Melbourne Cricket Ground - MCG Cricket - A Brief History
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MCG Cricket - A Brief History

The first cricket match at the MCG in 1854.

The Melbourne Cricket Club has a history of being first. It was the first club in Victoria (1838) and hosted the first match between Victoria and New South Wales in 1856, the first match against an English XI in 1862 and, of course, the first Test between Australia and England in 1877.

Cricket provides the historical backbone of the club. The greatest exponents of the game have graced its hallowed MCG turf - from the legendary Dr W.G. Grace, Hugh Trumble, Warwick Armstrong, Victor Trumper, Clem Hill, Sir Donald Bradman, Bill Ponsford, Bill Woodfull, Sir Leonard Hutton, Sir Garfield Sobers, Herbert Sutcliffe, Wilfred Rhodes and scores of other champions, right up to the big names of the modern era such as Dennis Lillee, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.

Some of cricket's greatest performances have been seen at the MCG.

Bradman, in a 20-year span, missed a Test century only once against England at the MCG, "failing" with 79 and 49 in 1946-47. He scored 132 and 127 not out against India in 1947-48 and in a testimonial match in December 1948 he played a farewell innings worthy of his immense stature - 123.

Bob Cowper recorded the highest score by a batsman in Test cricket in Australia with 307 against England in 1965 and Graham Yallop compiled a modern-day marathon innings of 268 against Pakistan in 1983-84.

Neil Harvey displayed immense potential with 153 in only his second Test, in front of his parents and five brothers at the MCG. Gary Cosier made 109 on his Test debut against the West Indians in 1975-76, and the 100 not out in extremely demanding conditions by Kim Hughes against the mighty West Indians in 1981-82 is regarded as one of the masterly innings of the modern era.

Bowlers too showed their talents. Could one imagine a more spectacular performance than Pakistan's Sarfraz Nawaz capturing 7-1 to steal victory in 1978-79, finishing with second innings figures of 9-86? Or the guile of Bhagwat Chandrasekhar to capture 6-52 in each innings of the 1977-78 series for match winning figures of 12-104?

The speed war between Australia and the West Indies was the highlight of the 1981-82 season, and the two best exponents were Dennis Lillee and Michael Holding. Lillee finished with match figures of 10-127, while Holding went one better with 11-107.

And what about Frank "Typhoon" Tyson's 7-27 haul in the second innings of the 1954 Test, after allegations that the wicket had been watered?

Controversy is a major ingredient of cricket, and the MCG has provided plenty. Most infamous is the underarm delivery ordered by Greg Chappell against the New Zealanders in a one-day international in 1980. Richie Benaud may not agree. He appealed successfully in 1961 to dismiss West Indian Joe Solomon, whose cap had fallen on the stumps. Later that series, on February 11, a record 90,800 fans packed the MCG.

Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar wasn't happy when he was out lbw in the 1980-81 series. He ordered his batting partner, Chetan Chauhan, to leave the ground with him, threatening to forfeit the match. He relented, happily for him, as India routed Australia in the second innings to win the Test.

On Boxing Day 1995, a crowd of 55,239 were astonished when umpire Darrell Hair no-balled Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralidaran seven times in three overs for throwing. The ‘chucker’ label stayed with the talented Sri Lankan wizard for the remainder of his record-breaking career.

Tension in Tests lives on. Australia was destined to lose the 1951-52 match against the West Indians when Doug Ring and Bill Johnston joined forces for the last wicket with 37 runs needed for victory. The Richmond pair did it in grand style.

Not so lucky, but just as heroic, were Allan Border and Jeff Thomson against England in 1982. They failed by just three runs as more than 17,000 spectators ventured to the MCG for a seemingly limited display, only to be thrilled as the pair added 70 runs for the last wicket.

The MCG is known for its great atmosphere, much of which was generated in the infamous Bay 13. In the late 1980s, the warm up stretches performed by Merv Hughes would often be mimicked by the crowd at Bay 13.

Three special events provided highlights for the MCG - the Rest of the World trip in 1971-72, the Centenary Test in 1977, and the World Championship of Cricket in 1986.

In 1971-72, the amazing Sir Garfield Sobers scored 254 in the second innings in what Sir Donald Bradman described as the best innings he had ever seen. The magnitude of the innings overshadowed another significant batting achievement on the fifth day: Doug Walters became the first player in international cricket to score an MCG century (102) in the pre-lunch session.

The Centenary Test was a gala occasion. The Queen joined thousands of guests and the players, after disastrous first innings efforts, supplied royal cricket. England's Derek Randall scored 174, Rod Marsh became the first Australian wicketkeeper to record a Test century, and Dennis Lillee captured 11 wickets for the match.

The fairytale result of an Australian win by 45 runs was identical to the first Test of a century earlier.

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