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The Strangers Who Came Home The First Australian Cricket Tour of England By John Lazenby

Release date: 27th January, 2015
Publisher: Wisden

List Price: 25.00
Our Price: 15.90
You Save: 9.1 (36%)
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In an age when it is possible to board what Paul Theroux once described as a ‘carpeted metal tube’ and fly anywhere in the world in less than a day, the thought of a sports team setting out on a seven week voyage simply to rendezvous with their opponents is almost inconceivable.

In 1878, however, The Australasian unwittingly published a declaration of competitive intent that continues to travel with the nation’s sportsmen and women almost 150 years later. “They wish to show John Bull that we can play cricket here as well as the old folks at home can,” said the newspaper on the eve of Australia’s departure for England.

John Lazenby has written an outstanding sports book, inviting the reader into what became a voyage of sporting and cultural discovery.

A year prior to Australia’s departure, following a ‘Grand Combination Match’ between an All-England XI and the host nation’s Combined XI in Melbourne, cricket’s first Test match, the idea of and Australian side touring England was hatched. These were pre-sponsorship days, but the enthusiasm shown by both teams was sufficient for Aussie all-rounder Jack Conway to persuade his team-mates to form a limited company, each contributing £50, on the basis that the tour’s profits would be equally shared. As manager, Conway took his 7.5% - from gross takings.

From the moment he describes the send-off of the City of Sydney from Sydney harbour, Lazenby successfully evokes the sense and smells of late nineteenth century life. After Sydney, the tourists travelled to Auckland, Honolulu and San Francisco before taking a seven-day train journey to New York. Here they boarded the City of Berlin, a luxurious steamer that took them across the Atlantic and a berth at Liverpool’s (then) magnificent docks.

Having set such a vivid scene, the author invites us to journey with him as he takes us through what was a groundbreaking tour. Lazenby’s research and eye for detail is evidenced by a bibliography which runs to five pages, while his accomplished narrative style make The Strangers Who Came Home a difficult book to put down.


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