No, it is not the Ashes that started in 1877, some 33 years before the first rivalry of cricket happened that is now history.
In 1844 a team representing USA confronted a team from Canada at Blooming dale Park in Manhattan.
After years of extensive research, in 1853 it is widely accepted that the USA versus Canada is not only the oldest international sporting rivalry, but also the oldest cricket rivalry.
However, there are some who never recognise the match as international. It was locally advertised as a meeting between USA and Canada even though the players were drawn from two clubs.
The match could actually have happened four years earlier. The St George’s Club received an invitation from Mr Phillpotts to travel to play a game against Toronto at a ground on the shores of Lake Ontario.
An 18 member squad of New Yorkers made a grueling journey, arrived on August 28. Their arrival took Toronto club by surprise because bemused Canada side knew nothing about the proposal. St George’s had been the victim of a hoax. Nevertheless, Toronto managed to make their playing eleven to play for a stake of $250 a side, and in front of a decent crowd, eventually St George’s won by ten wickets.
Four years later, a genuine invitation was sent to Toronto, who accepted. The stake had been upped to $1000 and the venue was to be the grounds of the St George’s Club (around East 31 Street and First Avenue, at the time a rural setting) with two days – September 24 and 25 – put aside for the game. This match considered as the first international match between the two countries.
The Canadians had to travel south, and it was tiresome journey. First they sailed by boat to St Lawrence and across Lake Ontario before boarding a train on the burgeoning rail network on the American side. The trains had no food facility, so food had to manage at the irregular stops.
A large crowd of around 5000 was present on the first day of the match. An estimated $100,000 was bet on the match. The values of the money in modern day’s money will be $2 million.
The match started one hour and forty minutes late to scheduled time 10 am.
Batting first Canada were bundled out for 82. Given the state of the pitches at that time, it was a respectable score, although contemporary accounts refer to the poor fielding of the USA.
David Winckworth was the top-scorer with 12 runs for Canada, while Yorkshire-born Sam Wright and Harry Groom shared the wickets between them for USA.
David Winclworth is an interesting character and he can claim to be the first dual international. He appeared for Canada in the first three games against USA in 1845, and in 1846 he donned the jersey of USA.
After an hour of late lunch break, USA batted, their innings extended into a second day, they conceded a first innings lead of 18. The second day’s play was washed out due to rain. Both teams were agreed to resume the match on September 26.
Caption: CAPE TOWN – FEBRUARY 8: Canada World Cup Squad pose for a team group shot onboard a South African Naval ship on February 8, 2003 at Cape Town Harbour before the start of the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa.
As the game resume Canada, batted for the second time in the match. Winckworth, who had taken four wickets with some quick bowling, again toped the scoring chart with a 14 runs innings as Canada put a “respectable” 63 run on board and a lead of 81 runs over USA.
Chasing the target of 82, James Turner and John Syme gave USA a prolific start- 25 without losing a wicket. But, squandering the advantage USA suffered a collapse, lost six wickets for 11 runs. The tail crawled for sometime, but finally managed 58, lost by 23 runs. USA no 3, George Wheatcroft was absent during the USA’s innings, he appeared in the some twenty overs late match. USA insisted that he was entitled to bat, but Canada ditched idea.
The whacking fact is that Turner had scored 120 in a club match, believed to be the first three figure on US soil.
In 1845 the two sides met again home and away. Canada won the home match by 61 runs and by two wickets in New York a month later at Harlem, New York in August 1846.
USA, finally broke their duck at the fourth time of asking, but a highly controversial circumstances forced fixture was suspended for seven years.
ABU DHABI – NOVEMBER 15: The USA team ahead of the match between Canada and USA on the opening day of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on November 15, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Tim Lockely, an expert in American history at Warwick University, told the Guardian in 1999 that cricket was the most popular game in USA before 1861.
“ Cricket was by far the biggest sport in the USA in this period”, but, “then the civil war started in 1861, just when it was reaching its peak of popularity. The sport became a victim of that war.”
Since then USA and Canada played each other sporadically. The last time met in May 9, 2015 in the ICC America’s Region Division T20 at World Sport Park, Indianapolis. Canada, who have featured in four world cup, defeated USA by 23 runs.
USA were recently at ICC Annual Conference at Barbados was stripped off their associate membership status as they were found slack towards the development of cricket in the country.