Tim Backhouse Season: Playing the Aborigines at Cricket

The late great chronicler of Portsmouth Tim Backhouse shares a little-known but momentous event in the long and illustrious history of Hampshire cricket.

The first Australian cricket team to visit England was composed of Aborigines. It was led by former English cricketer turned Australia coach, Charles Lawrence, and was made up of stockmen who had been taught to play on Victorian cattle stations. The team came to England in 1868 and played 47 matches against county and club teams, preceding the first official Australian XI by ten years. Although some of the tourists were poor cricketers in comparison to their opponents two or three of them were of county standard and those few were largely responsible for the team losing only 14 of their matches.

The Aboriginal team played two matches against the East Hants Cricket Club at their Southsea ground – on the 15th and 16th of June and the 5th and 6th of October 1868. On the score cards the Aboriginals were referred to by soubriquets by which they had been known in Australia. Their native names, or approximations to them, are recorded in brackets below.

In the first match E. Courtney and G. Howard opened the batting for East Hants but it was E. Money who was to top score with 77. The side scored 209 all out with the Aboriginals using only three bowlers Johnny Cuzens (Yellanach), Johnny Mullagh (Unaarrimin) and Dick-a-Dick (Jumgumjenanuke). In reply the Aboriginals could only muster 120 runs in their first innings and so followed on with a second innings score of 80. G. Howard took 12 wickets in all for the home side who won by an innings and 9 runs. See the full scorecard at cricketarchive.com. This match was particularly significant as it was the last in which King Cole (Brippokei) took part before catching pneumonia and dying a few days later.

For the second game the East Hants team consisted of only one member who had played in the first match taking the field for their first innings with White and Carter opening the batting. Both were soon out for 7 and 10 to the bowling of Twopenny (Murrumgunarrmin). Of the remaining members of the team only Francis Foster reached double figures; the whole team being able to muster just 51 runs. Twopenny on the other hand had a wonderful day taking 9 wickets with the ball (8 being bowled) and catching the 10th.

For the Aboriginals, Bullocky (Bullchanach) and Charles Lawrence overtook their opponents’ score without loss of a single wicket, the team going on to amass 144 all out. In their second innings East Hants could only accumulate 32 runs as Twopenny took 6 more wickets, leaving the Aboriginals winners by an innings and 61 runs. See the full scorecard at cricketarchive.com.

Image copyright Tim Backhouse 2013.

This article was originally published on Tim’s site History in Portsmouth.