Ten years later on November 28 and 29 1877 the Albion ground (at the Showground) was the venue for another “warm-up” match for a team about to depart for a tour of England. This time it was David Gregory’s Australian XI that was playing a series of preliminary matches in the Australian colonies and NZ in preparation for their historic tour of England in the following year – the first by a white Australian team. The Australian team that played at Maitland included some names that were to become famous in Australian cricket history: C Bannerman, J Blackham, T Garrett, D Gregory, T Horan, T Kendall, A Bannerman, W Murdoch, F Spofforth, G H Bailey and H Boyle. The first six of these had already achieved distinction by being members of an All Australian team that defeated an All England XI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March 1877 in what has become recognised as the first of all Tests – a match in which Charles Bannerman scored the first Test century.
The Northern Twenty-Two team was selected from the whole Northern District to try and provide the best possible opposition for such “formidable opponents”. The team consisted of : M Costello, G Moore, T Onus, C Readett, W Smith, G Sefton, OC Williams, R Wyndham, C Caspersonn (from the Albion Club); FG Brown, R Hammond (from the Undaunted Club); TE Fawcett, AE Johnston, St Thos Loder, J McAlpin, P Waddy (capt) , G Parr (from Singleton); J Guilfoyle (Morpeth); G Lawrie (Gresford); G Langley (Merriwa); B Morley and G Webb (from Newcastle).
The Australian XI won the match scoring 96 and 137 to the Northern Twenty-Two’s 66 and 90. A feature of the match was the exceptional bowling of Fred Spofforth who took 12 wickets in the first innings and 15 in the second. No doubt the local Northern batsmen who faced his bowling were fully able to appreciate why Spofforth was to become known as “The Demon Bowler”! In the fifteen month tour including the lead up and follow on matches afterwards Spofforth was to take an incredible 764 wickets at an average of 6.08! An interesting statistic of the match at Maitland was that there were 21 “ducks” in the two innings of the locals including 5 “pairs of specs”!
A large crowd had been expected for what was billed as “The Great Cricket Match”. Prior to the match the rights to have two publicans’ booths and two cake stalls at the ground had even been auctioned off at Mr M Moore’s sale rooms. However, the crowd turned out to be rather disappointing – about 500 on the first day and about 700 on the second. The Mercury reported that “though a large number of ladies were among the attendance the majority of them preferred to remain in their carriages or to promenade on the ground”.