Melbourne Cricket Ground

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Cricket at the MCG. The old Members Stand, in the centre background, has now been demolished.
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The MCG situated in Yarra Park

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an iconic Australian sporting venue located in Yarra Park in inner Melbourne, home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It holds the world record for the highest light towers. The MCG is an easy walk from the city centre, and is serviced by Richmond and Jolimont train stations.

Internationally, the MCG is remembered as the centrepiece stadium of the 1956 Summer Olympics. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricket venues, with a well-attended Test match held there every year, starting on Boxing Day. Throughout the winter, it serves as the home of Australian Rules Football, with at least one game held there every week (usually more), and in late September the Grand Final fills the stadium to capacity. Until the 1970s, more than 120 000 people were occasionally crammed into the venue - the record crowd standing at around 130 000 for a Billy Graham religious event in 1959, closely followed by 121 696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Contemporary regulations now limit the maximum capacity to approximately 99 000.

The MCG, often referred to as "The G" has also hosted other events, from International Rules between the Australian Football League and Gaelic Athletic Association, to international rugby, soccer World Cup qualifiers and even rock concerts. When Madonna visited with her Girlie Show Tour in 1993 she called it "The G Spot".

Early History

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The MCG in 1864.

On the September 23, 1853, occupancy of the present site which was part of a "Police Paddock" was given to the Melbourne Cricket Club by Lieutenant Governor La Trobe. This followed the forced resumption of land from the then-fifteen year-old Club to build Australia's first steam train railway.[1] The First Members' Pavilion was erected the following year, and the first cricket match was played on 30th September 1854.

The first intercolonial cricket match to be played at the MCG was between the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria and took place on March 26 and 27 1856[2]. That match was also notable for a dispute which arose after the umpires had tossed and which Victoria had won. The New South Wales players insisted that, as the visiting team, they had the choice of batting or bowling. Victoria eventually relented and were sent in. New South Wales won the match by three wickets.

The first football match was played on the MCG on July 12 1859, between Melbourne Football Club and South Yarra.

A visiting Surrey XI captained by HH Stephenson, played a World XI there in 1862, beginning on New Year's Day.

On Boxing Day 1866 an Indigenous Australian team played at the MCG with 11,000 spectators against an MCC team. That team went on to tour England in 1868 and played at the ground three more times before 1869.

The MCG was one of the venues for the first bicycle race in Victoria, in July 1869.

The birth of Test cricket and The Ashes

The first cricket match deemed to be a Test was played at the MCG between Australia and England commencing on March 15 1877 [3] and was won by Australia by 45 runs.

By 1882 the tradition of England-Australia cricket tours was well established with a total of eight Tests having been played, five of them at the MCG, two at the Sydney Cricket Ground and one at The Oval in London. Then, in 1882, England lost to a visiting Australian team in England for the first time. The match was played at The Oval in August in what was said to be a difficult pitch. Australian bowler Fred Spofforth decimated the English batting after a shocking start by the Australians and the result was a nailbiting finish in which Australia won by seven runs - still one of the closest finishes in Test cricket history. The defeat was widely recorded in the English press and a mock obituary was published in The Sporting Times, lamenting the death of English cricket and noted that "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".

Later that year, the Honourable Ivo Bligh led a team of eight amateurs and four professionals to Australia to recover them with the first two matches of the tour played at the MCG. The first[4] being a timeless match (as was the custom in those days) that commenced on December 30. On New Years' Day, the attendance was 23,000 and Australia had won the match by nine wickets in three days. The second match[5] commenced on January 19 1883 and was won comfortably by England by an innings and 27 runs.

Two further matches were played by the tourists in Sydney, with the first being won by England and the second by Australia. The second Sydney match was subsequently deemed to not be of Test status, so England had won with the series and had "recovered The Ashes" as Bligh had set out to do. A group of Melbourne women presented Bligh with a small urn and the Ashes tradition was then firmly established.

Cricket

Donald Bradman's record at the MCG is an average of 128 runs in 17 innings. In the eleven tests that he played there, he got at least one century in nine of them.

