Four matches in 48 years may not seem like much, but it will make North Sydney Oval the joint most commonly used women’s Test venue in Australia. Adelaide Oval is the only other Australian ground to have hosted four women’s Tests.
The historic day/night Ashes Test beginning on 9th November will in fact be the fifth scheduled women’s Test at the ground. In 1958 North Sydney Oval was set to host the 1st Test of the Ashes, but heavy rain meant the game was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
1969 would be the year when Test cricket graced the pitch for the first time, as it played host to the 3rd & final Test of the Ashes.
Lorraine Kutcher’s 5/49 for Australia are still the best Test bowling figures at the ground. Similarly, in the two subsequent Tests at North Sydney, no away batsmen have bettered Rachel Heyhoe-Flint and June Moorhouse’s respective scores of 59 & 59* for England in 1969. Heyhoe-Flint’s half-century was her fourth of the series, an Ashes record that stands to this day (Denise Emerson equalled the feat in 1984-5, as did Jan Brittin in 1998).
The match ended as a draw (the third of the series) and ensured England would retain the trophy (figuratively, there was no physical trophy until 1998). The 1968/69 series began a run of seven drawn Ashes Tests in a row that didn’t end until the unbelievable 2nd Test at Adelaide in December 1984.
It would be 22 years until Test cricket returned to North Sydney. The visitors on that occasion were India, playing the 1st Test of a three-match series. India’s 1990/91 tour was the last time a team other than England would play more than a single Test when visiting Australia.
The match saw the Test debut of Australian all-time-great Belinda Clark, who made 104 in her first innings as Australia posted 301/4 declared (Australia would only lose 17 wickets all series). That innings gave Australia control of the game but India came away with a draw, largely thanks to Sandhya Agarwal.
Agarwal’s 452-minute 51 is the longest Test innings played in Australia and the 13th longest recorded in Test history. Her 398 balls faced are 11th most recorded in a Test match innings and the most faced for a score of less than 100 (Agarwal also holds the outright record for her 523-ball 190 at Worcester in 1986). The 1991 North Sydney Test remains the only time India have avoided defeat in a Test in Australia.
A year later, the ground saw the only Test of the 1991/92 Ashes, the first time the contest would be decided by a “series” of fewer than three matches (the Ashes returned to being a multi-Test series in 1998, but has contained no more than one Test match since 2008).
Isabelle Tsakiris in her only Test, and Charmaine Mason also on debut, restricted England to 146 all out in the 1st innings, before Denise Annetts outscored England on her own with 148* in the 2nd.
That score remains the highest Test score made in Australia. Annetts and Lyn Larsen’s 222 run stand for the 4th wicket is still the highest Test partnership ever made in Australia and the 7th highest in all Tests. Australia posted 346/4 declared, the 2nd highest Test total on Australian soil and the last time any side has made over 300 in a Test in Australia.
England reached 51 without loss, but once Australia got the breakthrough they crumbled in slow motion to 115 all out in the course of 102.2 overs. Australia’s crushing margin of victory, an innings and 85 runs, is the 2nd widest for an Ashes Test.
Tsakiris (50.0-30-45-7) and Mason (46.1-17-79-7) finished the match with seven wickets apiece, respectively the 3rd and 4th best debut figures in an Ashes Test. Only Anne Palmer (7-27) and Myrtle Maclagan (7-41), both playing in the very first women’s Test at Brisbane in 1934, have recorded better debut match figure in an Ashes Test.
A quarter of a century on, it remains to be seen what sort of match the conditions at North Sydney will allow. For a variety of reasons (everything from the visibility of the game to the long-term the viability of the format), the day/night Test is unquestionably the most important of the four women’s Test matches to be staged at the ground. The least the game deserves is a playing surface fit for the occasion.