Ashes Tests: 18 Captain: 16 Record: 5 wins, 4 draw, 7 losses Billy Murdoch, arguably the finest batsman of the 19th century only behind W.G. Grace, represented Australia in 18 Tests, including four tours to England. The Victorian (solicitor) businessman was a pioneer of the game in this country, with his leadership lauded as the savior of Test cricket.
Unsurprisingly, Murdoch set record after record for Australian cricket, becoming the first captain to ever score a century, while also scoring the first double-century in a Test match. His 19- game career produced 908 runs, two centuries and 14 catches, and that’s not including his famed first-class career for NSW. Murdoch made his captaincy debut in 1880, with many people fearing international cricket was dead. In the first Test played on English soil, Murdoch salvaged pride for a battered Australian side, with a legacy defining 153* at the Oval.
Murdoch was at the helm during the famed 1882 when the Ashes legend was born. With England chasing just 85 for victory, Murdoch switched his bowlers around in an unprecedented move.After having taken 7/46 in the first innings, Fred Spofforth tormented the English with a fiery 7/44 that sealed a momentous seven run victory. In 1884, Murdoch became the first player in Test cricket to score a double century, when he amassed a landmark 211 at the Oval. Not even the greatest player of his generation, W.G. Grace, had achieved the feat, which highlighted how monumental an occasion the knock was. Billy Murdoch was known the savior of Test cricket. His international diplomacy rescued Australia from the predicament Dave Gregory had left it in.
Murdoch’s willingness to lead from the front is what set him apart from the rest. He pioneered the notion that the captain had to be the one to stand up for his side, especially with bat in hand. One only has to look at Australia’s greatest batsmen to see that they all have one thing in common; the captaincy. Murdoch was also a shrewd businessman who was desperate to make as much money for his players as possible. His economic nous was almost as solid as his on-field leadership. Such was the respect from his fellow countrymen, Murdoch was invited to lead the side one more time for the 1890 tour, almost six years after announcing his retirement from international competition.
Despite playing for NSW, and even for England, Murdoch was born, and would later pass away, in Victoria-
1. Murdoch was the first Test captain to score a century.
2. Murdoch’s 211 was the highest score by an Australian captain for 52 years, when Bradman bettered it by one run at the Adelaide Oval.
3. Murdoch became the first substitute fielder to take a catch in a Test match.
Despite leading Australia at the time, Murdoch took the catch for England as they were short on numbers. His last test match was the only one in which he played for England in 1892, where he scored a meager 12 against an weak South African side. Bill Murdoch breathed his last on the cricket ground at the age of 56. Present at the Test match between Australia and South Africa in 1911 at the MCG, he was seized with apoplexy during the lunch interval and died later in the afternoon.
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