The Sri Lanka / England tour gets under way next week with the first Test Match at Cardiff, closely followed by the Lords Test.
But did you know that one of the first tourist teams to visit England was a team of Aborigines in 1868? They toured the country playing cricket against various clubs and counties, including the MCC at Lords, where one Aborigine player, Johnny Mullagh, scored a majestic 75. Charles Lawrence, the man responsible for organising the tour, recorded in his diary that he had formed the idea of teaching the Aborigines cricket after seeing them throwing boomerangs and spears. The tourists played forty seven matches, (Won 14, Lost 14, Drawn 19), crisscrossing the country by train and carriage.
One of the sideshow attractions was Dick-a-Dick's ability to 'dodge' cricket balls. Armed with a parrying shield and leangle (an Aboriginal war club), Dick-a-Dick played 'dodge the ball.' For the price of a shilling, anyone could have a shy at him. Although standing no more than ten yards away, no one managed to hit him. He managed to parry or deflect every ball. There are a number of modern day players one might wish to floor with a cricket ball, but doubtless such a sideshow would now be forbidden by health and safety.
In what was perhaps a forerunner to coloured cricket kit, the Aborigines each wore a different coloured sash that ran from the left shoulder to the right waist. The colours were printed on the scorecard so spectators could easily identify each player. When the first official Australian touring party came to England in 1878, many of the spectators were surprised that the players were not black.
One press report at the time said "Nothing of interest comes from Australia except gold and black cricketers."
The Aborigine tour is one of eleven extraordinary cricket tours featured in Mike Harfield's second book, Spirit On The Water.
What better way to get into the mood for the Sri Lanka series? The lively conversational style which made Mike Harfield's previous book, Not Dark Yet, such a fast seller appears again, along with a cornucopia of cricket. Most of the time it is the cricket which lives in the memory; occasionally contemporary events intervene. Always the journey is entertaining.
Comments on Mike's previous book include:
"A worthy addition to the world of cricket humour" – Sir Tim Rice
"I laughed so much I nearly passed my fags round." – David Lloyd
Spirit on the Water is published by Loose Chippings Books in paperback and eBook:
ISBN 978-0-9554217-9-2 £8.99 Paperback
ISBN 978-1-907991-02-8 £8.99 Ebook