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MCC to visit USA in 2009
by Venu Palaparthi
Jun 26, 2007
Writing about the anticipated tour of MCC to USA in 2009, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on 8th June - “Like the cavalry riding to the rescue in the final scene of a western, our own dear Marylebone Cricket Club are poised to save American cricket.”

MCC is the world's best organized amateur side and we are grateful for MCC’s (and Telegraph’s) interest in American cricket. Fact is that MCC has shown more commitment to the American cricketing cause than most others.

Recent MCC Tours

The proposed USA tour is not unusual for the MCC – it has a long tradition of overseas tours. During 2007 alone, the MCC’s overseas program includes tours to far-flung cricketing destinations such Malawi, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.

MCC teams toured USA at least five times in the last two decades and have sent a stronger team on each visit since 1986. In 1986, MCC sent a ‘D’ team which, according to BOCC records, “annihilated all area opposition.” In 1992, they sent a team that played the Southern California side and lost. In 1999, a younger and much stronger side defeated the Southern California team by 6 wickets. In 2000, the visiting MCC team was even better according to Philadelphia sources.

In 2004, it was the turn of MCC ‘B’ team. On this occasion, Mike Marcus, Mike Thomas and Alfred Reeves of the British Officers Cricket Club organized a Gentlemen of Philadelphia team (GOP) to play the visitors. On September 22, 2004, a GOP team comprising 5 BOCC players played the MCC team at the Cope Field in Haverford College. BOCC fast bowler Gurdish Singh got 3 for 35 and BOCC teammate Raj Subramanyam scored 65 for GOP nearly defeating the MCC ‘B’ team. In the end, the GOP fell short by just 8 runs.

150 years ago – First overseas tour by England was to USA

What makes the proposed MCC tour unique is that 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the first visit by an England cricket party to North America. George Parr’s XI embarked on a tour of North America in 1859. Aside from a bloke called Julius Ceasar, the George Parr XI included two of the greatest contributors to cricket - John Wisden and Fred Lillywhite.

After playing terribly one-sided matches in Montreal, Rochester and Hoboken (see complete account of the tour below), the English side landed in Philadelphia where they played a four day match at Camac’s Wood. This match between the English side and GOP began on October 10, 1859. After being bowled out for just 126 in the first innings, the English side led by a narrow margin of 32 runs, Wisden bowled his heart out taking 7 GOP wickets in the second innings as the GOP folded for just 60 runs. George Parr’s XI won by 7 wickets.

Philadelphia – The venue for a perfect birthday party

A stopover in Philadelphia was considered mandatory those days for visiting cricketers. Now wouldn’t it be perfect to have an anniversary match in Philadelphia recognizing that city’s role in American cricket with luminaries such as Alfred Reeves among the audience?

Over the last two decades, Philadelphia regained its position as the cradle of American cricket. Alfred Reeves is credited for the revival of cricket in Philadelphia area. In 1986, aged 60, he restarted the British Officers Cricket Club along with Peter Stone. Alfred Reeves, was personally honored by HRH Prince Andrew on September 22, 2002 in Philadelphia where he was presented with a Waterford crystal inscribed with – “Alfred Reeves – With gratitude, and in recognition of your services to Commonwealth cricket in the United States of America. Presented by the Duke of York.”

The 1859 Tour: The first English visit

USA and Canada had been playing ‘international cricket’ since 1844. WP Pickering of Canada mooted the idea of an English tour of North America after seeing spectator interest in the USA vs Canada matches of 1856. When Robert Waller of St. George’s Cricket Club guaranteed GBP 500 for two matches in the USA, a tour was finalized in 1859.

On September 6th 1859, twelve professional cricketers of England met at the George Hotel, Liverpool and left the English shores via the Nova Scotian the next morning. The team comprised Caffyn, Lockyer, HH Stephenson, Julius Ceasar (of Surrey), Parr, Grundy and Jackson (of Nottinghamshire, John Wisden and John Lillywhite (Sussex), Carpenter, Tom Hayward and Diver (Cambridgeshire), with Fred Lillywhite acting as the manager.

