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Generally perceived as a genteel game with its roots in England, cricket has been responsible for many raucous afternoons in backyards across Australia. England and Canada played the first international cricket match in 1859, but competition did not begin in earnest until the 1870s. In 1877, Australia won its first test against England. That signalled the beginning of a long rivalry for international cricket´s top prize, the Ashes, a trophy held by Australia for the past decade.
Two main categories of international cricket exist — test and one-day cricket. A test is played over five days. If nobody wins after that time, a draw is declared. While the action can appear limited to the uninitiated, test cricket actually is a tactical game of skilful play and riveting mind games. One-day tournaments, a shortened version of tests, started in the 1970s as a way of modernising the game and drawing a wider audience. The premier one-day event is the World Series, recently won by Australia.
The crowning event on any cricket fan´s calendar is the Boxing Day Test Match, held on 26 December each year. Traditionally, friends gather in lounge rooms across Australia to watch the telecast, drink beer and eat Christmas leftovers. Australia´s toughest cricket competition comes from South Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies. Recent Australian stars include Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve and Mark Waugh, Ian Healy, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Don Bradman, an Australian batsman in the 1930s and ´40s, generally is considered the best player in the sport´s history and is Australia´s most beloved sporting icon.