6th September 1880 marks the beginning of the first Test cricket match on English soil. It was also the debut Test of the English great and the father of modern cricket Dr. W. G. Grace. But at that time, the concept of Test matches was not there. It was a hastily arranged three-day match between the touring Australians and a representative England XI. Even MCC was also not very interested in their traditional outlook to support such matches and hence the Oval became the venue for the first-ever Test match in England.
WG made his debut along with his two brothers, Edward Grace and Fred Grace. There were also other debutants like the Australian hitter George Bonnor and England wicketkeeper Honorary Alfred Lyttelton.
England captain Lord Harris won the toss and WG came to bat with his brother Edwards. They were the first pair of brothers to open in a Test match and was matched by the Mohammad brothers of Pakistan in 1969. The brothers put up 91 before Bunny Lucas joined WG for a 120 runs partnership. WG played as good as he generally played and reached his hundred. He was not part of the touring English teams in 1877 and 1879 but made his first Test match a memorable one. He soon reached his hundred and fifty and finally was out for a brilliant 152 off Joey Palmer. There were contributions from the middle order players as Lord Harris scored 52 and Allan Steele 42. England finished on 420 early on the second day.
Australian response did not match the quality of the English batsmen. Captain Billy Murdoch was the first to go after a 22 minute zero. They kept losing regular wickets and were all out for just 149 runs. Left-arm fast bowler Fred Morley took five wickets for 56 runs and Steele took three wickets. The last wicket was picked up by WG Grace in the first ball of his second over.
Australians followed on and looked out of the match when they were 14/3. But Murdoch showed the way and added 83 runs with Percy McDonnell who scored 43. Australia ended the second day on 170/6. They were still 101 runs behind England. However, Murdoch played brilliantly on day three and with the help from number ten George Alexander (33) and number eleven Willian Moule (34), took the score to 327. He himself remained unbeaten on 153. WG bowled 28 4-ball overs and picked up two wickets.
With only 57 runs to chase, Grace decided not to open and Lyttelton opened with Fred Grace. However, it was not as easy as they thought and Palmer took the first three English wickets with 22 runs on board. Soon they were 31/5 and WG had to come out with 26 runs still remaining. However, there was no more drama and Grace and Frank Penn scored the remaining runs to win the first-ever Test match in England.
There were close to 20,000 spectators present on the first two days and their excitement after beating Australia indicated the popularity of these matches between the representative sides and hinted that the Test cricket was there to stay.