On September 26, 1844, a cricket team from Canada defeated the United States by 23 runs in what is generally considered the first international cricket match. It’s also the first international contest of any kind, having predated the America’s Cup by seven years.
The match itself, which took place at the grounds of St. George’s Cricket Club in New York City, was several years in the making.
In August 1840, the United States contingent from St. George’s Club had traveled to Toronto expecting a match against a Canadian club. However, it turned out that the “Mr. Phillpotts” who invited the New York cricketers, was not a member of the Toronto Cricket Club and was instead an imposter.
Toronto’s club hastily organized a match to welcome their surprise guests. Both team’s put up a stake of £50 and His Excellency the Governor of Upper Canada, Sir George Arthur, attended the contest. New York won by 10 wickets and returned home after inviting their Canadian hosts for a return match.
Attempts to stage a rematch occurred the following two years, but nothing wound up happening. Toronto eventually visited New York in 1843, but left in a huff after discovering that not all the New York team members were “bona fide” members of St. George’s Club—some were actually borrowed hands from a Philadelphia club.
Despite this bump in the road, the two clubs managed to schedule another match for 1844. However, this time, players from multiple clubs would be eligible and the match became marketed as “Canada vs. USA”. Additionally, a stake of $1,000 per side was agreed upon.
And so we finally reach the date of the match that sparked the genesis for this article. It was a mid-week affair from Tuesday (September 24) to Thursday (September 26) in Bloomingdale Park, which differs from the current-day Bloomingdale Park on Staten Island. Instead, the 19th century Bloomingdale Park sat along the East River on Manhattan Island.
On the first day, Canada started things off at 11:40 am. The visitors cobbled together a solid first innings of 82 runs. After an hours’ break, the US contingent took their turn to bat at 3 pm. Due to the late afternoon start, the American’s couldn’t complete their innings before darkness fell and play paused after 38 overs were bowled.
Wednesday was rained out, so the United States resumed their innings on Thursday. However, they were unable to make up much ground and trailed Canada by 18 runs after each side had come up to bat once.
Canada shot out once again in their second innings and managed to put up 63. The Canadian lead of 82 runs proved to be too much for the United States’ second innings; the hosts only mustered 58. That set the final margin of 23 runs in favor of Canada.
Interestingly, one US player never showed during the team’s time to bat on Thursday. This fellow, George Wheatcroft, was considered one of the best batsmen the Americans had to offer. In fact, The Anglo-American, a New York-based publication that ran during the 1840s, estimated that Wheatcroft would’ve made up the 23-run margin had he showed for the second day.
Perhaps one of the more outstanding facts about the 1844 match between the Canadian and United States was the amount of money bettors placed down. According to modern historians, the several thousand (estimates range from 5,000 to 20,000) spectators who took in the first day’s action bet between $100,000 and $120,000 on the match. That’s the equivalent of $1.5 to $2 million in today’s terms!
The Canadians run, stop, catch, and throw in beautifully, and it is a perfect treat to witness it.
A mid-18th century New York publication
Two matches would be played in 1845, with one in Toronto and another in New York. Canada won both, claiming the first by 61 runs and the second by 2 wickets.
Eventually, matchups between Canada and the United States would be contested for the Auty Cup. This trophy was donated by Karl André Auty, an English-born cricket enthusiast who lived in Chicago during the early 20th century.
The two countries most recently met in a World Cricket League Division Two match in April 2019. Canada won the match, which was held in Windhoek, Namibia, by 40 runs.
After the initial 1844 confrontation, cricket in both countries was superseded in popularity by baseball during the later stages of the 19th century. However, by the time Canada became an independent country in 1867, the first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, reportedly decreed that the pastime was the land’s national sport.
In recent times, Canada participated in 2003, 2007, and 2011 Cricket World Cups, but failed to make the past two. The United States, meanwhile, has never qualified for the World Cup.
No video or images obviously exist of the 1844 match. However, the New York Museum is home to this drawing of the contest:
- In 1844, Canada and the United States played the first-ever international cricket match. It was also the first ever international contest of any kind.
- Canada, which was mostly represented by cricketers from Toronto, beat the United States over the three-day match by 23 runs.
- Cricket eventually faded to relative obscurity in both countries, and the two nations have played against each other sparingly in recent years.
- The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America by Tom Melville via Google Books
- The Anglo-American, September 28, 1844 via HathiTrust Digital Library
- Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1946 (Part 3, Page 7) via Newspapers.com
- “The History of Cricket Canada”, Cricket Canada
- “Cricket in Canada: a historical review”, ESPNcricinfo
- “Full Scorecard of Canada vs United States of America 2nd Innings 1844”, ESPNcricinfo
- “Full Scorecard of Canada vs United States of America 2nd Innings 1845” (July), ESPNcricinfo
- “Full Scorecard of United States of America vs Canada 2nd Innings 1845” (August), ESPNcricinfo
- “The oldest international contest of them all”, ESPNcricinfo