On Wednesday 23 March, 1895 a large crowd gathered at the East Melbourne cricket ground for an unusual event – a ladies’ cricket match.
The captains. The ladies’ cricket match; H18231
Excitement had reached fever pitch. The ladies had been practising in secret and speculation was rife over what they would wear.
By 2.30pm the grandstands were packed. The weather was oppressive: ‘…a scorching sun at intervals bursting forth from heavily looming clouds’ (Ovens & Murray Advertiser).
‘Look! Here they come’ a spectator said. The crowd drew a collective intake of breath as the ladies filed out onto the ground.
Coming out. The ladies’ cricket match; H18231
The women wore:
‘A loose blouse, and ample skirt reaching to the ankles, black hose and white shoes, with small straw hats, of the species called the ‘Gem’, the colours of the different teams being denoted by red or blue ribbons around the hat and a necktie of the same colour.’ (Ovens and Murray Advertiser)
Opinions on the ladies’ style of dress varied widely. The Weekly Times was complimentary, with a cautionary note: ‘Both sides were very tastefully attired in the orthodox flannel, though not of the rational style of architecture.’
Maiden over. The ladies’ cricket match; H18231
The Ovens and Murray Advertiser was less enamoured. ‘[T]he reality does not come up to the expectation’ it lamented. ‘There is no cycling costume here, no masculine jacket, waistcoat and knickerbockers, as might have been supposed…’
Others could not hide their disappointment.
‘Anything more cumbersome, uncricketlike and ungraceful than the costume the women chose it is difficult to imagine’ the Australasian harrumphed. ‘They looked like gigantic white butterflies flopping over the grass’. (p 26)
On the field; IAN01/04/95/8
The women divided themselves into two groups representing Australia and England. The teams took turns sitting for the photographer while the impatient crowd watched on, occasionally shouting ‘Look alive there!’ to hurry them on.
Formalities dispensed with, the cricket began.
Commentators observed a relaxed style of game. There was scant regard for the length of an over, with some ladies reportedly being allowed to send down seven or eight balls before the umpire tired and cried ‘Hold, enough’ (Weekly Times).
Returning to the Pavilion, IAN01/04/95/8
The Ovens and Murray Advertiser filed this progress report:
‘So far, the game reminds one..of children playing at cricket, the bowling being all underhand, and the batting of a wild order, slogging at everything, even when the ball has passed the wicket … [O]n one occasion I noticed that the batswoman made a wild drive, missed, and spun round two or three times like a teetotum’.
However, things changed when Miss May McDonnell, captain of the English cricket team, strode onto the pitch. ‘The way she let drive at the balls was a caution … sending them to the fence for fours, or swiping them into a totally unexpected part of the field’. (Ovens & Murray Advertiser)
Miss McDonnell; IAN01/04/95/8
Miss McDonnell led her team fearlessly to a total first innings score of 103, with an impressive personal score of 65 not out. The crowd cheered as the English team made their exit.
Lunch was improved by a man with a trombone, who ‘either simulated lunacy or was really afflicted.’ The crowd however, was not put off, and ‘…a shower of coppers rained down upon him’. (Ovens and Murray Advertiser)
After lunch, Miss Annie Trott led the charge for the Australians but despite their best efforts, the wickets fell in rapid succession. The ladies were all out for 44 by five o’clock.
The winning team; IAN01/04/95/8