Little Bits of History

February 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 8, 2017

1879: The Sydney Riot takes place. Cricket, a bat and ball game peculiar to the British Empire, has two eleven player teams facing each other on a pitch with a wicket set up at one end. The batting teams attempts to score as many runs as possible while the other team is positioned in the field. The British team had been travelling to Australia since 1861. The idea was still rather new although the first Test match had been played in 1877. Teams were make up of the best possible players who could manage to get enough time off work to made the trip half way around the world and then play a series of games against local opponents. While Britain could field teams as early as 1861, it wasn’t until 1878 that Australia could finally get a major team to England.

The Melbourne Cricket Club issued an invitation to Lord Harris, himself a decent amateur cricketer, to gather together a team and come to Australia to play. Harris accepted and while Australia had meant for the entire team to be made up of amateurs, Harris brought over two professional Yorkshire bowlers. The distinction between the two types was mostly social status because the generous expenses paid to amateurs was often in excess of what a professional’s salary would be. But the mostly titled British team were referred to as “Gentlemen” meaning they were still considered amateurs. Australians were seen as less “gentlemanly” and more rowdy and uncultured. The fans were expected to be drunken gamblers.

Cheating was the norm and the rivalry between British and Australian teams was strong. Dave Gregory led a strong team and they were the first to play in England. Soon after his return, Harris came to play the Aussie team. This was the third tour match and the second time Gregory and Harris met on the field. New South Wales teams were antagonistic toward Victorian teams. On this day, Victorian George Coulthard was one of the umpires. He was chosen by Harris as one of the umps, with an Australian recommendation backing the young man’s skill. Coulthard made a questionable call and the locals were outraged by his status as working for the Brits and being a Victorian.

There is debate about what actually caused the riot. Gregory refused to send out the next batter, showing his disdain for the call. Fans streamed onto the playing field. But it is unsure if that was due to the bad call or the fact the British might win the match. Heavy betting against the Gentlemen may have led those with the most to lose to instigate a riot and call the game rather than pay out large sums of money. After the game could finally resume (and cricket games can be played over days’ time) it came down to an English win. They then cancelled their remaining games in Sydney. Bad will between the two countries’ cricket teams took years to heal.

To me, cricket is a simple game. Keep it simple and just go out and play. – Shane Warne

Test cricket is a different sort of cricket altogether. Some players who are good for one-day cricket may be a handicap in a Test match. – Kapil Dev

You can cut the tension with a cricket stump. – Murray Walker

Before you lay a foundation on the cricket field, there should be a solid foundation in your heart and you start building on that. After that as you start playing more and more matches, you learn how to score runs and how to take wickets. – Sachin Tendulkar

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