An incident in the second test of the 1960-61 series involved the West Indies player Joe Solomon being given out after his hat fell on the stumps, after bowled at by Richie Benaud. The crowd sided with the West Indies over the Australians.

Not only was the first Test match played at the MCG, the first One-day International match was also played there, on January 5 1971 between Australia and England. Australia won the 40 over match by 5 wickets. The next ODI wasn't played until August 1972, some 19 months later[6].

In 1977, Australia and England played in a Centenary Test match at the MCG to commemorate 100 years of Tests played between the two countries[7]. Remarkably, the 45 run win to Australia was exactly the same result as the match 100 years earlier.

On February 1 1981 the infamous underarm incident occurred at the MCG at the third final of the World Series Cup, with New Zealand needing six runs from the final delivery. The Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered the bowler (his brother, Trevor Chappell) to bowl underarm to avoid the possibility that the No. 10 New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie would score a six from the last ball to tie the match. Australia won the game but the New Zealand batsmen marched off in disgust and since that day the underarm bowling incident has been a source of discussion, both heated and jocular, between Australians and New Zealanders.

During the 1995 Boxing Day test at the MCG, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing the ball, rather than bowling it, seven times during the match. The other umpires did not call him once and this caused a controversy, although he was later called for throwing by other umpires seven other times in diferent matches.

The MCG is known for its great atmosphere, much of which is generated in the infamous Bay 13. In a One-day International cricket match in the late 1990s, the behaviour of Bay 13 was so bad, that Shane Warne had to enter the ground from his dressing rooms and tell the crowd to settle down at the request of opposing England captain Alec Stewart. Ground announcer Tony Schibecci has also become an important part of the "G"'s proceedings.

Highest attendance records for cricket matches at the MCG
Number Teams Match type Attendance Date
1 Australia v West Indies test 90,800 11 Feb 1961
2 Australia v England test 87,789 4 Jan 1937
3 England v Pakistan world cup (day/night) 87,182 25 Mar 1992
4 Australia v West Indies Benson & Hedges 86,133 22 Jan 1984
5 Australia v West Indies Test 85,661 26 Dec 1975

AFL


Several AFL clubs use the MCG as their home ground; currently Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood and Hawthorn. Most finals games held in Melbourne in the current era are played at the MCG. Before 2004 some interstate clubs like the Brisbane Lions were forced to play "home" finals at the MCG, due to a contract between the AFL and the MCC, which stipulated that at least five finals matches must be played there per year. This rule has been relaxed in order to allow interstate sides to have true home matches. However, Melbourne clubs based out of Telstra Dome may still be required to play their finals at the MCG.

Carlton played their first home matches on the MCG back in 1885. In 1965 the Richmond Tigers played St Kilda in their first home match at the MCG. In 1985 North Melbourne played their first home game against Collingwood at the MCG. Collingwood played their first home match at the MCG in 1994. Hawthorn played their first home match at the MCG in 2000.

The first VFL football game was played on the MCG on 15 May 1897, with Melbourne beating Geelong 64 to 19.

Kevin Bartlett holds the records for having scored the most goals, and played the most matches at the MCG. Two players have scored 14 goals for an AFL or VFL game in one match at the MCG: Gary Ablett in 1989 and 1993, and John Longmire in 1990.

A State of Origin football match was held on July 1, 1989 between Victoria and South Australia, attended by more than 90,000 people.

Other events

The first baseball match recorded being played at the MCG was in October 1885, by a team from the USS Enterprise, against an MCC chosen team.

Rugby league was first played at the grounds in 1914, with a New South Wales team playing England.

During World War II the stand was used by the Australian and American army. It was used by the US Army Air Forces who moved into the MCG and gave the name of their base "Camp Murphy". It was also used by the First Division of the US Marine Corps, an RAAF Technical Training unit and as the RAAF Personnel Depot. The RAAF stayed at the MCG until 27 October 1945.

