Widely regarded as the strongest cricketing nation in the world, Australia has a rich cricketing history dating back to the mid nineteenth century and was recently named world team of the year at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
The first recorded cricket match took place in Australia between a team of European settlers and a team of Aborigines. The Aboriginal cricketers won the match and in 1868 the indigenous cricket team travelled on a tour of England during which they won fourteen matches, lost fourteen matches and drew nineteen.
The English spectators were surprised at the Aborigines’ success, and were particularly impressed with the performance of Johnny Mullagh who scored a total of 1,698 runs on the tour and took 245 wickets.
Australia and England did not meet again until almost a decade later when, in 1877, a team from England travelled to Australia and met a combination of cricketers from Victoria and New South Wales in what is now regarded as the first ever test match. The Australian team won the test match by 45 runs but the next month another match was played and this time England won by 4 wickets. The inaugural test matches began a friendly (and at times not so friendly!) rivalry between the two countries, initiating the first Ashes series in 1882, which (with the exception of the two world wars) have been held every two years ever since. During the 1930s the Ashes contests became particularly fierce when England’s captain and bowler, Douglas Jardine, developed a particular tactic known as Bodyline in an attempt to counter the batting of Australia’s legendary batsman, Don Bradman.
In the post-war years Australia dominated world cricket through the performance of a number of strong players including Dennis Lillee, Richie Benaud and Rod Marsh. During the 1970s there was a period of unrest in Australian cricket when, due to disputes over pay, a number of top-flight cricketers left the Australian side for World Series Cricket, a private league owned by business tycoon, Kerry Packer, which promised significant pay increases. After its first game in 1977, the World Series was deemed a success, robbing test cricket of many of its key players and spectators and forcing the Australian administration to make a number of significant changes in the way the game was run. The new cricket league lasted until 1979, after which a truce was reached between Packer and the Australian Cricket Board and the rebellious players were allowed to return to official international competition.
During the 1980’s several of Australia’s key players left the team and for a few years their performance was weaker than it had been for a long time. In the late 1980’s Allan Border became captain of the team, leading them to world cup success in 1987 and beginning a new period of dominance for the team. Since the nineties Australia have bean almost unbeatable through the performance of a number of top-class players including Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh. Of particular note, the Australian team have beaten England in every Ashes series played since 1986-87 with the exception of 2005 when, after a difficult match involving injury and bad weather, the England team beat Australia 2-1.
In 2005, following their disappointment at the Ashes, Australia played host to an ICC Super Series in which players from the highest ranking test and one day nations played in an international team against Australia. The series consisted of three one day matches and a six day super test and ended in Australia winning the test and beating the international team 3-0 in the one day games. Despite Australia’s success the contest drew small crowds and the concept of the super league came under criticism from those who believed it was impossible for an international team to play well together. After their strong performance in the super league, Australia contested England in the 2006-07 Ashes series but, unlike in the previous Ashes, the Australian team was a clear-winner from the start, beating England 5-0, the first time a clean sweep had been made in the Ashes since the 1920-21 series.
After winning their first cricket world cup in 1987, Australia has won the last three world cups to date. The Australian one day team have dominated the ICC one-day international championship table more than any other team and they are currently placed in top position in the ICC one day rankings.
The first Australian Twenty20 match took place at the WACA ground in January 2005 and was contested between the Western Warriors and the Victorian Bushrangers. The new form of cricket was an immediate success and the next month Australia beat New Zealand in the first ever international Twenty20 match. Following the popularity of Twenty20 cricket, the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash was introduced, contested by a representative team from each of the five Australian states. To date Australia has played thirteen international Twenty20 matches, won seven of them and lost six.
The Australian squad is made up of twenty five players from which a group of selectors pick the test and one day teams for the following year. The current squad are as follows:
- Ricky Ponting
- Adam Gilchrist
- Cullen Bailey
- Nathan Bracken
- Stuart Clark
- Michael Clark
- Dan Cullen
- Jason Gillespie
- Brad Haddin
- Matthew Hayden
- Ben Hilfenhaus
- Brad Hodge
- Brad Hogg
- James Hopes
- Michael Hussey
- Phil Jacques
- Mitchell Johnson
- Bret Lee
- Stuart McGill
- Chris Rogers
- Andrew Symonds
- Shaun Tait
- Adam Voges
- Shane Watson
- Cameron White
Sir Donald Bradman: Widely considered the best batsman in cricketing history, Don Bradman dominated the game throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1930 Bradman toured England with the Australian team and in one series alone scored a record-breaking 974 runs, 304 of them during a memorable match at Headingley cricket ground.
Allan Border: Captain of the Australian team more times than any other player, Border scored a mighty total of 11,174 test runs during his career. As captain, Border led his nation to cricket domination during the 1980s, contributing significantly to Australia’s victory in the 1987 World Cup and the Ashes series in 1989.
Steve Waugh: Another of Australia’s legendary batsmen, Steve Waugh scored 393 runs during the 1989 World Cup. A decade later he was made captain of the Australian team and led Australia to fifteen consecutive wins, including the 2003 world cup and the Ashes series that same year.