History of Australian cricket to 1876
This is an article that describes the history of Australian cricket from its known beginnings until the eve of the first-ever Test matches between Australia and England, which took place in the 1876-77 season.
Cricket was already established in England by the time Willem Jansz and Abel Tasman made their voyages of discovery in the 17th century. But their expeditions came to nothing and it was not until 1766, which is about when the Hambledon Club was founded, that the Australian story really begins. It was in 1766 that the Royal Society commissioned Captain James Cook (1728–1779) to lead an astronomical expedition to the Pacific Ocean for the primary purpose of charting a transit of Venus. He had a second purpose which was to search for a southern continent called Terra Australis, and to establish if this had a connection with the lands visited by Tasman. In April 1770, Cook's expedition became the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia at a place called Point Hicks on the coast of Victoria.
Cook’s voyages were a highly significant precursor to the worldwide spread of cricket. It was not until 1788 that colonisation of Australia began but cricket soon arrived there too and we have our first definite references to the sport in Australia in 1804, when the January edition of The Sydney Gazette recorded that recent weather had been favourable to cricketers.
Cricket soon became a very popular sport in Australia, especially in the south-eastern colonies. In Sydney, the Military Cricket Club played games in the 1830s against the Australian Cricket Club, including one at Hyde Park in 1833 and the Racecourse in 1834, as well as against an Australian civilian XI in 1834. In rural New South Wales, the Queanbeyan District Cricket Club was officially formed in 1863 having played games against teams from local towns through the 1850s. first-class status was achieved as early as the 1850s.
Commencement of first-class cricket
In March 1850, the Melbourne Cricket Club issued a challenge to the Launceston Cricket Club for a match that was eventually played in the 1850-51 season. On 11 & 12 February 1851, Tasmania v Victoria at Launceston Racecourse was the inaugural first-class match played in Australia. Tasmania  won by 3 wickets.
Development of inter-colonial cricket
Tasmania and Victoria played each other three times up to 1855 and then the New South Wales team made its debut in 1855-56 when it defeated Victoria by 3 wickets in the inaugural major match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The 1857-58 season was a milestone as it featured three major matches involving all of New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. Victoria played in all three matches and won them. They defeated New South Wales by 171 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and then defeated Tasmania twice: at Launceston by an innings and 20 runs; and at Hobart by 69 runs.
Although it was impossible due to travel constraints to arrange major matches between the colonies in every season, there was a steady rate of growth, especially at club level. The sport received a considerable boost when English teams began arriving in the colonies in 1861-62 and especially when the legendary WG Grace himself toured Australia in 1873-74. By 1876, standards in Australia had become very high indeed especially with the emergence of a world-class bowler like Fred Spofforth. Australia was then ready to oppose England on level terms.
The inaugural English tour of Australia was organised by Messrs Spiers & Pond. Led by HH Stephenson, the English team was a great success that inspired later tours.
The Melbourne Cricket Club organised a tour by an English team under the captaincy of George Parr, which also visited New Zealand. No first-class matches were played. The English team was unbeaten and its overall record was 16 played, 10 wins and six draws.
- "Early Cricket in Australia", Society, Art & Culture. Cricket in Australia. (State Library of New South Wales)
- "Cricket Match", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 12 December 1833: p2, retrieved 4 Oct 2013
- "The Return Cricket Match", The Australian, 7 February 1834
- "Military - First Innings", The Australian, 28 February 1834
- "The Grand Cricket Match", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 5 April 1834: p2
- "Immigrants. First Innings.", The Australian, 4 April 1834: p2
- "Cricketing Meeting", The Golden Age (Queanbeyan) IV (122), January 8, 1863: p3, retrieved 2 October 2013
- "Grand Cricket Match between Queanbeyan and Braidwood", Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (Sydney) XVI (464), February 19, 1959: p2
- "Country News. Queanbeyan.", The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (Goulburn) IX (430), September 27, 1856: p4
- "Queanbean and Goulburn", The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (Goulburn) X (638), March 26, 1859: p2
- "The Cricket Match at Queanbeyan", The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (Goulburn) IX (514), January 16, 1858: p2
- "Cricket. Queanbeyan and Yass", The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (Goulburn) X (638), March 26, 1859: p2
- Tasmania was still called Van Diemen's Land until 1856; their opponents actually represented the southern part of New South Wales that became Victoria. In cricketing terms, the two sides are always referred to as Tasmania and Victoria, this match being their collective debuts in major cricket.
- Chris Harte, A History of Australian Cricket, Andre Deutsch, 1993