1st Cricket match between Eton & Harrow Schools
It is one of the odd anachronisms of British sport that one of the annual fixtures at Lord’s cricket ground , the home of cricket, should be between two schoolboy sides, Eton and Harrow. The first match (or at least the first match of which we can be certain, others probably took place earlier) between the two was in 1805, on the original Lord’s ground at Dorset Fields.
It appears that the match was arranged by the schoolboys themselves, rather than their masters, withLord Byron thought to have been very much involved both in the issue of the challenge to Eton (he was a Harrovian) and in the hiring of the ground. Indeed it is suggested that this involvement was the only reason he was selected to represent his school, making 7 and 2 in his two knocks (though he wrote to a friend saying he made 11 and 7 – poetic licence even at this precocious age). Byron batted with a runner because of his club-foot, a disability that didn’t prevent him being a keen player and in later years an even keener lover.
Eton won the match by an innings and two runs, the start of a dominance that continues to this day, demonstrated by the victory for Harrow in 2000 being their first in a quarter of a century.
The 1805 match is the cause of some controversy between the schools, as Eton include it in their record of the long-running series, while Harrow discount it as somehow unofficial (as was the 1857 match played between Eton and Harrow Under 20 sides, i.e. with recent alumni in the teams).
The inaugural game of 1805 was one that set the tone for after-match celebrations, with Byron recalling the drunken and loutish behaviour by his fellow-players, although of course as they were gentlemen the law did not intervene.