Sporting tours became a way of life with this event – the first major overseas tour for an English side. The tour also marked several important publishing milestones for cricket. And playing on the English team were two visionary pioneer cricket writers and publishers of the era (John Wisden and Fred Lillywhite).

Fred Lillywhite, true to form, wrote a fascinating book describing the adventure titled “The English Cricketers Trip to Canada and the United States?”

The English team did well financially earning over $5000 from the tour. The organizers profited from the tour as well. In New York, St. George’s Cricket Club reported gate receipts of about $2000 on the first day. Total expenses for the three days were roughly $3200.

This tour had acquired enormous prestige and representatives from far flung cities traveled long distances to meet with the English side nurturing hopes of having the English side visit their cities.

Cincinnati Cricket Club representatives went all the way to Montreal and promised 75% of the gate receipts if the English side played there. Albany, St. Louis, Baltimore, all tried to persuade the English side to visit their cities and play their local teams. In fact, an unscheduled stop was made at Rochester by the English side after Rochester Mayor announced $1500 of public funds for improving the city’s cricket ground and took a personal interest in the match.

Of course, along came the two things most associated with big matches – unaffordable stadium concessions and betting!

The New York Times wrote that “the Eleven do not bet, at least openly, but outsiders do. The bets are that two to one English Eleven will win any one of the four matches named. Even bets that they will win all four. Even bets that there will be 8 ducks in the Twenty Two’s batting. Varying wagers on one man’s score against the other. The most animated betting is on the NY match. The Americans back the US to win and the rest bet that English will win easily.”

Lillywhite had a tent to sell cricket cards. A tent for refreshments was also erected. The Times reporter wrote, “The caterer could not have been chosen for worse food for which he charged - 62.5 cents for each victim, who was compelled to take it or nothing.”

England vs USA: Match report from October 3-5, 1859

The first game of the USA leg took place between the English and the XXII of the USA at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, NJ on October 3rd, 4th and 5th of 1859.

This match is preserved for posterity thanks to the images published on October 15, 1859, in the Harper’s Weekly. The images portray two different ball games being played on the same day at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. An American cricket team is shown playing the British one on the left hand side. A baseball game is in progress on the same ground on the right hand side.

The Elysian Fields got a $2000 makeover thanks to the benevolence of Edward Stevens. The English players encountered 8000 spectators on the first day and this number doubled on the second day. In total, some 25,000 spectators watched the game on the three days.

On the ground, England scored 156 and USA XXII scored 38 and 54. Fielding 22 in a side was not unusual those days and Australians did the same thing against England with cricket in USA being more advanced than Australia at that stage. New York’s cricketing skills were embarrassing and it was defeated by a huge margin.

Some said that the American team was not truly a representative one. Most on the team were English residents of New York and there were just three Philadelphians on the American team – Walter Newhall, Charles Barclay and William Morgan.

Criticism was focused on the selection of Waller, Walsh and Comery, who were veterans of the USA vs Canada series a decade and half earlier. These aged players should have been on among the spectators. Complaints of this nature still abound in modern day USA cricket.

England vs USA: Match report from October 12-15, 1859

In the second match at Philadelphia, which began on October 12th, on the Camac Estate at 13th and Columbia Avenue, the GOP XXII scored 94 and 60 with England scoring 126 and 29 for three to wrap up the match. This match was closer than the New York one and some of the American pride was redeemed. The Americans were in good spirits after the first innings because they had successfully restricted England’s first innings lead to 32 runs.

Wisden took 7 GOP wickets in the second innings as the GOP folded for just 60 runs. This ensured a win by George Parr’s XI by 7 wickets.

Lillywhite wrote, “the ground presented a most animated appearance. We never saw such a magnificent sight; about 1,000 ladies were sitting by themselves, and they appeared to be enthusiastic.”

The tour also marked international cricket’s first controversy in Philadelphia when Henry Sharp inexplicably called a wide when English player Robert Carpenter was caught. Carpenter made 22 decisive runs for his side. Jones Wister claimed that it had cost Americans the match.

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