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A sticky wicket (or sticky dog, or glue pot) is a
metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of ...
used to describe a difficult circumstance. It originated as a term for difficult circumstances in the sport of
cricket Cricket is a bat-and-ball gameBat-and-ball may refer to: *Bat-and-ball games Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games) are field games played by two opposing teams, in which the action starts when the defending team throws a ball at a ded ...

cricket
, caused by a damp and soft
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...

pitch
.


In cricket

The phrase comes from the game of cricket. "
Wicket In cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two Bail ...

Wicket
" has several meanings in cricket: in this case it refers to the rectangular area, also known as the pitch, in the centre of the
cricket field A cricket field is a large grass field on which the game of cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pit ...
between the
stumps In cricket, the stumps are the three vertical posts that support the bails and form the wicket In cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at ...
. The wicket is usually covered in a much shorter grass than the rest of the field or entirely bare, making it susceptible to variations in weather, which in turn cause the ball to bounce differently. If rain falls and the wicket becomes wet, the ball may not bounce predictably, making it very difficult for the
batsman In cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two Bail ...
. Furthermore, as the pitch dries, conditions can change swiftly, with
spin bowling Spin bowling is a bowling (cricket), bowling technique in cricket, in which the ball is delivered slowly but with the potential to deviate sharply after bouncing, and the bowler is referred to as a spinner. Purpose The main aim of spin bowling ...
being especially devastating, as the ball can deviate laterally from straight by several feet. Once the wet surface begins to dry in a hot sun "the ball will rise sharply, steeply and erratically. A good length ball ... becomes a potential lethal delivery. Most batsmen on such wickets found it virtually impossible to survive let alone score." Certain cricketers developed reputations for their outstanding abilities to perform on sticky wickets. Australian
Victor Trumper Victor Thomas Trumper (2 November 1877 – 28 June 1915) was an Australian cricketer known as the most stylish and versatile batsman of the Golden Age of cricket, capable of playing match-winning innings on wet wickets his contemporaries found u ...

Victor Trumper
was one. On occasions in the history of cricket unusual tactics have been employed to extract the best use of a sticky wicket. One example is the First Test in the 1950–51 Ashes series. As recorded in ''The Ashes' Strangest Moments'', as the pitch at
the Gabba The Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as the Gabba, is a major sports stadium in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia. The nickname Gabba derives from the suburb of Woolloongabba, in which it is located. Over the years, the Gabb ...
began to dry, England declared their first innings at just 68/7, in order to exploit the conditions. Australia were even more extreme, declaring at 32/7. "...the ball proceeded to perform capers all against the laws of
gravitation Gravity (), or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon Types of natural phenomena include: Weather, fog, thunder, tornadoes; biological processes, decomposition, germination seedlings, three days after germination. Germination is th ...

gravitation
, and there came the craziest day's cricket imaginable, with twenty wickets falling for 130 runs and two declarations that must surely be unique in the annals of Test cricket." ''The Language of Cricket'' (1934) defines a sticky wicket as "when its surface is in a glutinous condition". Hence a "sticky wicket" refers to a difficult situation.


In modern day professional cricket

Modern professional cricket is played, around the world, on covered pitches. Sticky wickets are mostly seen in amateur cricket, but the phenomenon can occur when covers are defective, slow to be applied or, particularly in warm weather, the grass underneath "sweats" as moisture evaporates. When covers were introduced into England's
County Championship The County Championship (referred to as the LV= Insurance County Championship for sponsorship reasons) is the domestic first-class cricket competition in England and Wales and is organised by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). It bec ...
,
John Woodcock John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works *Johannine literature ** Gospel of John, a title often shortened to ...
wrote an article for the 1981 ''
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack ''Wisden Cricketers' Almanack'', or simply ''Wisden'', colloquially the Bible of Cricket, is a cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the c ...
'', criticising the move, in an article titled, "Sticky dog is put down". He added, "I cannot forbear ... from lamenting ... a part of the very heritage of English cricket – a drying pitch and a sizzling sun."


In croquet

In the game of
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to partic ...

croquet
, the phrase "sticky wicket" may refer to a hoop (wicket) that is difficult for a ball to go through because of the narrowness of the opening. This usage is confined to the United States.


As a metaphor

An early example of the term in the cricket sense can be seen in ''Bell's Life in London'', July 1882: "The ground... was suffering from the effects of recent rain, and once more the Australians found themselves on a sticky wicket." The term is frequently used in everyday parlance as a metaphor. The former leader of the Conservatives in the
European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three legislative branches of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of that are located primarily in . The union has a total area of and an estimated tot ...

European Parliament
, Tom Spencer MEP occasionally used to refer to batting on a sticky wicket to confuse the Parliament's interpreters, it being very difficult to translate into other languages.


References


External links

{{wiktionary
Definition at cricket terminology site
Cricket terminology Metaphors referring to sport