Imagine this on a cricket ground    Getty Images
Imagine this on a cricket ground Getty Images

December 20, 1876. Even as James Lillywhite s pioneering England team made short work of the Goulburn XXII, the cricket ground had a lot of unusual visitors. Arunabha Sengupta recounts the events.

It was the fourth match of the tiring Australian tour of 1876-77, and James Lillywhite s professionals took on the XXII of Goulburn in another of the one-sided tour matches.

The status of the match remained minor. Later two of the matches the Englishmen played against combined Victoria and New South Wales men have gone down as the first ever Test matches. But, the odds matches were not given much importance.

Why, even today the scores read incomplete. England scored 125 in the first innings, the great George Ulyett leading the way with 43. But only 87 of those runs are accounted for in the scorecard. No one knows how much James Southerton or Tom Emmett or Allen Hill and the rest of them scored.

In response, the local side could manage only 60. Alfred Shaw and Southerton were too professional, too skilful, too ruthless for them. Shaw picked up 11 wickets, Southerton 9. That was the end of the first day s play.

The following morning, the Englishmen were casual in their approach, losing all their wickets for just 81. Only Ted Pooley, the wicketkeeper who would miss the first official Test because of being in jail due to a gambling-linked fight, batted with any purpose to score 20. Emmett got 15 in the lower order, and Henry Charlwood contributed 14 from No. 3. No other man reached double figures.

However, all that did not matter in the end. When batting the second time, the local 22 succumbed for just 51, thus losing by 95 runs. The scorecards don t tell us who got the runs or wickets in the final innings. Just that the side as bowled out, all 21 wickets, for 51. Obviously either Shaw or Southerton were at it again, or perhaps it was Emmett or Hill or even Ulyett. All were excellent bowlers and the results would have been more or less the same regardless of who operated that day. The scorecards that have come down to us offer no clues, but my bet would be that Shaw got most of them again. It was always a difficult task to pry the ball away from him.

Yet, this one-sided odds match had its immortal moment. On the first afternoon, while England was at the wicket, some unusual visitors perhaps decided that the expert batsmen would be quite a sight at the wicket. And therefore they flocked in.

There were six hares that scampered in to witness the proceedings. There were even two kangaroos that stopped by. The local supporters, who had little to cheer for most of the two days, were regaled by such show of support from the animal kingdom. It was also of great interest to the men of the press. One reporter went as far as to comment: The attendance of the kangaroos no doubt encouraged the fielders to pouch a catch.

Yes, even then scribes were interested in focusing on peripheral incidents to generate eyeballs. Some things remain constant across eras.

Brief scores:

James Lillywhite s XI 125 (George Ulyett 43) and 81 beat Goulburn XXII 60 (Alfred Shaw 11 wickets, James Southerton 9 wickets) and 51 by 95 runs.