A brief history of Victoria

Sam Collins

First-class debut 1850-51
Admitted to Sheffield Shield 1892
Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup1892-93, 1894-95, 1897-98, 1898-99, 1900-01, 1907-08, 1914-15, 1921-22, 1923-24, 1924-25, 1927-28, 1929-30, 1930-31, 1933-34, 1934-35, 1936-37, 1946-47, 1950-51, 1962-63, 1966-67, 1969-70, 1973-74, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1990-91, 2003-04
One-day cup 1971-72, 1979-80, 1994-95, 1998-99

Victorian cricket can be traced back to 1838, when Melbourne itself was only three years old, and five men met and drew up a document agreeing to form a cricket club that would be called the Melbourne Cricket Club, with a subscription charge of one guinea.

Victoria would go on to dominate the early stages of Australian domestic cricket, and they played Tasmania in the first inter-colonial match in February 1851 when the gentlemen of Port Phillip (Victoria) played the gentlemen of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) at Launceston. The Victorians attributed their defeat in this match to bowling that was "slow and peculiar in character", somewhat ironic given the attributes of their most famous modern son.

Whilst Tasmanian cricket stood still the Victorians progressed rapidly, bringing a host of international sides to Australian shores, starting with H.H Stephenson's XI from England in 1862. The strength of local cricket can be gauged by the fact that the tourists were often made to play against sides numbering as many as 22. Indeed a Castlemaine XXII was the first team to beat an English XI on Victorian soil in 1862.

Melbourne hosted the first Test Match between an England side and a combined Australian side in 1877, cricket achieving what politicians would not for another quarter of a century and uniting the rival colonies. According to legend, the Ashes were created in Melbourne during the Hon. Ivo Bligh's tour of Australia in 1882-83, when ladies of the household of Sir William Clarke, the president of the MCC, incinerated some bails and placed them in an urn, starting the rivalry that means so much today.

Victoria had played New South Wales regularly since their first meeting in 1855-56, and they had their inaugural fixture against South Australia in 1880-81. The start of Australian domestic cricket as we know it was not far away, and Victoria beat South Australia and New South Wales home and way to be the first winners of the Sheffield Shield on its conception in 1892-93. The Victorian Cricket Association had been formed in 1875, originally penniless and dependent on the MCC, but it stepped up to take control of Victorian cricket in 1912 after the MCC became embroiled in a huge row with the players.

Victoria and New South Wales proved the superpowers during these early years, and held their traditional grudge match over Christmas at the MCG. The most famous of these was the Christmas encounter of 1926-27 when Victoria posted a world record score of 1,107, with Bill Ponsford hitting 352 and the New South Wales bowler Arthur Mailey returning home with the undistinguished figures of 4 for 362. Four weeks later the same opposition bowled them out for 35.

Since the 1950's Victoria have played second fiddle to New South Wales, and been hit by the rise of the more junior cricketing states. They last won the Pura Cup, as it is now, in 2003-04, but it speaks volumes that this was only their second success in the last 25 years. As it stands they have 26 Shield victories, second only to New South Wales' 44, and a colourful history enriched by the deeds of Ponsford, Lindsay Hassett, Bill Lawry, Mervyn Hughes and now Shane Warne.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London