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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