All in the family as Spofforth enters hall of fame

Monday, 2 July 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Fred Spofforth, Australia’s first superstar cricketer and the man whose bowling feats led to the creation of the Ashes, was inducted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) hall of fame on Friday.

Spofforth, whose descendants include Britain’s Gemma Spofforth, the current 100 metre backstroke world record holder in swimming, who will compete in the London 2012 Olympics.

Born in 1853 in Balmain, Sydney, fast bowler Spofforth was the first man to take a Test match hat-trick.

He played for New South Wales and Victoria during his first-class career from 1874-1888 and in 18 Tests for Australia he took an impressive 94 wickets, including four 10-wicket hauls.

His career-best of 14-90 against England at The Oval in 1882, included a return of seven for 46 in the second innings as the visitors became the first foreign side to win a Test on English soil.

England’s defeat prompted a mock obituary in the Sporting Times newspaper lamenting the death of English cricket, a postscript adding the “body” would be cremated and the “ashes” taken to Australia.

In all first-class cricket, right-armer Spofforth took 853 wickets at an impressively low average of 14.95 claiming 32 10-wicket hauls, although contemporary reports suggest pitches back then were far harder to bat on than modern-day surfaces.

Spofforth played his final Test in 1887 before relocating to England for business interests and died on June 4 1926 in Surrey, south-east England.

He was inducted into the hall of fame in a ceremony at Lord’s here on Friday during the mid-innings break of the first one-day international between England and Australia.

Training in the United States ahead of the Games, Gemma Spofforth said in an ICC statement: “I’m so sorry that I can’t be there to celebrate the success of another athlete in the family, but with the Olympics so close my focus just has to remain on final preparations for the Games. “I’m sure Fred would understand, although with his birthright I have a sneaking suspicion he might be rooting for my Australian competition!

“It’s comforting to know that I am following a tradition of sporting achievement in the family. Representing your country at the highest level is an incredible honour and he would readily understand the ‘buzz’ you get from the supporters cheering and the duty one feels to perform at your best in return.

“In 1879 he achieved a world first by claiming the first ever hat-trick of Test wickets; 130 years later (in 2009) I achieved my world first by claiming the world record in the 100 metre backstroke.”

She added: “There’s another family tradition as well -- height! A century before I was born he was regarded as unusually tall at six foot three inches. An inch shorter, I still stand head and shoulders above most of my team-mates.”