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Melbourne Cricket Ground
Mcg melb
Location Yarra Park, Melbourne, Victoria
Opened 1854
Seating capacity 100,000

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park in inner Melbourne, home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It is the largest stadium in Australia, and holds the world record for the highest light towers at any sporting venue. The MCG is within walking distance of the city centre, and is serviced by Richmond and Jolimont train stations. It is part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct.

Internationally, the MCG is remembered as the centrepiece stadium of the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricket venues, with the well-attended Boxing Day Test match commencing on Boxing Day every year. Throughout the winter, it serves as the home of Australian rules football, with at least one game (though usually more) held there each round. The stadium fills to capacity for the AFL Grand Final in late September.

Until the 1970s, more than 120,000 people were sometimes crammed into the venue - the record crowd standing at around 130,000 for a Billy Graham religious event in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Renovations and safety regulations now limit the maximum capacity to just over 100,000. This makes it the eighth largest stadium in the world, just ahead of Azadi Stadium in Iran and Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Malaysia.

The MCG, often referred to by locals as "The G", has also hosted other major events, including International Rules between the Australian Football League and Gaelic Athletic Association, international Rugby union, State of Origin rugby league, FIFA World Cup qualifiers and International Friendly matches, serves as the finish line for the Melbourne Marathon, and also large rock concerts.

Punt Road Oval, home of Richmond Football Club is located only a few hundred metres to the east of the stadium.

The MCG is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and was included on the Australian National Heritage List on Boxing Day, December 2005.[1]

It is referred to within Victoria as the "Spiritual Home of Australian Sport".

On the 30th of January 2009, the MCG was named as one of the 7 wonders of the sporting world.[2]

Cricket

The early years

The first cricket match was played on 30 September 1854.

The first inter-colonial cricket match to be played at the MCG was between Victoria and New South Wales in March, 1856. Victoria had played Tasmania as early as 1851 but the Victorians had included two professionals in the 1853 team upsetting the Tasmanians and causing a cooling of relations between the two colonies. To replace the disgruntled Tasmanians the Melbourne Cricket Club issued a challenge to play any team in the colonies for £1000. Sydney publican William Tunks accepted the challenge on behalf of New South Wales although the Victorians were criticised for playing for money. Ethics aside, New South Wales could not afford the £1000 and only managed to travel to Melbourne after half the team’s travel cost of £181 was put up by Sydney barrister Richard Driver.

The game eventually got under way on March 26, 1856. The Victorians, stung by criticism over the £1000 stake, argued over just about everything; the toss, who should bat first, whether different pitches should be used for the different innings and even what the umpires should wear.

Victoria won the toss but New South Wales captain George Gilbert successfully argued that the visiting team should decide who bats first. The MCG was a grassless desert and Gilbert, considering players fielded without boots, promptly sent Victoria into bat. Needing only 16 to win in the final innings, New South Wales collapsed to be 5 for 5 before Gilbert’s batting saved the game and the visitors won by three wickets.

In subsequent years conditions at the MCG improved but the ever-ambitious Melburnians were always on the lookout for more than the usual diet of club and inter-colonial games. In 1861, Felix William Spiers and Christopher Pond, the proprietors of the Cafe de Paris in Bourke Street and caterers to the MCC, sent their agent, W.B. Mallam, to England to arrange for a cricket team to visit Australia.

Mallam found a team and, captained by Heathfield Stephenson, it arrived in Australia on Christmas Eve 1861 to be met by a crowd of more than 3000 people. The team was taken on a parade through the streets wearing white-trimmed hats with blue ribbons given to them for the occasion. Wherever they went they were mobbed and cheered by crowds to the point where the tour sponsors had to take them out of Melbourne so that they could train undisturbed.

Their first game was at the MCG on New Year’s Day 1862, against a Victorian XVIII. The Englishmen also wore coloured sashes around their waists to identify each player and were presented with hats to shade them from the sun. Some estimates put the crowd at the MCG that day at 25,000. It must have been quite a picture with a new 6000 seat grandstand, coloured marquees ringing the ground and a carnival outside. Stephenson said that the ground was better than any in England. The Victorians however, were no match for the English at cricket and the visitors won by an innings and 96 runs.

Over the four days of the ‘test’ more than 45,000 people attended and the profits for Speirs and Pond from this game alone was enough to fund the whole tour. At that time it was the largest number of people to ever watch a cricket match anywhere in the world. Local cricket authorities went out of their way to cater for the needs of the team and the sponsors. They provided grounds and sponsors booths without charge and let the sponsors keep the gate takings. The sponsors however, were not so generous in return. They quibbled with the Melbourne Cricket Club about paying £175 for damages to the MCG despite a prior arrangement to do so.

The last match of the tour was against a Victorian XXII at the MCG after which the English team planted an elm tree outside the ground.

Following the success of this tour, a number of other English teams also visited in subsequent years. George Parr’s side came out in 1863-64 and there were two tours by sides led by W.G. Grace. The fourth tour was led by James Lillywhite.

