The First Cricket Tour: 150 Years
Release date: 1 May 2018
The First Cricket Tour: 150 Years stamp issue commemorates the first international cricket tour by a team from Australia, which occurred 150 years ago in 1868. The 1868 tour of England was undertaken by a team of 13 Aboriginal cricketers, most of whom were Jardwadjali, Gunditjmara and Wotjobaluk men from the Western District of Victoria. Many team members had also played in the historic 1866 Boxing Day match between an Aboriginal XI and the Melbourne Cricket Club, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The enthusiastic reception to this match inspired the idea of a tour of England, backed by private financiers.
English professional cricketer Charles Lawrence, who was in Australia working as a professional coach for the New South Wales cricket team, was asked to captain and coach a touring team (after an earlier attempt at a tour had failed).
The Aboriginal players had been taught cricket on the various pastoral stations on which they lived and worked. In the 1860s, Aboriginal people began to participate in the increasingly popular sport of cricket. A cricket club was formed at Edenhope, Victoria in the early 1860s, and it was at Edenhope that the 1868 team practised prior to the tour. After some further practice matches in Victoria, the team boarded a ship at Queenscliff, in secret, and travelled on to England. There had been opposition to the tour by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines.
After arriving in England, the Aboriginal XI proceeded to play 47 matches against county and local teams, between May and October 1868, including a match on the hallowed turf at Lord’s. Impressively, the Australian team won 14, drew 19 and lost 14 of their matches. The schedule, however, was unrelenting. King Cole (Bripumyarrimin) contracted a fatal case of tuberculosis during the tour, and Sundown (Ballrinjarrimin) and Jim Crow (Lytejerbillijun) returned home soon after. This made the achievement of the remaining 11 (pictured on the stamp) even more remarkable, continuing to perform despite their fatigue.
These players were true pioneers, paving the way for the first Australian representative tour to England, which occurred some ten years later in 1878, as well as the first Test match against England, in 1880. In 2002, the Aboriginal XI was posthumously recognised in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as the first cricket team from Australia to tour England. In 2004, each player was assigned an official Cricket Australia number “… to recognise their place in Australia’s cricketing history.”
A men's and women's Aboriginal XI squads will undertake a commemorative tour of England in June 2018, to honour and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1868 tour.
Learn more about the tour, including a full player listing and interviews with players’ descendants, in our blog article.
$1 The First Cricket Tour: Aboriginal XI, England, 1868
The stamp design, by Phil Ellett of Creative Ethos, incorporates player portraits from one of the few remaining photos of the Aboriginal XI taken while on tour in 1868, from the collection of the National Library of Australia. The portrait is of the team (minus King Cole, Sundown and Jim Crow), in July 1868, along with their manager. In the background of the design is a fence typical of those that existed at sporting fields at the time, taken from a photograph of the Lord’s ground in England. Many matches during this era, however, were played on unused fields, rather than dedicated sporting grounds.