Charles Bannerman testimonial cricket match (lost radio coverage of charity cricket match; 1922)

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Charles Bannerman.

Status: Lost

In 1922, two cricket teams hailing from New South Wales played a charity cricket match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, as a testimonial for former Australian batsman Charles Bannerman. The encounter made media history for being the first cricket game to receive live radio coverage.


Charles Bannerman was a pioneering figure in Test cricket.[1][2] Representing Australia against England in what was the first ever Test match on 15th March 1877, Bannerman was the first to bat and subsequently score a run in Test match history.[3][1][2] He scored 165 runs in the first innings, therefore becoming the first to score a Test century.[1] Australia scored 245 in that game; by providing 165 or 67.35% of the runs, Bannerman holds the distinction of scoring the highest proportion of a completed innings in a men's Test encounter, a record that remarkably still stands today.[3][1][2] Bannerman could have scored more were it not for an injury inflicted to his middle finger during play.[2] After retiring from cricket in 1888, he also became an umpire for 12 Test matches from 1887 to 1902.[1][2] He also worked as a coach in Melbourne, Sydney, and Christchurch, New Zealand.[1]

Accounts indicated that Bannerman retired not only because of declining health, but also from poverty accelerated by drinking and gambling.[1] This may explain why, during the 1922/23 cricket season, a testimonial game was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, featuring two teams from New South Wales.[4][5][6][1] Alas, very little is known regarding the match itself, although thanks to the £140.18 the game generated plus from other donations, Bannerman received £490, which is over £21,000 in today's money.[5][1][4] Nevertheless, its existence is tied to radio cricket history, as it was subject to the first ever live radio coverage of a cricket match.[4][5][1] Len Watt, a Sydney cricketeer and news reporter for Sydney channel 2FC, was responsible for providing occasional coverage of the event.[4][5] Watt had virtually no instructions other than simply to "go on talking".[4][5] The broadcast paved the way for future radio broadcasts, including 2BL coverage of the 1924-25 Ashes Series.[6][4][5] The Australian XI's match against the Rest of Australia was also broadcast in December 1925, with Watt providing ball-by-ball commentary for 2FC.[6][4][5]


Ultimately, the coverage of this match occurred when radio recordings seldom were made.[7][8][9] Particularly, outside sports broadcast recordings were exceptionally rare, as typically impractical usage of acetate or lacquer discs were the only real means of recording the coverage.[7] Woodrow Wilson's 1923 Armistice Day Speech has been declared the oldest surviving regular radio broadcast by the National Archives, with Elizabeth McLeod during her research for Documenting Early Radio finding no authenticated recordings between 1920 to 1922.[9] Thus, the commentary is most likely permanently missing, and the obscurity of the match means no photos nor footage is known to have existed.

See Also