Spotlight on the collection: the sport of Cricket

From the earliest days of British colonies in Australia, the noble sport of cricket has provided us with exercise, spectacle, and sometimes controversy. It has inspired writing, image and song.

Some of Fryer Library's published works about cricket.1,2,3

Fryer Library holds many items relating to the game, including books from cricketers and commentators like Richie Benaud, Ashley Mallett, Gideon Haigh and Alexander Buzo. Cricketing references can be found in our manuscript collections too, including the papers of JD Fryer, Fr Edward Leo Hayes, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Rosemary Opala, Bruce Dawe, Herbert Steinohrt, Allan Arthur Morrison, Thomas Strachan, Florence Elizabeth James-Wallace, the Philp Family, and the Fryer Library miscellaneous photograph collection.

Fryer Library's namesake, John Denis Fryer ('Jack'), captained the Rockhampton
Grammar School Cricket Team4 in 1912. Read about Jack's life in our online exhibition.5

The first report of a match in Australia by the Sydney Gazette in January 1804 offered a rational explanation for the game's enthusiastic uptake in the colony, regardless of the temperature on the pitch.

The late intense weather has been very favorable to the amateurs of Cricket, who have scarcely lost a day for the last month. The frequent immoderate heats might have been considered inimical to the amusement, but were productive of very opposite consequences, as the state of the atmosphere might always regulate the portion of exercise necessary to the ends this laborious diversion was originally intended to answer.6

According to author W Frederic Morrison in The Aldine history of Queensland (1888)7,

Cricket is the leading national game. The boys, from infancy, are to be found on the cricket field, and their love for it continues right through life. We frequently have seen men of fifty years of age enjoying the sport with a zest equal to that of the youth of sixteen who was playing by his side. It is a gay sight to see on some holiday, or any Saturday afternoon, the cricketers of several teams on the same grounds in their uniforms of white, and distinguishable from one another by a sash or a stripe in their cap only, all in active contest...
In every city and town throughout the breadth of the country are to be seen cricketers of all ages, from children of ten up to men of middle age, playing as if their life depended on their success. The stimulus it gives to digestion, breathing, and muscular activity has its effect on the tone and symmetry of their muscular development. The rounded and compact forms one everywhere sees upon the cricket field, and in the sporting circles generally of this country , are the surest proofs of the direct benefit their young men derive from this and other games. Every important paper in the colonies has a column filled with the reports and doings of the various clubs, and they are as numerous as the towns and municipalities of the continent.8

Australian batsman Joe Darling
(career 1894–1905)10
Front cover of Charles Burgess Fry's 
The book of cricket (1899)9

Despite its reputation, cricket was not solely a gentleman's sport. In 1897 The Mercury (Hobart) reported the death of Miss Lily Poulett-Harris, captain of the Tasmanian Oyster Cove women's cricket club, and for whom 'cricket had her warm sympathy and support'11.

Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger12
Mezzotint engraving after John Collet, c. 1770

English cricketer and author Nancy Joy's illustrated book, Maiden over : a short history of women's cricket and a diary of the 1948-49 test tour to Australiais a lively account of women's cricket in Australia and the early English-Australia tests. From flourishing in 1900 to languishing during the first World War, women's cricket reestablished itself in Australia with the formation of the Australian Women's Cricket Council in 1931. Of the 1908 Victorian team she notes, 'the cricket was vigorous and studded with hard-run centuries, for in those days you ran all your runs unless the ball hit a tree.' 13

The First Test at Adelaide, 1949. Australia going out to field.14

What of the game's future? Bruce Dawe's handwritten piece, 'Reflections on watching recent test cricket', presages scandals that have blighted the modern game of cricket.

It seems the more money, the more dirty minded the Game becomes - this is sport like it was sport in the Coliseum [sic] with the Emperor Commodus calling the shots and the nastier it got, the better ...15

While ever the game is enjoyed, people will continue to capture its moments and special collections libraries will preserve them.  

FW Robinson Reading Room display, Fryer Library. Curated by Amanda Harrison.

Fryer Library staff wish our past, present and future researchers a very Happy New Year. Visit our Reading Room over the summer break to see firsthand a curated display of selected cricket-related items from our collections.

If you would like to help the Library grow and maintain its collections, we'd love to hear from you.

- Robyn Clare, Fryer Library

References and further reading

  1. Benaud, R 1963. Spin me a spinner. Melbourne: Hodder and Stoughton.
  2. Cartwright, G 2012. The boys from the varsity : 100 years of the UQ Cricket Club. Morningside, Qld.: [Wordwright Editing and Proofreading].
  3. Buzo, A 2004. Legends of the baggy green : Dubious behaviour & achievements from cricket's chequered history. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin.
  4. Fryer, John Denis, 1895-1923 (1912). Rockhampton Grammar School Cricket Team, showing from Back row: JBR Flowers, LE White, FW Paterson, LH Skyring, Mr LF Palmer (Sports Master); Front row: CW Hutton, F Jardine, CR Paterson (Vice-Capt), Mr HA Kellow, JD Fryer (Capt), HW Charlton, PF Stuart; On the ground: WJ MacMaster, Rockhampton, Queensland, 1912. John Denis Fryer Collection, UQFL23, Box 3, item 8. Available online.
  5. JD Fryer : Student and soldier. Online exhibition, University of Queensland Library.
  6. (1804, January 8). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5833
  7. Morrison, W. Frederic 1888. The Aldine history of Queensland. Sydney: Aldine Pub. Co. Also available online.
  8. ibid, pp369-370.
  9. Fry, C 1899. The book of cricket : A gallery of famous players. London: G. Newnes.
  10. ibid. 
  11. WOODBRIDGE. (1897, August 27). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved January 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9403855
  12. Joy, N 1950. Maiden over : A short history of women's cricket and a diary of the 1948-49 test tour to Australia. London: Sporting Handbooks.
  13. ibid.
  14. ibid.
  15. Bruce Dawe papers, 1936-. UQFL111, Box 26, Folder 1, Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.

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Last updated:
6 January 2017