In September 1844, teams from Canada and the United States of America met in what was arguably the first international match in cricket history, and perhaps even the first international sporting fixture in the world.
Cricket (Game)Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played by two sides of 11 players on a grassy field; the field is centered on two wickets, each of which is defended in turn by a batsman. The name may have come from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word cryce, meaning crutch or staff, or the Middle Dutch word krick, meaning stick. It was probably the first of the major games played in Canada, as it was popular among soldiers at British garrisons in the late 18th century. The earliest known reference to cricket in Canada is of a match played at Île-Sainte-Hélène, Montréal, in 1785. The first regular club was the Toronto Cricket Club, formed in 1827, while the St. John's Cricket Club was established in Newfoundland in 1828.
In September 1844, teams from Canada and the United States of America met in what was arguably the first international match in cricket history, and perhaps even the first international sporting fixture in the world. At least five thousand spectators watched the Canadian team win at the grounds of the St. George's Cricket Club in New York. The match began a series that has continued (though intermittently); it is likely the oldest of its kind in the world. On the Canadian side was George A. Barber, of Upper Canada College (UCC), sometimes called the "Father of Canadian Cricket." In the 1840s and 1850s the sport continued to gain popularity in Canada. The Canadian Cricketer's Guide of 1858 noted that 81 matches had been played during the previous season. In 1859 a visiting English team played in Montréal and Hamilton (and in the United States), becoming the first cricket team to travel overseas for competition. By 1867, cricket had been declared Canada's first national sport by Prime Minister Sir John A. MACDONALD. International matches continued with visits by English teams (which included the famous Dr W.G. Grace) in 1868 and 1872, and a West Indian side in 1886. A Canadian team toured England in 1887, earning a creditable record of two wins, five losses and twelve draws. By the 1890s, the game was played nationwide owing in large part to the patronage of the governor general, Lord LANSDOWNE, as well as advertising, reporting, and the spread of railways. The Canadian Cricket Association--now Cricket Canada--was formed in 1892 and is still the governing cricket body, with nine member provincial associations.
By 1910, when the John Ross ROBERTSON Trophy was first awarded for the best club team in Canada, there were leagues and associations across the country. Participation declined in the 1920s, but was revived in 1932 by the tour of an Australian team featuring the famous Donald Bradman. In the 1930s, Canadian cricket also benefited from the efforts of umpire Frederick HEATHER. A former player, Heather officiated in numerous international matches, and developed a cricket school where he taught the Laws of Cricket to both umpires and players. To ensure cricket's future success, Heather also started a junior cricket league. In 1936 a strong Canadian team toured England and defeated Marylebone Cricket Club (then the home of the English national side) at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. The first national championship tournament took place in 1947.
In the same year, the Imperial Cricket Conference--now the International Cricket Council (ICC)--formally defined "first-class" cricket as a match of three or more days' duration between two sides officially deemed to be of first-class status. From 8 to 10 September 1951 Canada played its inaugural first-class cricket match when the national team played the Marylebone Cricket Club at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. (Canada would not play another first-class match for fifty years.) Canada would again face the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1959 as part of the centennial anniversary of the English cricket team's first visit to North America, and would play them in 1967 as part of the Canadian Centenary.
Canada became an associate member of the International Cricket Council in 1968, increasing the opportunities for international competition. The sport was well served by the untiring administrative efforts of Donald King during the 1960s and 1970s, when teams from several countries toured Canada. A highlight was the victory of Eastern Canada over the Australians in 1975. Since 1979, the Canadian senior team has been a strong contender in the quadrennial ICC Trophy competition (now the ICC World Cup Qualifier) for associate members; indeed, the team reached the Trophy final that year. Canada has competed in four Cricket World Cups, most recently in 2011. In recent years, cricket has regained popularity in the country. This is due in part to the efforts of Cricket Canada: the association stages frequent international and national events and training camps for youths and seniors, and particularly supports the development and promotion of the national women's cricket team and the under-15 and under-19 programs. Overall, active youth development, school programs, coaching and umpiring programs, and immigration have spurred growth in the number of participants across Canada.
R. Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development throughout the World (1970); Canadian Cricketer magazine; J. Hall and R. McCulloch, Sixty Years of Canadian Cricket (1895).