Sticky wicket

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For the M*A*S*H episode, see Sticky Wicket.
Sticky Wicket at North Perrott Cricket Club.

A sticky wicket, (or sticky dog, or glue pot)[1] is a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance. It originated as a term for difficult circumstances in the sport of cricket, caused by a damp and soft pitch.


The phrase comes from the game of cricket. The wicket, in this use, refers to the rectangular area in the centre of the cricket field between the stumps. A bowler bowls the ball from one end of the wicket, bouncing the ball upon it, before the batsman hits the ball at other end. The wicket is usually covered in a much shorter grass than the rest of the field, making it more susceptible to variations in weather which cause the ball to bounce differently.

If the wicket is wet when the ball is bowled it will not bounce as high as usual, appearing, from the point of view of the batsman, to stick to the ground making it very difficult to hit the ball well no matter the shot played. Hence a "sticky wicket" refers to a situation where there is no option you can take which is necessarily a good one. Such wickets are far less common in cricket now since matches tend to have stopped being played on uncovered wickets, especially in the professional sport.

Examples of use[edit]

An early example of the term 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."[2]

The Independent used the phrase in a story about the Bank of England.[3]

The Melbourne Age used the phrase in a headline "WTO on a sticky wicket against Japan's rice bowlers".[4]

The phrase has some currency in North America, despite the relatively low popularity of cricket there.[5] The phrase has made inroads into American popular culture, including in Take out the Trash Day, the 13th episode of the first season of the television drama The West Wing.[citation needed] It was also used in the 2010 American film She's Out of My League by Kirk, the film's protagonist.[6] The term was often used in Hogan's Heroes.[citation needed]

US president Barack Obama during a Parliamentary dinner speech on his state visit to Canberra, Australia while talking in Australian lingo said "...we have stood together in good times and in bad, we have faced our share of sticky wickets"[7]

The Flintstones used the phrase in Season 1, Episode 14:"The Prowler". When Barney extracts Fred's head from a flower pot by hitting him with a croquet mallet, He says "Steady Fred, Steady, I bat a Sticky Wicket", confusing the term with a Croquet wicket, which he proceeds to drive Fred through.

The animated cartoon series Fantastic Max featured a villainous character named Sticky Wicket in the episode "Toys will be Toys".

The video game Animal Crossing: New Leaf uses this phrase whenever the player catches a cricket. "I caught a cricket! That's a sticky wicket, isn't it?"

"Sticky Wicket" was the 21st episode of the first season of the TV series M*A*S*H. It originally aired on 4 March 1973. After Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce operates on an emergency patient, the patient fails to improve after surgery. Hawkeye becomes overly concerned with the case, to the point of falling asleep in Post-Op, snapping at Trapper for playing poker too loudly, and moving out of the Swamp to the supply tent. One night, Hawkeye has an epiphany and reopens the patient to find a small piece of shrapnel damage behind the sigmoid colon.

The San Francisco Chronicle used the phrase in a headline "For father and son in 'The Match', life's a sticky wicket".[8]

The phrase was written on a note hidden under a doughnut given to the character Dicky Randall played by Rex Harrison in the 1940 film Night Train To Munich, directed by Carol Reed.[citation needed]

The phrase was used in the 2008 Paul Gross film Passchendaele by Dobson-Hughes (Jim Mezon).[9]

The phrase was used on The Big Bang Theory in Season 6, Episode 6, "The extract Obliteration". Sheldon Cooper said it during the making of Fun with Flags.

A scientist used the phrase used in Granite Flats in Season 2, Episode 1 "Children of Darkness, Children of Light" while one of his patients was under hypnosis.

The former leader of the Conservatives in the 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.


In the game of 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.[10]


In the Greg Brown song "Kokomo", a lyric references a 'sticky wicket': "...with a sticky wicket and a Greyhound ticket...".

In 1984, jazz vocalist Al Jarreau on his album lbums High Crime release, made a song dedicated to Sticky Wicket. The song details the escapade of a young girl and more suitors than she can handle for her young age.[citation needed]

In 2013, Irish cricket-pop band The Duckworth Lewis Method called their second album, and one of its songs, Sticky Wickets.


  1. ^ Green, Jonathon (1987). Dictionary of Jargon. Routledge. p. 528. ISBN 9780710099198. 
  2. ^ Martin, Gary (2007). "A sticky wicket". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 2007-06-04. 
  3. ^ Harrison, Michael. "Michael Harrison's Outlook: On a sticky wicket, the Governor opts for the forward defensive prod". The Independent. Retrieved 11 August 2005. 
  4. ^ Nualkhair, Chawadee (12 September 2003). "WTO on a sticky wicket against Japan's rice bowlers". Melbourne Age. Retrieved 2007-06-04. 
  5. ^ History of United States cricket
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Nolan, Rachel (13 January 2008). "For father and son in "The Match", life's a sticky wicket". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Partridge, Eric; Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. London; New York: Routledge. p. 1869. ISBN 0-415-25938-X. 

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