Early cricket in Australia

It is not known if there were any cricketers among the convicts and their marine guards on the First Fleet. Governor Arthur Phillip's letters and dispatches back to England were concerned with more important matters than the sporting activities of the new colony as it struggled to survive in a strange new land. The earliest known reference to cricket in Australia appeared in 1804. On 8 January 1804, the Sydney Gazette carried a brief paragraph which began:

"The late intense weather has been very favourable to the amateurs of cricket who have scarce lost a day for the past month"

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Thomas Harvey Lewis (1828-1901) came to Australia in 1830. He was a talented amateur sketcher and photographer but is best known as a cricketer, playing for NSW against Victoria and England. The image above is considered Lewis' only known painting, depicting a match played at Hyde Park on 27 October 1843 between a local Sydney team and a team representing an Imperial regiment then stationed in Sydney.

In the following years occasional references to cricket appeared in the Sydney Gazette. These early games were played on a large tract of public land called Phillip's Common, part of which has survived as the present Domain and Hyde Park.

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The game of cricket spread across the country with the spread of settlement. In 1851 the first intercolonial match was played at Launceston between the Gentlemen of Port Phillip and the Gentlemen of Van Diemen's Land.

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Five years later first class cricket began on the mainland when New South Wales defeated Victoria in Melbourne. A return game played on Sydney's Domain in 1857 was also won by New South Wales in the face of some hostile round-arm bowling and despite some of the home team taking the unusual step of discarding their boots and playing in bare feet.

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