24th September is etched on the history book as the day when for the first time two international teams met each other in a cricket field. The year was 1844, 175 years to this day. Interesting the venue was not Lords or Melbourne Cricket Ground but the Bloomingdale Park in New York! The formal England vs Australia rivalry to start 33 years later in 1877 and in this 1844 contest the two representative sides came for United States of America and Canada. Not only this was the first cricket match between two nations, many believe this to be first sporting event involving two countries.
In 1840, an American cricket club travelled to Canada and played a match against the Toronto Cricket Club. The Canadian team came to USA for a two-day return match in 1844. This time they had players from other clubs also and similarly the US team also had players from Philadelphia, Boston and Washington DC. Although the match was billed as ‘United States of America versus the British Empire’s Canadian Province’ it is difficult to estimate the representative nature of the teams.
The pitch was not a good one and it was a low scoring match as was the trend in those days. There was a good crowd support and many bets were placed even before the match started. On 24th September at around 11.40 the match began. Canada batted first and posted 82. David Winckworth top scored with 12 and for the Americans, Sam Wright took five wickets. The US response was not strong and they ended the day on 61/9. The next day was washed out due to rain and the teams came back on 26th September to finish the match. The Americans were bowled out for 64 but they had a bigger problem as their number three batsman George Wheatcroft did not turn up and they had someone else substituting him on the field.
David Winckworth took four wickets and opened in Canada’s second innings. He again top scored with14 out of the total 63. The target for the home team was 82. Wheatcroft was still not in and they had to bat with ten men. They started well and 25 runs were added by the openers but George Sharp’s introduction resulted in a host of wickets. Finally he picked six wickets and Americans ended with 58/9 with Wheatcroft absent.
The player finally turned up after 20 minutes and although the American tried persuading the Canadian players for a restart they rightfully refused. It did raise a controversy but finally Canada was declared the winner by 23 runs in the first ever international game. The game was repeated for next few years before a player brawl stopped this fixture and post the American Civil War, cricket was never popular.