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Most momentous six hours in cricket history

On 27th May 1878 the Australians were scheduled to play against MCC at Lord’s. W. G. Grace was leading the MCC team which included Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby, Alfred Shaw and George Hearne among others. Here's the story!

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Last updated: 27.05.2019
Australia vs MCC 27th May 1878 | Sports Social Blog

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March 1877 saw the first ever test matches between England and Australia. Cricket was still in its early stage and that time, no one realized the importance of these matches. Various representative squads from England and Australia used to travel through ships to each other’s shore to play matches with multiple teams. Those two matches in 1877 were later identified as the best representation of the country’s talents and hence given the test match status. However, the legend of Ashes was born much later in 1882 after that memorable match at the Oval.


In between, in 1878 an Australian squad travelled to England and played 37 matches in a period of four months. These matches included matches against counties, matches against the odd (matches where opponents had 18 to 22 players) as well as matches against combined MCC teams. It was the first time an Australian representative side was travelling. The captain was Dave Gregory.


On 27th May 1878 the Australians were scheduled to play against MCC at Lord’s. W. G. Grace was leading the MCC team which included Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby, Alfred Shaw and George Hearne among others. For Australians Fred Spofforth, Billy Midwinter and Charles Bannerman were the key players.

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1878 had a very wet summer and the pitches were terrible due to the rain, but no one expected that the three-day would become just a one-day affair. MCC won the toss and was blown away for 33 in 29 four-ball overs. Allan and Boyle took two early wickets including Grace. But at 27 for two, Spofforth was introduced, he delivered a demonic spell of six wickets for just four runs including a hat-trick to close the MCC innings. Only Hornby reached double-digit for MCC.


In response, Australians could not deliver anything better. In a terrible sticky wicket, they batted for more than 66 overs to get just 41. For them, the highest score was 10, by Billy Midwinter. Astonishingly for MCC, Alfred Shaw, and Fred Morley, only two bowlers were used. Both bowled 33 overs and took five wickets each.


MCC again came to bat hoping for a better show but it went downhill. This time they could only survive 17 overs scoring 19 runs. Spofforth took four wickets for 16 and Harry Boyle six for three. Even a chase of 12 could have been difficult on such a sticky wicket and Australia lost Bannerman with one on board. However, Midwinter and Horan closed the match by scoring the remaining runs in 16 overs.

The three-day match was over in just one day and it was a wonderful result for the Australians and Spofforth who got a cult status for his hat-trick. The total match aggregate was 105 which is still a first-class record for the lowest match total. This match is remembered as "arguably the most momentous six hours in cricket history".


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