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One of Australia first cricketing icons, and the prince of wicket-keepers

11th May 1854 was the birthday of the greatest wicketkeepers in the first 20 years of test cricket. Jack Blackham was an early Australian legend who played 35 tests including the first ever test match in 1877.

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Last updated: 11.05.2019
Birthday of One of the Earliest Greatest Keepers of Test Cricket Jack Blackham | Sports Social Blog

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11th May 1854 was the birthday of the greatest wicketkeepers in the first 20 years of test cricket. Jack Blackham was an early Australian legend who played 35 tests including the first ever test match in 1877. He also led his country in eight test matches.

A gifted wicketkeeper, Blackham was in focus from very early days thanks to his contribution for his state team Victoria and was a regular fixture in inter-colonial matches during the 1870s. Hence it was no surprise when he was picked to play the great match of 1877 which was later recognized as the very first test match ever. However, there was one controversy as Australia’s best bowler of that time Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth was not happy with Blackham’s selection as he wanted his friend New South Wales wicketkeeper Billy Murdoch to be selected and he did not play the match. However, Spofforth was back in the next test and Blackham stumped Alfred Shaw of Spofforth despite his quick bowling. Later Blackham and Spofforth made a good keeper-bowler combination and once Blackham took six catches and four stumpings of Spofforth in a match.

Blackham was a distinctive figure behind the stumps with his black, thick beard which was comparable to Dr. W. G. Grace’s ones. It was also early days of wicketkeeping and the crouching mode of keeping was not popular. Still, Blackham finished with 37 catches and 24 stumpings. Only three other Australian keepers have a number of stumpings than him.

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Blackham was appointed a captain for the first time in 1884-85. It was only one opportunity in the fourth test of a series and Australia won by eight wickets. His next captaincy assignment was in 1892 when he was 37. England team were touring Australia under Grace and Blackham’s imaginative captaincy helped Australia to win the series 2-1. The return tour to England was not as successful as Australia lost the series 0-1 and Blackham was also criticized for his nervous captaincy and keeping.

The first test of the 1894-95 season at Sydney was Blackham’s last test match where England won after following on as the conditions changed drastically after overnight rain. Blackham was injured as his thumb was split open and with age catching up, he could not play any more test matches for Australia and had to retire.


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