To write the historical event for 15th March, there is no choice but to go back to 142 years in history and talk about 15th March 1877, the day when it all started! It was the opening day of the first ever test match.
Test matches were still a noble concept at that point in time. The Cricket tours started to occur from the early 19th century. These tours were mostly by various cricketers or businessmen from England to countries like Australia, USA, and Canada. The first cricket tour was planned by John Sackville in 1789, but unfortunately, the country he chose was France and the French Revolution started and the tour was canceled.
By the mid of 19th century, two United England teams were traveling throughout the country to play with various county teams. The players mostly included professionals but amateur players like Alfred Mynn and later W G Grace was also part of these squads. Being a strong representative side, these teams mostly played against the odds, which means they used to field a team of eleven players where the opponent could play 15 or even 22 players.
1859 saw the first touring England team to the US who played matches in New York and Philadelphia. The first tour of Australia came two years later. In 1868 a team of Aborigines players from Australia toured England, this was the first Australian touring party in the history.
Finally came the year 1876. Two different English teams were planning to visit Australia at the same time. James Lillywhite arranged a team of professionals whereas Fred Grace arranged a team of mostly amateur players including his brother and superstar of that era W G Grace. But somehow the Amateurs team could not get the financial support and only Lillywhite’s team went to England. But it was a weak team as most of the great amateur players including Grace was not a part of the squad. The team was depleted more when the only designated wicketkeeper in the squad, Ted Pooley was arrested for an assault and jailed in New Zealand, the country England team visited before stepping on Australia.
After few matches against various state teams, on 15th March the ‘Grand Combination match’ was started between Lillywhite’s XI and a combined Victoria and New South Wales XI. At that point, no one realized that this is the beginning of something really grand and in subsequent years this match was given test match status.
Like Grace for Englishmen, Australians also missed the ‘the demon bowler’ Fred Spofforth who was unhappy about non-selection of wicketkeeper Billy Murdoch.
It was 1.05 PM Australian time which was past midnight in England, the venue was MCG. Alfred Shaw the best bowler in the team had the ball in his hand. Facing him was Charles Bannerman and the non-striker was exotically named Nathaniel Frampton Davis Thomson. Shaw delivered the ball, Bannerman defended and the journey began.
Statistically, Bannerman scored the first run and Allen Hill took the first wicket. Bannerman went on to score 165 before getting retired hurt. He contributed 67.34% of the team total of 245, a record which is still unbroken in the last 142 years. 165 also remain the highest score for someone retiring hurt in test match cricket. Australia won the match by 45 runs, a result which was exactly replicated 100 years later in the centenary test.
Full Scorecard: Here