Hampshire Cricket: Black History Month (Part One)

Hampshire Cricket's historian, Dave Allen, is back with a series of articles for Black History Month

Hampshire Cricket's historian, Dave Allen, is back with a series of articles for Black History Month - read part one below.

The first great period of Hampshire cricket occurred in the 18th century around the village of Hambledon in the east of the county but from 1796 was followed by many fallow years. While MCC grew in strength and influence and the game spread from the south-east across England with professional touring clubs, the public schools, the services and the establishment of a number of county clubs, Hampshire through the 19th century was often a second, not first-class county, although in September 1863 a group of men met in another Inn, alongside another ground, this time the Antelope in Southampton and established formally Hampshire County Cricket Club. They played their first match as such in 1864 against Sussex and the Antelope ground was one of a number between Portsmouth and Southampton created by Daniel Day – Hampshire’s version of Thomas Lord.

One of Day’s other grounds was in the heart of Portsmouth, between Waverley Road and Taswell Road, Southsea and was known as the East Hants Cricket Ground. We have records of matches played on that ground from 1848-1873, including games against the United England XI and the All England XI, both professional touring teams, while in June and October 1868 the East Hants Club met the first ever touring team from Australia, the Australian Aboriginals. They toured across England for almost five months and while they lost the first match in Southsea they had ample revenge with an innings win in October.

We have few details of the matches in Southsea but we know that elsewhere the appearance of the Aboriginal side was part of a day of entertainments. For example when they visited Trent Bridge on 5 August 1868, there were a number of running, jumping and vaulting contests, and competitions for throwing the cricket ball, while the tourists engaged in throwing boomerangs, spears and ‘kangaroo rats”, and one of their number ‘Dick-a-Dick’ performed the somewhat alarming trick of “Dodging the Cricket Ball” which he did with an L-shaped stick and a parrying shield. Musical entertainment was provided by a “Sax Tuba Band” playing “a variety of popular music’. So there we have it, nothing apparently innovative in 2021 about matches in October, and nothing remarkable about the Hundred being accompanied by sideshows and other entertainments. On the day in question in 1868 the Nottinghamshire Commercial Team, wearing a variety of coloured clothing drew with the Aborigines.

The first Southsea match with the Australian Aboriginals was quite possibly the first occasion on which black cricketers had appeared in Portsmouth, but it was blighted by tragedy. Many of the tourists played under ‘nicknames’ and one whose real name was Bripumyarrumin but was known as ‘King Cole’ was not out when the game ended on 16 June. The team then played matches at Bishop’s Stortford and Hastings but as the latter was ending in a draw on 24 June, ‘King Cole’, was in London when he had been taken after becoming unwell and he died on that day, never having taken the field again. Cricket people are very familiar of course with the idea of Australian touring sides but these Aborigine pioneers did not return as a discrete group until 1988, when, as part of the second centenary of the ‘First Fleet’ sailing, another Aborigine side came, playing three matches in Hampshire, including on 1 June a match at the United Services Ground, Portsmouth against the Hampshire Cricket Association.

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Dave Allen: Hampshire On The Island

With Hampshire facing Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Newclose during this summer’s Royal London Cup, Club Historian Dave Allen has taken a look back at Hampshire’s previous matches on the Isle of Wight.