These matches and the men that played in them, now misty with time, suggest a kind of sliding doors moment, a chance for the sport of cricket to lay its roots down in the USA just as modernity was taking hold.

Brought over by the British, the game is mentioned in the diaries of the politician and planter William Bird III in 1704.

A version known as ‘wicket’ was widespread enough to count George Washington as a participant in at least one game according to the journal of a Valley Forge soldier called George Ewing.

It wrestled with baseball for popularity to the point that Professor Tim Lockley, a social historian of the American south at Warwick University, told the Guardian newspaper: “Cricket was by far the biggest sport in this period. Then the Civil War started in 1861, just when it was reaching its peak of popularity. The sport became a victim of that war”.

The sliding doors closed on cricket, at least as a mainstream sport.

After the Union victory in 1865, a handful of upmarket sporting clubs around New York and Philadelphia clung onto the game for a while.

Collegiate cricket flourished in the way that it did in England’s public schools.

The Philadelphian Club toured England in 1897 and played MCC, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and most of the county sides, their mighty all-rounder Bart King causing a stir as he destroyed a full-strength Sussex almost single-handed.

The team returned twice more, in 1903, when King inspired wins over Lancashire and Surrey, and 1908, when he topped the national bowling averages.



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