A former Australian test captain and a legendary journalist have shared their memories 20 years after Darwin’s debut test. Relive all the great moments and photos from the historic game.
Back in 2000, Morris flew to Alice Springs for the annual general meeting of the Australian Cricket Board.
No doubt expecting a dry matter, Morris was unaware that some relatively big news was coming: Darwin was set to become the venue for the 89th Test match.
“It was announced that there was going to be a test match (in Darwin) and that it was going to be the ‘Bangers,’” Morris said.
Three years later, and in the run-up to the July Test between Australia and Bangladesh, future Test captain Michael Clarke would play alongside local cricketers Ken VowlesDarren Treumer and Adrian McAdam for the Northern Territory Chief Minister’s XI against Bangladesh.
While McAdam would take very tidy figures of 1/7 from 10 overs with the new rock, and captain Clarke scored with 79 in the first innings at four, Bangladesh would prevail by just two wickets.
it would be very different story a few days later at the TIO Stadiumwith Morris recalling that the visitors got off to a poor start even before setting foot on the Marrara pitch.
Reportedly a bit short on kits, Bangladesh had to get some local kits through Darwin cricketer David King.
Meanwhile, then Test captain Steve Waugh told this publication that he was happily enjoying one of the most relaxed preparations of his 168 Test career.
“I had my family with me, so I went to an alligator park the day before,” Waugh said.
“Something different, it’s not something you do before a test match.”
Star goalkeeper Adam Gilchrist and speed king Brett Lee would also run a clinic for 15 indigenous Barunga children at Gardens Oval.
However, the relaxed party atmosphere quickly evaporated on game daywith Australians wearing black armbands for Victorian cricketer John Scholes, who died in Melbourne earlier in the week at the age of 53.
“Everyone was a bit nervous and apprehensive, they wanted to do well in such a historic Test match,” Waugh said.
“History was being made.
“A test match we probably thought we’d never play in.”
In fact, Lee had told reporters that there was a “different feel” ahead of the test, with traditional iron men like Justin Langer feeling uncharacteristically on edge.
Waugh said that playing a Test match in the Australian winter was a first, but also “a great adventure”.
And it would have been adventurous to back the Bangers, with Centrebet offering odds as high as $68 for a win, while the Aussies came in at a much lower $1.03.
Starting at 9:30am, it was the earliest start in Test cricket history, with raw statistics pointing to a complete mismatch: Waugh had played more Tests, taken more wickets and scored more runs than the entire team of Bangers together.
They had also lost 18 of their 19 Tests at the time.
And it was a star-studded national team that eventually crushed the visitors for 97 in their first innings on the first day, in a wicket prepared by legendary MCG curator Tony Ware in front of 6238 fans.
The Aussies also had a Grade A attack, including the great Glenn McGrath (3/20), Jason Gillespie (2/27), a “very fast” Brett Lee (3/23) and Stuart MacGill (2/21), who had beaten out Brad Hogg for the chance to replace the late Shane Warne, who was in the midst of a 12-month drug ban.
In fact, Warne, who traveled north to comment, would be cleared to play testimonial and charity matches the day after the match ended.
In the field, McGrath and Gillespie would surpass the combined 243 wickets of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller to become the most prolific opening bowling duo in the country, when Adam Gilchrist caught Javed Omar for five against “Dizzy” Gillespie.
Australia then posted a declared 7/407 behind hundreds of Darren Lehmann (110) and Steve Waugh (an unbeaten 100), with the mercury reaching 32 degrees on day two in front of a crowd of 4669.
There was also a historic first in the comment box with ABC’s Charlie King becoming the first indigenous Australian to call a test since broadcasts began in the 1930s.
Joining him was the great Jim Maxwell, who in perhaps a forerunner of what we now know as “Bazball”he called the Australians the most exciting national team in history, routinely scoring in four for more.
However, Waugh was much more circumspect with his own entries.
“They weren’t my best hundred, they weren’t the smoothest,” Waugh said of his 31st hundred in his 50th test as skipper.
“Actually, I looked at the scoreboard last night, I was really surprised that I hit 100 out of 133 balls, so I must have played pretty well.”
The Bangers showed a bit more of a fight in the second dig at 178, as MacGill took a bag (5/65) and Gillespie chipped in again (2/48).
The Australians won by an innings and 132 runs, Bangladesh’s 14th consecutive Test loss.
Victory would crown Waugh as the most successful skipper in history, with his 37th victory beating West Indies great Clive Lloyd.
However, the game ended on an even brighter note on day three, with the announcement that Darwin would host a further test against Sri Lanka the following July.
The final crowd figure was somewhat disappointing at 13,863.
During the game, Waugh said that he would love to see Darwin becomes a permanent part of the national cricket calendarwith an excellent pitch and changing rooms “second only to Melbourne in size”.
“The court played very well considering the limited time it had to settle in after being left,” Waugh said at the time.
Exactly 20 years later, Waugh said that he loved his time in the North and that the match would always hold special meaning in his career.
“I would love to go back to the NT again,” he said.
“It’s the perfect place to play test matches in winter.
“You’ve got the facilities, the weather and the appetite, so there’s no reason you can’t play more cricket there.”