Canadian cricket, Canadian Cricket Association, Clarke Bell, cricket, Cricket World Cup, Dennis Lillee, Don Bradman, Ian Chappell, John Davison, John Laing, John MacDonald, John Ross Robinson Trophy, Marylebone Cricket Club, Reg Wenman, Toronto Cricket Club
It is thought that cricket was first played in Canada by British soldiers after they beat French forces in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, near Quebec City, in 1759. The first definite evidence was a match played in 1785 at St Helen’s Island in Quebec Province, on the site of Expo 67. In the early 19th century, cricket was played at the town of York, now Toronto, where young English teacher George A. Barber encouraged the game. He founded the Toronto Cricket Club in 1827 and arranged a match between this club and an Upper Canada College team, which has been played annually ever since.
Canada played a match against the United States in 1844 at St George’s Cricket Club, New York, where the medical center of New York University now stands. This was the first international cricket match anywhere, played 33 years before the first official test match between Australia and England. It attracted a crowd of between 10,000 and 20,000 people, and total bets of $120,000. Canada won the game by 23 runs. An English team toured Canada in 1859, the world’s first international cricket tour, although the visitors beat the locals easily.
Cricket grew so popular that by the time Canada became a country in 1867, first prime minister John A. MacDonald declared the game as the national sport. Soon baseball became predominant, but cricket teams still toured. The English team visited in 1872 and 1880, the Australian team in 1878 and 1893, and the Irish team in 1888 and 1890. The first Canadian team to travel overseas was in 1880, but it ended soon after captain Thomas Dale was arrested in the middle of a match against Leicestershire for deserting the British Army. Canada again toured the United Kingdom in 1887, winning two matches, drawing 12 and losing two against county and other local sides.
The Canadian Cricket Association was set up in 1892 and domestic cricket remained strong. Matches between Canada and the United States grew in popularity again with the emergence of two great cricketers, John M. Laing of Canada and John B. King of the US, who were regarded as world class players. The Australian team toured in 1913, beating the local Canadian teams badly. World War I interrupted the matches between Canada and the US.
The Australian team toured Canada in 1932. Among its ranks was Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest cricketer of all time. He scored 260 runs in one of the matches, a Canadian record that stood for 58 years, until Don Maxwell of York University Cricket Club scored 280 not out in 1990. A Canadian player emerged from this tour who went on to become one of his country’s best ever batsman. L.C. (Clarke) Bell made 109 not out against the Australians. He averaged 70 runs per innings in John Ross Robinson Trophy matches for the Toronto Cricket Club. Another great Canadian batsman from this era was W.R.G. (Reg) Wenman from British Columbia. He scored a record 37 centuries.
Cricket in Canada was bolstered after World War II by migrants from other British Commonwealth countries. An inter-provincial championship series started in 1947. A number of tours were arranged in the 1950s and 1960s. England’s Marylebone Cricket Club toured Canada in 1951, when the country played its inaugural first-class match. The club visited Canada again in 1959, and in 1967 as part of Canada’s centenary celebrations. On a tour of England in 1954, Canada played four more first-class matches. The historic annual match between Canada and the US was resurrected in 1963.
In one of the most remarkable matches in Canadian cricket history, Eastern Canada beat the Australian side by five wickets at Toronto in 1975. The touring team included captain and leading batsman Ian Chappell and legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee. In 1979, Canada was runner up to Sri Lanka in a World Cup qualifiers series, which got them into the main draw. Here they played their first three one day internationals, but lost all three games and were eliminated from the tournament. Canada again played in the qualifying rounds in 1982 and 1986 but lost in the first round. It did better in qualifying rounds in the 1990s, although didn’t make the main World Cup draw.
A Canadian team started playing in the West Indies domestic competition in 1996. The team toured Sri Lanka in 2001 and in the same year qualified for the 2003 World Cup. Canadian batsman John Davison scored a century against the West Indies in 67 balls, the fastest in World Cup history before eventually being dismissed for 111. Unfortunately, Canada lost the match. Overall it lost five of its six first round matches and was eliminated. Since then, Canada has played in various one day international tournaments, including the 2007 World Cup, with mixed results. Canada qualified for the main draw of the 2011 World Cup but didn’t advance to the quarter finals.