The first test match

Up until the fourth tour in 1877, led by Lillywhite, touring teams had played first-class games against the individual colonial sides, but Lillywhite felt that his side had done well enough against New South Wales to warrant a game against an All Australian team.

When Lillywhite headed off to New Zealand he left Melbourne cricketer John Conway to arrange the match for their return. Conway ignored the cricket associations in each colony and selected his own Australian team, negotiating directly with the players. Not only was the team he selected of doubtful representation but it was also probably not the strongest available as some players had declined to take part for various reasons. Demon bowler Fred Spofforth refused to play because wicket keeper Billy Murdoch was not selected. Paceman Frank Allan was at Warnambool Agricultural Show and Australia’s best all-rounder Edwin Evans could not get away from work. In the end only five Australian-born players were selected.

The same could be said for Lillywhite’s team which, being selected from only four counties, meant that some of England’s best players did not take part. In addition, the team had a rough voyage back across the Tasman Sea and many members had been seasick. The game was due to be played on March 15, the day after their arrival, but most had not yet fully recovered. On top of that, wicket-keeper Ted Pooley was still in a New Zealand prison after a brawl in a Christchurch pub.

England were nonetheless favourites to win the game and the first ever Test match began with a crowd of only 1000 watching. The Australians elected Dave Gregory from New South Wales as Australia’s first ever captain and on winning the toss he decided to bat.

Charles Bannerman scored an unbeaten 165 before retiring hurt. Sydney Cricket Ground curator, ‘Ned’ Gregory, playing in his one and only Test for Australia, scored test cricket’s first duck. Australia racked up 245 and 104 while England scored 196 and 108 giving Australia victory by 45 runs. The win hinged on Bannerman’s century and a superb bowling performance by Tom Kendall who took of 7 for 55 in England’s second innings.

A fortnight later there was a return game, although it was really more of a benefit for the English team. Australia included Spofforth, Murdoch and T.J.D. Cooper in the side but this time the honours went to England who won by four wickets.

Two years later Lord Harris brought another England team out and during England’s first innings in the test at the MCG Fred Spofforth took the first hat-trick in test cricket. He bagged two hauls of 6 for 48 and 7 for 62 in Australia’s ten wicket win.

Later cricket

On Boxing Day 1866 an Indigenous Australian cricket team played at the MCG with 11,000 spectators against an MCC team. That team went on to tour England in 1868 and played at the ground three more times before 1869.

By the 1880s the tradition of England-Australia cricket tours was well established, with a total of eight Tests having been played, five of them at the MCG, two at the Sydney Cricket Ground and one at The Oval in London. In 1882, England lost to a visiting Australian team in England for the first time. The match was played at The Oval in August on what was said to be a difficult pitch. Australian bowler Fred Spofforth decimated the English batting after a shocking start by the Australians and the result was a nailbiting finish in which Australia won by seven runs — still one of the closest finishes in Test cricket history. The defeat was widely recorded in the English press and a mock obituary was published in The Sporting Times, lamenting the death of English cricket and noted that "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".

Later that year, the Honourable Ivo Bligh led a team of eight amateurs and four professionals to Australia to recover them, with the first two matches of the tour played at the MCG. The first[3] being a timeless match (as was the custom in those days) that commenced on 30 December. On New Year's Day the attendance was 23,000, and Australia won the match by nine wickets in three days. The second match[4] commenced on 19 January 1883 and was won comfortably by England by an innings and 27 runs.

Two further matches were played by the tourists in Sydney, with the first being won by England and the second by Australia. The second Sydney match was subsequently deemed to not be of Test status, so England had won with the series and had "recovered The Ashes" as Bligh had set out to do. A group of Melbourne women presented Bligh with a small urn and the Ashes tradition was then firmly established.

Donald Bradman's record at the MCG is an average of 128 runs in 17 innings. In the 11 Tests that he played there, he made at least one century in nine of them.

Australia’s highest first class score was posted at the MCG when Victoria made 1107 against New South Wales in 1926-27. Jack Ryder scored 295 for the Vics and hit six sixes in the process.

Highlights and lowlights

One of the most sensational incidents in test cricket occurred at the MCG during the Melbourne test of the 1954-55 England tour of Australia. Big cracks had appeared in the pitch during a very hot Saturday’s play and on the rest day Sunday, groundsman Jack House watered the pitch to close them up. This was illegal and the story was leaked by The Age newspaper. The teams agreed to finish the match and England won by 128 runs after Frank Tyson took 6 for 16 off 51 balls in the final innings.

An incident in the second Test of the 1960-61 series involved the West Indies player Joe Solomon being given out after his hat fell on the stumps after being bowled at by Richie Benaud. The crowd sided with the West Indies over the Australians.

