Feature

Cricket and Olympics: Great Britain stumps France for gold at Paris 1900

Two fifties and two five-wicket hauls marked the one and only cricket match played at the Olympics.

By Olympic Channel Writer ·

Only 366 runs were scored across four innings but the low-scoring cricket Test match played in the 1900 Olympic Games has a special place in sporting history.

Played across two days between Great Britain and France, it remains as the only cricket match played in the Olympics so far.

It was a game that fielded 24 cricketers in all, instead of the typical 22, and neither side had players who represented their national sides.

This despite England playing in Test matches against Australia since 1877.

Incidentally, the Paris Test in 1900 was the only international cricket match played that year.

But it does not hold the status of a first-class match as it was not an 11-a-side encounter and that it was scheduled for just two days.

Padding up for Paris 1900

While there were plans to include cricket in the Olympics at the inaugural Athens Games in 1896, it didn’t manage to gather adequate participation and so it was scrapped. However, the sport would make its debut four years later.

In 1900, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium threw their hats in the cricket ring but the latter two pulled out after their bids to co-host the Games did not materialise.

In effect, it made the match at the Vélodrome de Vincennes, a cycling venue, played on August 19 and 20 between Great Britain, referred to as England in the flyers at the time, and France the final.

Cricket in Olympics played out during the preshow prior to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games

The European teams played what is in modern-day called a Test match, playing two innings each over two days - a Test nowadays is a five-day affair - though 12 players batted for each team after an agreement was struck between the two captains.

The printed scorecards, thus, had the additional name penned down by hand.

Low-scoring cricket Olympics match

Neither of the sides fielded a national team. Great Britain was represented by the Devon and Somerset Wanderers club, who were on tour to France at the time and were asked to travel to Paris for the Olympics.

Their opposition were represented by a team called All Paris, whose 12 members largely comprised British emigrants.

Only two players from the 24 who took to the field over the two days had played first-class cricket.

Great Britain’s Alfred Bowerman and Montagu Toller, both having played for Somerset, incidentally put on the best performances of the match in batting and bowling, respectively.

Great Britain won the only cricket match in the Olympics -- but only with five minutes left in the second day -- by 158 runs as France could only muster up 104 runs in the entire affair.

The match was originally billed as an event slated for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, a world's fair.

Interestingly, the winning team were awarded silver medals while France were given bronze, with both teams also receiving miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower.

The medals were later converted to gold and silver respectively and the contest was stamped as an official Olympic event only in 1912.

Great Britain's captain Charles Beachcroft and Alfred Bowerman were the only two batsmen to score a fifty in the game, both in the second innings, while bowlers Frederick Christian's seven-wicket haul in the first innings and Montagu Toller's 7/9 in the second put paid to the French side.

Performers depict an English countryside view during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Cricket at the Commonwealth and Asian Games

Cricket was pencilled into the calendar at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis as the USA played host to the Games for the first time. However, when the final event list was released, cricket was dropped due to lack of participation.

The sport has since made an appearance in three other multi-sport events. Cricket was played in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, with the event in in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia fielding a number of high-profile cricketers - Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Curtly Ambrose to name a few - and at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games.

“Standing up on the podium, receiving the medal and singing our national anthem is an experience I will never forget and will always treasure,” Shaun Pollock was quoted saying by the International Cricket Council (ICC) website referring to the 1998 Commonwealth Games triumph.

Cricket is set to make another appearance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games but thus far, it only includes a women’s competition.

However, there has been an effort in recent years for cricket to be in the Olympics, for the 2028 Games at Los Angeles in particular.

“That’s what the ICC are working towards at the moment and that would be a huge bonus for cricket worldwide, it would be fantastic,” former England captain and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) World Cricket Committee chairman Mike Gatting said in 2019.