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Cricket's debut at the Olympic Games 1900, Paris

952   //    21 Jul 2016, 15:23 IST
Members of the French senior and junior cricket team and officials pose, exactly 100 years to the day England beat France in the 1900 Paris Olympics at cricket 20 August 2000, prior to the start of a match against on old England XI at Hastings.

Surprising as it sounds, yet it is true. Cricket made its debut in the Olympics back in 1900. It was the second Olympics ever, the maiden one being four years earlier in Athens, Greece. It was proposed that Cricket would be introduced as an Olympic sport in its first edition itself, but due to lack of participants, Cricket took a backseat. Initially, four teams were supposed to play in 1900 Summer Olympics, in Paris. Belgium and Netherlands were supposed to co-host the 1900 Olympics, but when their bids failed they pulled out their names from Cricket. So, the remaining two teams, France and England contested for honours.

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The two-day game which started on 19th August 1900 was won by England. The two participating teams were not selected nationally. England was represented by a touring club named Devon and Somerset Wanderers. The Host team named the “French Athletic Club Union” consisted players from two clubs—Union Cub and the Standard Athletic Club, the majority of whom were British immigrants. As learnt from Ian Buchanan in Cricket at the 1900 Games, he said, “so few of the member clubs of the Society actually played cricket that the team was drawn from just two clubs: the now defunct Union Club and the Standard Athletic Club.”

The French players from the two clubs were mostly British workmen who came in Paris to build the Eiffel Tower.

 The venue of the match, Vélodrome de Vincennes, at the 1900 Summer Olympics Pic : (Wkipedia)

The ticket prices for the Cricket match at the 1900 Olympic Games were set at 1 Franc and 50 Cents. A 20000-bicycle track was selected as the venue for the match. There were immense publicity and distribution of posters prior to the match, but the efforts failed as a handful of people attended the match. The teams were playing with 12 players each side with a mutual agreement.

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The match started at 11 a.m. in the morning. Devon and Somerset Wanderers were batting first. They were bowled out for 117. In reply, the French were bundled for 78 runs. The day ended along with the French innings at 5 p.m. The Wanderers scored 145 next morning for the loss of 5 wickets and called off their second innings.

The target set for the French team was 185 runs. But the chase was a massacre; they lost their first 10 wickets for 11 runs. Though their initial intention of playing out for a draw went well for the last wicket, but eventually they were all out for 26 runs. Devon and Somerset Wanderers won the match by 158 runs and secured the Gold Medal in the only ever Cricket event at the Olympic Games.

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A sports lover par excellence. Keeping track of sports-related events around the world is my passion, addiction, and would like to take it up as a profession. India locking horns with Pakistan in front of a packed Eden Gardens is a sight I crave for.
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