By Reg Sweet - 9 May 2005
first cricket match of any note dates back to 2 May 1860,
so we have an interesting Durban anniversary on our hands
Shortly before that date, the Maritzburg Cricket Club sent
a "Challenge to the Gentlemen of Durban" signed
by :"Sam Williams, hon sec." Cricket was already
being played in the Capital , but at this stage there was
still no organised cricket in the seaport city.
Undaunted, Durban picked up the challenge. At Deer's London
Hotel, 11 players were chosen as Champions of Durban. Mr A.
Moore acting curator of the Botanic Gardens, "had a nice
pitch mown on the flat by the racecourse", it was recorded
in The Natal Mercury, and the match would be followed by a
public dinner in honour of the Maritzburg team at the Masonic
Stores and businesses closed at noon on the big day, said
the report, "and the town turned out en-masse to witness
the fight. The scene, with its horsemen, flags and wagons
was a very gay and inspiring one."
It has to be recorded that Durban, against the odds, won this
opening encounter despite their lack of experience, by six
wickets - or, in the quaint parlance of the scoresheet, "with
six wickets to go down." Mr Moore's pitch, it can only
be assumed, was the villain of the piece. Maritzburg were
dismissed for 30 (Starr 13, Button 6. Hornby 4 wickets, Allington
3. Runs scored off the bowlers were unrecorded) and 54 (Starr
15, Trenouth 6. Allington 3 wickets, Hornby 3, Landsdell 3).
Durban were dismissed for 40 (Downard 13, Landsdell 6, Burton
6, Allington 6. Starr 3 wickets) and 53 for six (Burton 21
The scoresheet remains a mystery. Catches were sometimes recorded,
but often not. Bowlers suffered a similar fate. All extras
were classified as byes, and neither wicketkeepers nor bowlers
were credited with stumpings, What was more, the scoresheet
failed to add up !
Still, those were early days. What was certain was that some
famous Natalians played in this historic match : Harry Escombe
and Sir Henry Binns, to name just two.
Escombe played in the historic match. The picture is of
his staue in the town gardens.
as the newspaper report faithfully recorded, "When we
remember that the Durbanites have had hardly any practice
at all, some of them not having played for months past, everyone
must admit that the laurels were bravely won. They had a formidable
foe, a hard struggle, and, we are bound to add, a glorious
victory. The great crowd of bystanders seemed to take a great
interest in the progress of the game, and the final result
was hailed with loud cheers."
All that was 145 years ago this month. Let's give that very
first Durban side of 1860 a loud cheer of our own !