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The Crooked Staffe: Four Centuries of Cricket in Print

A cross section of the massed display of printed items relating to cricket from circa 1760 to 1900 in the MCC Library's Crooked Staffe exhibition.This exhibition celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the oldest book in the MCC Library, Randle Cotgrave’s ”Dictionarie of the French and English tongues”, published in London in 1611, the same year at the King James Bible and the premiere of Shakespeare’s last solo play, The Tempest. 

The Dictionarie is a scarce book, but not especially rare. It is a key work to collectors of cricket items as it contains the first printed references and definition of the game of cricket.  The book was donated to the MCC Library by Anthony Baer in 1968. 

The Crooked Staffe exhibition celebrates the diverse history of cricket as depicted in various forms of print: books, magazines, programs, menus, sheet music, lithographs, tickets, china, labels, cards etc over the past four centuries.

Staff and volunteers have delved into the treasures of the MCC Library and Museum’s cricket collections to shine some light upon some of the rare and famous works and unique personal items, including some that are frivolous and ephemeral.

A dictionarie of the French and English tongues, containing the earliest known definitions of cricket. Across the 12 months of the celebrations there will be three different exhibitions: the opening blockbuster for the Ashes series (2010/11), then exhibitions specialising in different areas of cricket in print including programs, menus, cards, children’s books, literature etc.

The opening display runs from December 13, 2010 to February 28, 2011.

This display offers an eclectic range of items that offer an insight into the way the game has been portrayed in print over the last four centuries.

Highlights include:

• Cotgrave’s dictionarie of the French and English tongues from 1611.
• First printed rules of cricket - on a handkerchief from 1744.
• First references to cricket being played in Australia - Sydney Mail of January 1804
• First Australian cricket books - Biers & Fairfax’s Australian Cricket Annual 1856/57
• The “Demon” Spofforth’s players ticket from the Australian 1882 tour of England, the famous Ashes Test at Kennington Oval and his copy of Reynold’s famous book of the 1878 Australians tour to England and North America.
• The famous Ashes obituaries published in Cricket a weekly record of the game and Sporting Times in 1882 and the verse pasted on to the Darnley Ashes Urn printed in Melbourne Punch in 1883. 
• The large paper edition of WG Grace’s book that he presented to the Melbourne Cricket Club during his tour in 1892/93 as captain of Lord Sheffield’s England team.

The exhibition is located in and near the MCC Library on Level 3 of the Members Reserve.

MCC Members and their guests may enter via Gate 2 at the MCG.

Others wishing to view the exhibition should join an MCG Tour at Gate 3.  The regular Tour will enable only a short viewing, but  the exhibition can be studied more closely via a special tour (admission by donation) that will depart from MCG Gate 3 at 2pm on weekdays, starting Monday December 13, 2010 and running through to February 4, 2011.

The tours will not run on the following dates: December 26-30 and January 3, 14, 26 and 28.