Queen Elizabeth visited the MCG in 1954 twice for an assembly and display, and again in 1958 for another display. She also attended a Richmond versus Fitzroy match on 5 April 1970.

The stadium held 107,700 people for the opening ceremony of the 1956 Summer Olympics.

A record for attendance at the grounds was set by religious leader Billy Graham whose event in 1959 was attended by at least 130,000 people.

The first rock concert to be held at the ground was one by David Cassidy in 1974. In 1978 David Bowie held a concert there. In 1993, Paul McCartney, U2 and Madonna held concerts, drawing huge crowds. The Rolling Stones held concerts in 1995, Michael Jackson in 1996, the Three Tenors in 1997, Elton John and Billy Joel in 1998.

Pope John Paul II held a service at the MCG on 27 November 1986, and a celebration there of the polish community the next day.

The first Rugby League State of Origin match at the MCG was played on June 8 1994.

On Saturday 29 November 1997, the Australian national football team played Iran in a qualifying match for the Football World Cup, which Australia had only once qualified before previously. The match was drawn 2-all, Iran progressing on the away goal rule.

Manchester United played an exhibition soccer match against the Australian Socceroos on 15 July 1999.

The olympic flame went to the MCG on 30 July 2000 before its way to the 2000 Summer Olympics. It also went to the MCG on 5 June 2004 before the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2006 Commonwealth Games will be held at the MCG, as well as athletics events afterwards. The games begin on the 15th of March.

All time highest attendance records at the MCG
Number Attendance Event Date
1 130,000 Billy Graham Crusade 15 Mar 1959
2 121,696 VFL Grand Final Carlton v Collingwood 26 Sep 1970
3 120,000 40th Eucharistic Congress 25 Feb 1973
4 119,165 VFL Grand Final Carlton v Richmond 27 Sep 1969
5 118,192 VFL Grand Final Hawthorn v St Kilda 25 Sep 1971

Grounds

The MCG was redesigned and drained by RC Bagot in 1861. In 1876 the 'reversible' stand was built, located at the northern end of the ground. In 1881 beside the MCC pavilion was constructed a new members' pavilion, with the foundation stone being put in place by Prince George of Wales, and Prince Albert Victor on July 4. It was opened in December that year. It was also the year that a telephone was installed at the grounds, and the wickets and goal posts were changed from running east-west to run north-south. In 1882 a scorecard was put in place, showing details of the batsman's name and how he was dismissed, possibly the first one of this kind in the world. In 1884 The Grandstand replaced the reversible stand, which had been burnt down. The Grandstand was extended with a double-deck in 1897. In 1900 it was lit up with electric lights. An open wooden stand was built on the south side of the ground in 1904, and The Grey Smith Stand (then known as the New Stand before 1912) was erected in 1906.

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Cricket at the MCG. Scene at the Boxing Day Test match in 1998.

In 1936 the Southern Stand was opened. The Duke of Edinburgh on March 3 1967 laid a foundation stone for a new Western Stand, which was completed in 1968. (known as the Ponsford Stand after 1986) The 1930s era (but generally regarded as poor for spectators) Members' stand, as well as the 1950s Northern and Olympic stands, were demolished in late 2002. They are being replaced with a massive new structure in time for Melbourne to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The new stand will again push its capacity over the 105,000 mark.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^  The MCG - The People's Ground (2003). MCG Official Site
  2. ^  Victoria v New South Wales in 1855/56 (2005). Cricket Archive
  3. ^  1st Test: Australia v England at Melbourne Cricket Ground, 15-19 Mar 1877 (2004). www.baggygreen.com.au
  4. ^  Australia v England in 1882/83 (2003). Cricket Archive
  5. ^  Australia v England in 1882/83 IFW Bligh's XI in Australia 1882/83 (2nd Test) (2003). Cricket Archive
  6. ^  Centenary Test: Australia v England at Melbourne Cricket Ground, 12-17 Mar 1977 (2004). Cricinfo.com
  7. ^  List of ODI matches. Cricinfo.com


External links

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