1877 newspaper article describing the first two days of the first match
The 1876–77 tour of Australia and New Zealand was at the time considered to be another professional first-class cricket tour of the colonies, as similar tours had occurred previously, but retrospectively it became classified as the first ever Test cricket tour of Australia by the English cricket team. The English team is sometimes referred to as James Lillywhite's XI. In all, they played 23 matches but only three including the two Tests are recognised as first-class. The first match started at the Adelaide Oval on 16 November 1876 and the last at the same venue on 14 April 1877. There were fifteen matches in Australia and, between January and March, eight in New Zealand.
A rival tour had been proposed by Fred Grace but was cancelled, enabling most of the best players of the Australian colonies to participate in two matches against James Lillywhite's side. Fred Spofforth, widely regarded as the best Australian fast bowler, controversially withdrew from the first match in protest over the omission of Billy Murdoch as wicket-keeper. Starting on 15 March 1877 the two sides played two matches, later designated Test matches, and the series was drawn 1-1.
For more details about the establishment of Test cricket, see The first Test tour - 1876/7. Although both matches have Test status, this series is not considered to be part of The Ashes, which began in 1882.