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The meaning and origin of the expression: A sticky wicket

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A sticky wicket

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Meaning

A difficult situation.

Origin

A wicket is, of course, the playing surface used in cricket. This phrase is a direct allusion to the difficulty of playing on a wet and sticky pitch. The earliest citations of the expression refer specifically to cricket; for example, 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."

For the figurative use of the phrase we need look no further than the cricket-playing countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. The first such citation that I've found is from the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, April 1930:

"Your Excellency, Sir William Morrison, and gentlemen. I am afraid tonight, owing to the rain we have had in this island of Springs, I am batting on rather a sticky wicket. We have just heard Sir William Morrison make, in my opinion, a magnificent speech. I do not hope or think of living up to that."