With the current Ashes series in full swing, this week’s Bygones is bowling off it’s ‘long run up’, to bring you the history of cricket in the Royal County, courtesy of “On Marsh and Meadow” a book by Berkshire-based author, John Trigg.

The first team to tour the UK from Australia in 1868 arrived in Berkshire in October of that year, to play Reading in a 2-day fixture.

The 13 Aboriginal team members belonged to the (now extinct) Werrumbrook tribe of Victoria, many of whom worked on the large cattle stations.

The first of their 47 matches attracted 20,000 spectators who watched the appearance of a group of players wearing white flannels and red Garibaldi shirts.

Local newspapers across the county gleefully reported the rise of cricket in the Georgian and Victorian eras, with many ‘single wicket’ matches and novelty games taking place, where teams could have a few as three players, or as many as 22. One of the earliest recorded matches took place in 1769, when Reading (established in 1759) played Sonning on Bulmershe Heath, Woodley, the players would have been attired in three-cornered hats, white vests, knee breeches with silk stocking and buckled shoes.

Wokingham Cricket Club’s accounts in the early 1800’s showed that sixpence was paid to a boy to ‘fetch the ball’ after it crossed the boundary rope, presumably into very long grass and stinging nettles.

A further recorded expense 13 shillings paid to the landlord of the Rose Inn for refreshments of beer, cheese and bread, along with the hire of a large tent, which acted as a pavilion, in the days before a proper structure was constructed.

Windsor & Eton CC was established in 1867 and played its first fixture against Richmond in Home Park, after purchasing three cricket balls for three shillings.

One of the strangest fixtures to occur in the 19th century was witnessed by hundreds of spectators when local farmer, Francis Trumper, challenged two cricketers from Middlesex to a match.

As Mr Trumper bowled, his thoroughbred sheep dog kept close to his run up and watched to see where it went, the dog ran so fast to return the ball to his master that the batsmen only scored six runs.

A bizarre ‘novelty’ game took place in Newbury in 1874, when a team of one-armed service pensioners played another team of one-legged senior citizens in front of a crowd of 3,000

onlookers.

The half-time ‘entertainment’ included a 150 yards race of competing dwarfs, when a similar match was staged in Reading the one-armed side also proved victorious.

In August 1880, Newbury CC played their second-ever tie against Kingsclere at the recreation ground and were stunned to see none other than WG Grace come out to bat.

But he was clean bowled by a Newbury draper, G Wintle, for just four runs, but ‘The Doctor’ then extracted his revenge, by taking seven wickets in a spell of bowling which dismissed them for just 68.