After the drama of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup final, the five Test Ashes series between England and Australia began this week in Birmingham.
A hundred years ago an Australian team also visited the British Isles to play cricket but it was a very different summer. The war had finished but in 1919 many soldiers were still in Europe waiting to be demobilised.
A Sydney newspaper called "The Referee" included news from an officer serving in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF).
"We have a newly-formed department, the object of which is to encourage all forms of sport among the AIF troops and also to organise teams for the big Inter-Army contests that are now rather popular on this side," the officer said.
These included a full-blown Inter-Allied Games held in France and other events in individual sports.
During the war, there had initially been hostility to playing sport at a time when what was described as a "greater game" was taking place. Later cricket matches were organised as fundraisers and Australian soldiers had taken part in these.
Within weeks of the armistice in November 1918, the first overtures were being made to set up a tour for the Northern Hemisphere summer of 1919.
At first it was planned that there would be a series of "Victory" Test matches. Unfortunately, many of the biggest names in Australian cricket were unavailable, so the idea was dropped.
The tour was to be conducted on an amateur basis and players drew their military pay, but it was noted that "in connection with the tour all military rank will be dropped". Trials were conducted before the squad was chosen.
The Daily Telegraph assessed the Australian prospects by saying: "There exists a confident expectation that the side will do well."
Charlie Kelleway was initially chosen to captain the side and did so in the early matches before he was replaced by Herbie Collins, apparently at the behest of Field Marshall William Birdwood. It seems that Kelleway was a somewhat abrasive character.
"Considering the limits which were imposed on the selection committee, a very creditable team has been gathered together," suggested the Athletic News.
The tour lasted from May to September. It opened at Attleborough in Norfolk. A team raised by Lionel Robinson provided the opposition and included the elegant Kent and England left-handed batsman Frank Woolley and pre-war England captain JWHT Douglas. His initials had prompted the Australians to give him the nickname "Johnny Won’t Hit Today".
That first match finished in a draw but the Australians were soon into their stride as they beat Essex by an innings.
They were even more dominant against Cambridge University. Collins and Kelleway posted 165 for the first wicket and when the Australians did finally declare, their score was a towering 650 for 8. They won by an innings and 239 runs.
The next match was at Lord’s. The ground was, and still is, considered the spiritual home of cricket. During the war it had mostly been used as an administrative centre.
The Australian team had no shortage of support.
A number of Australian soldiers introduced a new note to classic Lord’s. When a catch was dropped somebody in the crowd told the fielder "you’d better have a bag".
The AIF drew a match against Middlesex on the ground, and returned there to beat the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) by ten wickets.
Their final visit to the ground ended in defeat to the "Gentlemen of England". In those days the social distinction between the "Gentlemen" (amateur cricketers) and the "Players" (professionals) was considerable. The line-up for the Gentlemen that day included Clarence Napier Bruce, who as Lord Aberdare later became a member of the International Olympic Committee.
The match was described in the prestigious Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack as the "most important of the whole programme. The Gentlemen beat them (AIF) in uncompromising fashion by an innings and 133 runs."
The AIF twice played Surrey at the Oval. After the second match, Australian newspapers reported that the home crowd had criticised the Australians for slow batting.
One spectator was so incensed, he ran onto the field "amid cheers of the crowd". He argued with the umpires and pointed ostentatiously to the clock. Play only continued after an intervention from Surrey captain Cyril Wilkinson, an all-round sportsman who won Olympic hockey gold the following year.
"The unabashed interrupter celebrated his exploits by somersaulting and returning to his seat," reports from the time said.
The caution of the Australians may have been well founded, because the Surrey batting line-up included Jack Hobbs who had struck a double century in the first meeting of the two sides. Hobbs later became known as "The Master" and was later considered one of the greatest batsman in the game.
The Australians also played matches in Scotland and piled up a gigantic 733 for six declared against the West of Scotland. They twice dismissed their opponents cheaply to win by an innings.
The final first-class match on British soil was at Scarborough. Charles Thornton, a moving spirit in the establishment of a world renowned cricket festival at the ground, assembled a team which inflicted one of only four defeats in the entire tour.
A few days later, the AIF took on a team of sixteen from the historic South London club Mitcham in a benefit match.
Posters advertised the inclusion of Surrey stars Hobbs and local hero Andy Sandham but they took no part in the match. Despite the disparity in numbers, the Australians won the game easily.
The World’s News in Sydney gave this assessment of the tour as a whole:
"The team was not to be judged from the standard of an Australian Test match eleven, but, as the record shows, it was a real fighting force. Apart from Gregory's bowling, the strength was collective rather than individual , good as were Collins, Taylor, and others, there was no Trumper or Clem Hill among the batsmen, but every man could get runs."
Fast bowler Jack Gregory took 131 wickets in the 25 matches. His captain Collins described him as as the "best fast bowler in the world".
In another report, Gregory was described as one "whose attack has such considerable pace behind it that he is of considerable account". Gregory made his debut for the Australian test team in 1920 and was destined to enhance his reputation.
The AIF team did not return straight home. They spent a further two months in South Africa where in ten matches against local opposition, they did not lose once. When they arrived back on Australian soil they played three final matches and concluded the whole enterprise with victory over New South Wales in Sydney. It was not until February 1920 that they were at last free to return home
"In a cricketing sense, the enterprise exceeded all expectation. Such an abundance of talent was available that no difficulty was found in building up an all round team of remarkable strength," was the verdict given by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
Collins, Kelleway, Gregory and Pellew were to prove key members of a test team led by Warwick Armstrong which carried all before it. The AIF wicket keeper Bert Oldfield began an illustrious career of 54 Test matches in 1920. During the war serving as a corporal, he very nearly died after he was buried during a bombardment of a field position in 1918.
Some 250 first-class cricketers had died in the First World War so a return to something approaching normal sport was something to be cherished in 1919.
One hundred years on, the Australian team visited the war graves at Gallipoli in Turkey before arriving in Britain for this year’s ICC World Cup. "Just spending time together in a place like this, you can't help but learn something about yourself, about your teammates," said vice-captain Pat Cummins.
Many sporting teams have made similar pilgrimages in recent years and all have registered similar emotions.