Not only was the first Test match played at the MCG, the first One Day International match was also played there, on 5 January 1971, between Australia and England. Australia won the 40-over match by 5 wickets. The next ODI was played on August 1972, some 19 months later.[5]

In March 1977, the Australian Cricket Board assembled 218 of the surviving 224 Australia-England players for a test match to celebrate 100 years of test cricket between the two nations. The match was the idea of former Australian bowler and MCC committee member Hans Ebeling who had been responsible for developing the cricket museum at the MCG.

The match had everything. England’s Derek Randall scored 174, Australia’s Rod Marsh also got a century, Lillee took 11 wickets, and David Hookes, in his first test, smacked five fours in a row off England captain Tony Greig’s bowling. Rick McCosker who opened for Australia suffered a fractured jaw after being hit by a sharply rising delivery. He left the field but came back in the second innings with his head swathed in bandages. Incredibly Australia won by 45 runs, exactly the same margin as the first test in 1877.

A less savoury incident occurred in 1981 when Indian batsmen Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan walked off the field in a test against Australia. Gavaskar was unhappy with the umpire’s decision to give him out lbw.

A more celebrated unsavoury incident occurred on February 1, 1981 at the end of a one-day match between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand, batting second, needed six runs off the last ball of the day to tie the game. Australian captain, Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor, who was bowling the last over, to send the last ball down underarm to prevent the New Zealand batsman, Brian McKechnie, from hitting the ball for six. Although not entirely in the spirit of the game, an underarm delivery was quite legal, so long as the arm was kept straight. The Laws of cricket have since been changed to prevent such a thing happening again. The incident has long been a sore point between Australia and New Zealand. Chappell’s decision was taken against the advice of his vice-captain Rod Marsh and other senior players. On the surface it seems baffling. McKechnie was a tailender who had just come to the crease. His chances of hitting his first ball for six on the vast MCG were apparently nil and even if he did manage to get it over the fence New Zealand would not win but only draw the game. However, the series was tied and draw would mean both teams would have to front up again for another match. Chappell wanted the game and the series finished to give his players a rest. He was taking no chances against McKechnie, a dual cricket and rugby international.

In February and March 1985 the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket was played at the MCG, a One Day International tournament involving all of the then Test match playing countries to celebrate 150 years of the Australian state of Victoria. Some matches were also played at Sydney Cricket Ground.

The MCG hosted the historic 1992 Cricket World Cup final between Pakistan and England with a crowd of more than 87,000. Pakistan won the match after sterling all-round performance by Wasim Akram who scored 33 runs and picked up 3 crucial wickets to make Pakistan cricket world champions for the first and as of yet only time. The match was also Imran Khan's last match after which he retired.

During the 1995 Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing the ball, rather than bowling it, seven times during the match. The other umpires did not call him once and this caused a controversy, although he was later called for throwing by other umpires seven other times in different matches.

The MCG is known for its great atmosphere, much of which is 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. In a One-Day International cricket match in the late 1990s, the behaviour of Bay 13 was so bad that Shane Warne had to enter the ground from his dressing rooms and tell the crowd to settle down at the request of opposing England captain Alec Stewart.

Highest attendance records for cricket matches at the MCG
No. Team Match type Attendance Date
1 Australia v West Indies Test 90,800 11 February 1961
2 Australia v England Test 89,155 26 December 2006
3 Australia v England Test 87,789 4 January 1937
4 England v Pakistan World Cup Final (day/night) 87,182 25 March 1992
5 Australia v West Indies Benson & Hedges 86,133 22 January 1984
6 Australia v India Twenty20 85,824 1 February 2008

Attendance records

  • Highest single-day attendance in the history of Test Cricket - 90,800 in 1961 (Australia v West Indies)
  • Highest one-day international crowd - 87,182 (1992 World Cup Final England v Pakistan)

See also

References

  1. Australian National Heritage listing for the Melbourne Cricket Ground
  2. MCG named as a sporting wonder of the world
  3. Australia v England in 1882/83 (2003). Cricket Archive
  4. Australia v England in 1882/83 IFW Bligh's XI in Australia 1882/83 (2nd Test) (2003). Cricket Archive
  5. List of ODI matches. Cricinfo.com
  • Cashman, Richard (1995) Paradise of Sport Melbourne: Oxford University Press
  • Cuthbert, Betty (1966) Golden Girl
  • Gordon, Harry (1994) Australia and the Olympic Games Brisbane: University of Queensland Press
  • Hinds, Richard (1997) Low blows. Sport’s top 10 The Sydney Morning Herald November 1
  • Linnell, Garry (1995) Football Ltd Sydney: Ironbark Pan Macmillan Australia
  • Pollard, Jack (1990) Australia Test Match Grounds London: Willow Books
  • Plan of the Town and Suburbs of Melbourne 1843
  • Vamplew, Wray; Moore, Katharine; O’Hara, John; Cashman, Richard; and Jobling, Ian [editors] (1997) The Oxford Companion to Australian Sport Second Edition Melbourne: Oxford University Press

External links

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