*Caveat: Officially, the United Kingdom has a nuclear weapons program, not England. But for the sake of continuity, I am going to just use England in the post.
**Also, part two of this three part series is here.
Earlier today, over on Twitter, I mentioned that a nuclear attack scenario put on by 10 Downing in 1980 was named after the cricket fielding position: “Square Leg.” Cricket and nuclear weapons, hopelessly entwined…and so I begin part three of my discussion on the test nations with a nuclear arsenal. Yesterday was India, today…
England invented cricket. In the sixteenth century, give or take, in or around Guildford in the county of Surrey. Records are spotty, of course, and some historians will tell you that a similar bat and ball sport dates all the way back to 1300 CE, but that seems like a bit of a stretch. The romantic likes to think that the game is over 900 years old, of course, but the realist in me says that I am going to have to go with it being just, just, 600 years young.
England cricketers played in the very first test match, against Australia, on March the 15th, 1876.
England was also one of the founding five fathers of the nuclear weapon phenomenon, along with the US, China, the Soviet Union, and France. (Those five nations also happen to be the five permanent members of the UN security council.) Their first weapon’s test was on October the 3rd, 1952, and their most recent on the 26th of November, 1991. (I am going to look a bit more into that most recent test. I mean, the Berlin Wall had fallen, the USSR was in shambles – why in the blue hell did the UK think it would be just a dandy idea to detonate a 20 kiloton nuclear warhead in the Nevada desert? A question for another day, and another blog.)
1952 was an interesting time for England.
The War was over, of course, and the good guys had won. But the country was in ruins, the balance of world power had shifted to the USA and the USSR, they were bankrupt…
…and The Empire was disintegrating.
One of the final dominoes to fall was India in 1947.
And so, in some ways, as mentioned yesterday, England has been in steady decline since going nuclear, while Pakistan and India have only strengthened their presence on the world stage. (Pakistan has taken a couple big steps backward in the last few years, admittedly.)
The real question here is: using their nuclear weapons program as a bookmark: how has England performed on the cricket pitch?
Their last match before their first weapons test was against India, on August 14-19 at the Kennington Oval, in London.
The match was ruined by weather, and ended in a draw.
David Sheppard hit one of his three centuries that day. Later, he went on to become an ordained minister and rose to become the Bishop of Liverpool.
Their first match as a nuclear power was almost a year later, against Australia, on June 11-16 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, in the first match of the 1953 Ashes series.
Just like at the Oval a year prior, the match ended in a draw. In fact, four out of the five matches of that year’s Ashes series ended in draws. England won the final match by eight wickets to regain the trophy.
David Sheppard didn’t play in the game at Trent Bridge, but Australia’s Lindsay Hassett did. Hassett was his country’s captain during their tour of England for the Victory Series in 1945, as a Sergeant in the Australian army.
The series is largely credited with re-popularizing the game in England after the War.
Before going nuclear, England played in 302 test matches that were not abandoned. They won 116 of them, lost 90 of them, and drew the rest.
Winning percentage, pre-nuclear: 38%
After October, 1952, England played in 623 test matches. They won 211 of them, lost 175, and drew the rest.
Winning percentage, post-nuclear: 34%.
And, therefore, unlike India and unlike Pakistan, England’s performance on the cricket field has gone downhill since developing a nuclear program.
There are no conclusions to be drawn here. I think it is interesting, though.
Two of England’s former colonies, developing nuclear weapons, becoming cricketing powerhouses, while England’s empire falls apart, and they lose their grip on the sport they invented, they popularized…
And most importantly it must be remembered that the game as we know it today does not exist without that broken empire.
Which, as I mentioned on Twitter earlier, will be a topic of a blog later in the week.