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The first Australian first-class cricket team to tour England and North America
, 1878

by A. & G. Taylor

albumen photograph on carte de visite (sheet: 6.3 cm x 9.5 cm)

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The ‘first Australian first-class cricket team to tour England and North America’ was in fact the second Australian cricket side to contest matches internationally (a team of Indigenous players having done so in 1868), but is considered the first official national representative team to tour overseas. The team was led by Wollongong-born David Gregory (1845–1919), who had captained a combined New South Wales and Victoria team in its defeat of a touring English side in March 1877. Afterwards, in partnership with a Victorian named John Conway (1842–1909), Gregory put together a side to play a series of matches in England. Recruited were New South Welshmen Frederick Spofforth (1853–1926), William (Billy) Murdoch (1854–1911), Thomas Garrett (1858–1943), Charles Bannerman (1851–1930) and his brother Alec (1854–1924); Victorians Francis (Frank) Allan (1849–1917), Thomas Horan (1854–1916), John McCarthy (Jack) Blackham (1854–1932) and Henry Boyle (1847–1907); and a Tasmanian, George Bailey (1853–1926). Another player, Billy Midwinter (1851–1890), joined the team in England but defected halfway through the tour to play for Gloucestershire. The players and their two managers (Conway and William Gibbes) contributed £50 each to finance the tour, playing a number of warm-up matches against local teams before leaving for England in March 1878. They defeated a Marylebone Cricket Club eleven (captained by WG Grace) by nine wickets at Lord’s in May 1878, bowling them out for 33 and 19, with Australian fast bowler Spofforth – aka ‘The Demon’ – taking six wickets for four runs in the first innings and four for sixteen in the second. Then, between June and September, the team played games against Middlesex, Surrey and Gloucestershire (Spofforth again being the main destroyer); and en route home stopped in America for fixtures in Philadelphia and San Francisco. A crowd of 20,000 people is said to have welcomed them back to Sydney at the conclusion of the tour, which had proved an enormous financial as well as sporting success. Spofforth, Murdoch, Horan, Garrett, Blackham and Alec Bannerman all featured in the Australian outfit whose defeat of England at The Oval in August 1882 initiated ‘The Ashes’ test series – which remains international cricket’s most storied rivalry.

Photographers Andrew and George Taylor opened their first studio in east London in 1866 and by the early 1880s had expanded their operations throughout the city and to branches in many regional areas. Like many studios of the period, A & G Taylor specialised in cartes de visite, the format typically employed for souvenir-style portraits of notables and celebrities. In the back row, left to right, are: John Conway, George Bailey, William Gibbes, and Frank Allan; seated in the middle row, left to right, are: Jack Blackham, Billy Murdoch, Tom Horan, David Gregory, Alec Bannerman and Fred Spofforth; and seated at the front, left to right, are Tom Garrett, Charles Bannerman and Henry Boyle.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2013
Accession number: 2013.81