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Spirit of Cricket - Backyard Cricket

"I started playing like everyone else . . . in the backyard."

Cricket in NSW is built on backyard Test matches, a family game in which the space between the Hills Hoist clothesline and the back fence not only creates Cain and Abel-like rivalries, but it also inspires children to take the next step of registering with their local club.


Imagine how special the backyard Tests played between the Waugh brothers in Sydney’s south-west during the 1970s were . . . and it isn’t hard to picture the frightening short-pitched bowling unleashed in the backyard matches [with a tennis ball] between Brett and Shane Lee in the Illawarra during the ‘80s.


Backyard cricket has its own set of rules, and while hitting the ball over the neighbour’s fence is six ‘n out and taking a one-handed catch off the roof is standard fare, some siblings take their innovations to the extreme. Neil Harvey, a member of Don Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles, and his brothers fall into that category.


They invented their own bruising version of the game during the 1930s in the family’s concreted backyard. In this game one of the Harvey brothers used a mini bat to fend off glass marbles that kicked up off the ground like bullets when they were pitched at him.


Thanks to his older brothers, Australian captain Pat Cummins, the youngest of the Cummins boys, received a tough initiation to cricket in their spirited backyard matches.


“We’d wet the middle of the pitch and then let fly [with a wet rubber ball],” recalled Cummins, who, at 18, was the player of the match in his 2011 Test debut. “It was definitely a bowler’s game back at our place, and my older brother Matt was big and scary.”


Alyssa Healy, one of the most popular Aussie players – male or female – of her generation credited backyard Test matches for helping her to decide to play in the local junior competition.


“I started playing like everybody else . . .  in the backyard,” she recalled. “A friend of mine said ‘let’s go play cricket’ and I enjoyed it. I made new friends, and I was running around in the sunshine.”