It was back in ’68 – 1868, to be precise – that a group of Aboriginal cricketers from Australia embarked upon the first ever cricket tour of England by an overseas side. It was a tough tour, by all accounts – one man, King Coal, died of tuberculosis and two others had to return to Australia due to ill-health. In all, the Aboriginals played 47 games, at grounds across the length and breadth of England, including The Oval – winning 14 matches, losing 14 and drawing the rest.
150 years later, two new Aboriginal XIs – men’s and women’s – have returned to follow in their footsteps – the men playing in shirts bearing the names of those original pioneers.
We caught up with Sally Moylan – formerly of Aussie state side ACT – who scored 24 runs against Surrey Women at The Oval.
“It’s a moment that I will cherish for ever,” she says.
“It means a lot coming to such an iconic ground as The Oval – it is where a lot of Test matches and famous cricket has been played, including the 1868 tour, which we hold dear to our hearts.”
“It is important, coming over here and reconnecting to that story and learning more about what took place here all those years ago – we went to Lords the other day and saw all the cases from that tour and the gifts that were brought with them.”
“So this tour has been 150 years in the making for us, speaking on behalf of the team. It is such a phenomenal moment and a moment that will live with us for ever – to come all that way to play here and to go on our own journey and start our own legacy, like those men did 150 years ago.”
“Hopefully in many years to come we will have more Aboriginal women playing the game and coming back here; and maybe in a hundred years I won’t be around, but we’ll see someone playing with Gardner on the back of their shirts.”
The Aboriginal Women’s XI were in the end well-beaten by a Surrey side which included England’s Bryony Smith, who hit 50 as Surrey posted 149-6 off their 20 overs, with Ashleigh Gardner talking 2-28.
Smith then went on to take a wicket with the first ball of the Aboriginal XI’s innings – Sara Darney caught by Priya Chatterji at cover – but it was captain Hannah Jones who was to steal the show with the ball, taking 5 wickets for 18 as the Aboriginal XI were bowled out for 113.
For Jones it was a nice warm-up prior to the County T20 Cup starting on Sunday:
“It was a good way to start our T20 season – we really enjoy playing at The Oval – and now we are looking forward to Worcestershire and Warwickshire on Sunday. Bryony Smith is in great form – nothing phases her and she continues to get runs, so we don’t mind her on our side!”