By James Rodgers
On this ground in November 1926, 18 year old D G Bradman of St George scored a masterly 110, his first 1st Grade century, as he announced his prodigious talent to Sydney Grade cricketers.
Today, if you stand under the T J E Andrews Memorial Scoreboard on the eastern hill of the ground, you can’t quite see the score. The old Andrews scoreboard looks forlornly out of action. Well-tended hedges in front of the grandstand on the western side just cut off a view of the portable scoreboard. So, walk south near families spread out on the grass in the shade near the rotunda. From here, there’s a clear sight of University players taking the field after lunch and of the scoreboard. Randwick-Petersham are 3 for 98 from 32 overs. Interest among the picnickers seems minimal. Would they sit up and watch if more well-known players were in the middle? After all, in this match, there’s no Warner, no Sangha, no Cowan, no Larkin. But there’s absorbing cricket in a game that flows to and fro.
This is pleasantly suburban cricket in Sydney’s inner west where things always seem a little closer. Houses packing into Station St are only a decent six hit away from the middle. Four suburbs surround the ground: Leichhardt, Stanmore, Marrickville, Lewisham. Aeroplanes winging their way to Sydney airport fly low enough for their undercarriages and identity of the airline to be clearly visible from the ground. If you’re bowling on Petersham Oval, boundaries look forbiddingly short. If you’re batting, they look invitingly close. So three times, Randwick’s Eaton hits uncharacteristic full tosses from Malone over the shorter leg side boundary. A prelude to Sunday’s onslaught by Kerr? Fielding on the boundary is Varun George, the most recent 1st Grader, cap no. 760. He is the ‘Bradman scholar’ for 2018-19. Does he know that Bradman scored his first Grade hundred on this ground 93 seasons ago?
In the middle, Eaton and Ayre prosper against strangely inconsistent bowling. The score mounts. Robertson places the field thoughtfully. Left and right hander hit thoughtfully to other parts of the field. The partnership advances to 118 until Kershaw tests Eaton’s patience and induces the snick to Cummins. But in half an hour Singh hits four effortless cover drives to the nearest boundary. Malone before and after tea, however, is a different prospect. Control and guile return as he takes his tally of season’s wickets to an extraordinary 46. And it’s only January! He skids one on to Singh who is LBW despite using the front pad. ‘Jubilate omnes gentes’ as we used to say. Everyone rejoice!
An involuntary look up to where the score used to be recorded on this ground sends thoughts back to T J E Andrews who trod the paths of this ground until he was 54, from 1909 until final retirement in 1944 (having unsuccessfully tried to retire when his scoreboard went up in 1936, only to be lured back for more in the War years). The leathery faced Tommy Andrews, son of TJ Andrews of Funeral Parlour fame. (You get to know these things when you get to a certain age!). Andrews, scorer of 11,699 runs in 1st Grade with Petersham in addition to his 504 wickets with leg breaks, bowled with an action that caused him to be called for throwing against Queensland in 1914. 8095 runs in 1st class cricket. 16 Tests between 1921 and 1926. University players of the 1920s would never forget him. He lashed them with his highest score, 271 in 1923-24.
In fact, there’s a little bit of this ground that contains memories of distinguished men who served the University with great fidelity:
Somewhere at the southern end of the park is Wentworth Street. Petersham Park was fashioned out of the subdivision in 1857 of one of William Charles Wentworth’s estates. It was Wentworth who moved in the NSW Legislative Council in 1849 for the establishment of the University of Sydney and who was then on the governing body of the University for its first 22 years.
Sydney University cricket’s President, Bruce Collins, had his name up on the scoreboard for most of one 2nd Grade game in 1977. He scored a blistering century on the first day and took 5 for 0 in his first two overs on the second day when Petersham collapsed from 1 for 59 to 8 for 61.
And in 1993-94, John Saint’s 173 included 11 sixes, five in one over from an increasingly perplexed Wayne Mulherin.
But this is 2019. Petersham has become ‘Petersham-Marrickville’ and now, since 2001, ‘Randwick-Petersham’ (even though a sign in the park proclaims that ‘Petersham-Randwick Cricket Club’ now plays here).
And University marches on. Another victory as Hayden Kerr, who played at Bowral where Bradman learnt his cricket before coming to Sydney, hits nine sixes on Sunday, in his 133 on pleasantly suburban Petersham Oval.