The Story of the First International Cricket Match
Cricket Comes to North America
The game of cricket originated in Southeast England in the early medieval period, most likely as a children's’ game. For many generations, the ancestral game remained the sole preserve of the young. The first definite reference to the game in an adult context comes from 1597 when a court case in Surrey detailed an ownership dispute over a plot of common land. A game called creckett is mentioned. In 1611, two men from Sussex were prosecuted for playing the game on a Sunday instead of going to church. In the same year, a dictionary referred to the game and defined it as a boy’s game, implying that adult participation was still not common.
By the 18th century, the game was a national sport in England and had already made the journey over to the colonies in North America. There are references to the game being played in New York in 1739, and the first documented competition occurred in 1751. The game was played on slave plantations in Virginia, and by 1793, the students of Dartmouth College were playing the game on their green.
Philadelphia would quickly emerge as the cricketing heartland of the United States, with Haverford College becoming the first institution in 1833 to form a cricket club exclusively for Americans rather than expats. But it would be a club called St. George’s CC from Manhattan, New York that would take their place in the annals of cricketing history.
Cricket’s first-ever International match can trace its origins back to 1840, when weary players from the St. George’s Club arrived in Toronto after a long and arduous journey via stagecoach through New York state, then crossing Lake Ontario via a steamer. A man claiming to be George Philpotts, secretary of Toronto Cricket Club, had invited the New York side to play his team at home. However, when the 18 St. George’s men arrived on the 28th August 1840, the Canadians informed them that they were not expected. It later transpired that the men claiming to be ‘Mr. Philpotts’, was nothing more than an impostor.
Despite the hoax, the Canadians graciously arranged a cricket match with great haste. A fair number of spectators attended, as well as a brass band, and even the Governor of Upper Canada, Sir George Arthur, graced the match with his presence. The New Yorkers would win the match by 10 wickets, but left Canada on such good terms, that they invited their opponents down into the US, for what would become the first-ever International cricket match.
The American side contained players drawn from clubs in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston and New York. The majority of the Canadian team played for the Toronto CC side, but efforts were made to include players from elsewhere, with some being drawn being drawn from the Guelph Cricket Club in Western Ontario and others coming from Upper Canada College in Ontario.
The game was scheduled for two days, the Americans won the toss and decided to put the Canadians into bat first. The Canadians posted a score of 82, and by the end of the first day, the US were 61 for 9. Play on the second day was impossible due to bad weather, so the match was extended to a third day. The Americans would eventually be bowled out 64. In their second innings, Canada scored 63, giving the Americans a target of 82 to win. However, the US would be bowled for just 58, giving Canada the win by 23 runs. Interestingly, US batsman George Wheatcroft arrived too late on the third day to play any part in the proceedings, so Alfred Marsh stepped in as substitute fielder, although he did not bat.
Canada vs. United States
Date: 24–26 September 1844
Venue: St. George’s Cricket Club, New York City
Umpires: JH Conolly, H Russell & R Waller.
Canada: 82 ( Winckworth, Sharpe, Freeling 12 runs, Wright 5 wickets)
United States: 64 ( Tinson 14 runs, Winckworth & French 4 wickets)
Canada: 63 ( Winckworth 14 runs, Groom 5 wickets)
United States: 58 (Turner 14 runs, Sharpe 6 wickets)
Canada wins by 23 runs.
A year after the first match, a second meeting between Canada and the United States was arranged at McGill University in Montreal. The match took place between the 30 and 31 July 1845. The Americans won the toss and once again decided to put the Canadians into bat first.
Canada posted a score of 80 in their innings, with C J Birch scoring 29, American bowler Henry Groom claimed 6 wickets. The US replied with 79, with George Sharpe taking 6 wickets. However, Canada posted an excellent score for the time of 135, with that man Sharpe proving to be an effective all rounder by scoring 31. A Lieutenant Hornby chipped in with 35. Henry Groom claimed a further 4 wickets. The Americans need 137 to win, but could only manage 75 after Winckworth took 8 wickets.
Later in the same year, the two teams met again in New York with Canada once again emerging victorious by 2 wickets. For a short time then Canada could call themselves the best International Cricket team in the world, although no evidence of any such claim exists. However, Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald declared Cricket to be Canada’s first national sport in 1867, largely due to these victories over the US.
© 2019 James Kenny