A sticky wicket


What's the meaning of the phrase 'A sticky wicket'?

A difficult situation.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A sticky wicket'?

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.”

Trend of a sticky wicket in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.