US cricket's finest hour

Deb Das

May 24, 2004

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In possibly its finest hour on the international cricket stage, the United States of America defeated a full official West Indies side on its home ground, in a single day by nine wickets in a two-innings international match.

The place: Bourda, Guyana. The date: January 5, 1888.

The US tour was intended as a response to the highly successful tour of Canada and the US by the West Indies in 1886. In their first international tour to North America, the West Indies had recorded 12 wins (two of them by an innings and 100-plus runs) against only 2 losses. The US decided to return the favor.

The US team was one of the most representative sides to have played overseas, before or since 1888. Captained by C. L. Bixby of Longwood CC (Boston), the team contained players born in, and hailing from, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and the South.

The West Indies team was one of the best that could have been assembled in the Caribbean at the time. It was captained by E. F. Wright of Guyana, who had played under W. G. Grace against the Australians and had also scored the first century - 123 - in Caribbean inter-island cricket for Guyana against Trinidad in 1882. There were three others from Guyana, three from Trinidad, three from Barbados, one each from Grenada and St. Vincent; several had first-class English (i.e. County) credentials. The most significant omission was John Lees of Jamaica, the former Cambridge and Sussex player who had the highest batting average on the 1886 West Indies tour of Canada and the US. The Jamaicans had decided Bourda was too far to travel to.

The US team had played five matches in the West Indies before January 5. They had won against Barbados, lost to Trinidad, and drawn with St. Kitts and Grenada. Their fifth match against Guyana, on the very same grounds where they were to play the full West Indies side, had been an unmitigated disaster. The US had lost by an innings and 25 runs. And W. A. Harrison, who had taken 7 wickets for 2 runs in 11 overs for Guyana in the US first innings, was now in the full West Indies side.

The US need not have worried. They had their own secret weapons.

In 18 incredible overs, 13 of which were maidens, S. M. Wain and C. Coates of the US dismissed the West Indies for 19 runs, their lowest score ever in international cricket (for the record, the second-lowest score for the West Indies in international cricket is 26 all out against Ireland by the Clive Lloyd-led team in the 1970s, during an otherwise successful tour of England). Not a single West Indies batsman scored over 4 runs. In less than an hour, the West Indies first innings was over. (Wain was to die in the cross-fire of a blazing Wyoming gunfight in 1889, but that's another story.)

When the US team came in to bat, they had to face Harrison again. But Charles Palmer of Young America CC and wicketkeeper W. C. Morgan (Germantown CC) held up the middle of the innings, and Morgan in fact was not out at the end. The US had scored 64, surviving Harrison's 5 for 19 in 28 overs.

The West Indies had scored 100-plus runs in almost every innings on tour in 1886, and here they were on home ground. Indeed, Robinson (Trinidad) and Skeete (Barbados), the West Indies openers, looked all set for a big score. Then Charles Palmer, the sheet anchor of the US first innings, struck with a dazzling bowling performance; 12.3 overs , 9 maidens, 7 wickets for 10 runs. The West Indies folded and collapsed for 55.

The US needed only 11 to win. They did it in five overs, for the loss of one wicket. The US had achieved its nine-wicket victory in a single day.

There are no records of other tours from the West Indies to North America after 1886; certainly, no official US side has played the full West Indies national team since that time. The very idea would sound amusing to modern cricketers. Yet it did happen - over 100 years ago. Perhaps - who knows? - it could happen again

This article was originally published in 1994 in Cricketer International's NorthAmerican Edition Contributed by Deb K. Das

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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