Salute Billy Murdoch
Australia’s finest early captain – and certainly the most militant – Billy Murdoch was a cultured technician, quick on his feet and at his best, impossible to contain when set. Scorer of the first two double-centuries in Australian-first-class cricket, in 1881-82, he also notched the first treble: 321 for NSW against Victoria in Sydney for which he received a collection of 200 pounds, a gold watch and jewellery.
Was born in Bendigo before shifting with his family to Sydney. Made Test cricket’s first double-century at The Oval in 1884, a tumultuous year in which as Australia’s captain, be was the catalyst in the Australian XI taking strike action over gate monies issues. He led Australia in seven Test series against England. He also played a Test for England against South Africa in 1891 during his seven year stint as captain of Sussex. Was a solicitor.Holds a Test record of sorts with Alick Bannerman of facing 22 consecutive (4-ball) maiden overs at the MCG in 1882-83. Scored 896 runs at 32 in his 18 Tests for Australia.
The first full length biography of one of Australia’s foremost early cricketers, one of the few to play Test cricket for two countries, has been brilliantly researched by two of Australia’s finest sporting historians Richard Cashman and Ric Sissons. The book is available from me at $65 posted anywhere within Australia.
Murdoch wasn’t as graceful as England’s most notable amateurs, but everyone admired his consistency. ‘We had 50 men in England who could give Murdoch points in the matter of style,’ said notably English authority Major Philip Trevor, ‘though very few of them could give him any points at all in a matter of effectiveness.’ Australia’s selection for the first time of South Australia’s ‘W. G.’, George Giffen, Fred Spofforth’s on-going heroics, tours to and from the old country, Murdoch’s sudden exit and an Australian team strike made the 1880s the most turbulent of decades.
David Frith has provided the foreword: ‘This wonderfully well researched book,’ he says, ‘fills a yawning gap in the treasure house of Australian cricket biographies… he was a genuinely interesting man, whose vacillating fortunes read like a novel.’
He was added to the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in February 2019