Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Famously, Peter Adolph had originally produced his table football game to give himself a winter income, as his natural history/egg collecting business was very seasonal. However, he was quick to follow his football success with this summer variation. The football game was launched in early 1947, and the first cricket set arrived in February 1949. The cricket game continued to be matched to the football version, so that by 1953 the full compliment of three box sets were available for both games from his mail order service. Then, when the OO scale football started to take off in the mid 1960s, it was natural that he would again produce a matching cricket game. Like football, this had its own selection of accessories and choices of team. However, it remained a minor part of the Subbuteo range and the range of accessories which was established by 1969 was never expanded on.
The 1949 Edition.
Peter Adolph cleverly reused as much of his football production as he could when producing the first cricket sets. The players once again were to be cut out of a strip of card, and their overall shape was identical. The football bases were utilised to support the figures, and also allowed for fielding using Adolph's flick-to-kick technique. Even the bat was essentially another player-shaped piece of card, in a handled base. It was rather like using a goalkeeper standing on his head.
As usual with early Subbuteo, the set had a wealth of paperwork - rules, assembly instructions, score sheets, a price list and identification stickers for the fielders. The score sheets were available to buy separately. The blue sheet shown was essentially a promotional sheet, with cricket on one side and football on the other.
Cricket rules page gives more details of how the game was played.
Like his football game, the original set gains a box illustration as the 1950s arrive. Unlike the football logo, this one is a lovely representation of one of the game figures.
The 1950s Flat Versions.
By the early 1950s both the football and cricket were being produced in three versions to suit various budgets. The original set became the "Assembly Outfit", with a new colour label, and press-out card figures. The only difference between this and the Combination is that the latter had the more expensive celluloid figures. The combination came in a cute little square box, and the label on the lid is either green or light blue. Looking under the label of my sky blue set (dated 1956) it is clear that the box should be dark blue to match the Super Assembled set. However, age, and damp (and possibly the glue used) has left many of these sets with a blotchy blue-green look to the box.
The Super Assembled set does what you would expect. The celluloid players are already assembled and displayed attractively in a large dark blue box. The extra cost of this set was mostly due to having a marked out playing surface. Although cricket grounds are not rectangular, Peter Adolph made the decision to simply mark up a football pitch cloth with a cricket square and boundary. This does have the advantage of giving a unified "Subbuteo look" across the range, as well as being able to fit a standard rectangular dining room table.
|Assembly Outfit:||with cardboard figures, and plastic bases etc. Price 10/1d in 1957|
|Combination Edition:||with celluloid plastic figures and plastic bases etc. Price 14/5 in 1957|
|Super Assembled Set:||with deluxe components and "marked out" baize cloth. Price 42/- in 1957|
Here are a couple of pictures of the pieces from an assembly outfit. You should be able to see that the bowler is identical to the version used in the OO scale version, and the bat is used in the same way - although in the early game it is a normal flat figure in a base with a handle - which is held upside down. A bit like using a celluloid goalkeeper on his head. The main differences between this and the later game are the fielders, who are on normal football bases, and the simple wickets. The different bases on the fielders result in different rules for catching and fielding. I've now produced a 1950s cricket rules page for those who wish to play this version of the game, and a flat era accessories page.
The OO scale versions.
After the success of the OO scale football which was released in Autumn 1961, it made sense for Peter Adolph to update the cricket game to a similar 3-D version. However, this seems to have taken a few years. I don't actually have a definite date for this transition. Charles Stadden's pattern figure invoices show that the majority of the cricket figures were invoiced for in February 1962. This included the Umpire, Bowler, two fielders in different positions, a wicket keeper and the single action batsman. However, I haven't seen any OO scale paperwork earlier than 1966-67. The game itself does change with the addition of the catching bases, and wicket holders. In addition, the OO scale bowler never got used practically, and perhaps all those issues needed ironing out.
The other quirk worth highlighting is that the second "standing" batsman was not in Charles Stadden's original invoice of 1962. In fact, he did not invoice for this white metal pattern until January 1966. Looking at sets on ebay, it looks as if the club and display editions with 1966-67 paperwork have two identical "action pose" batsmen, so this second figure for the non-strikers end was a late arrival.
The four alternative versions of cricket, closely match the football editions of their era. The Display and Club editions were the first arrivals in or before 1966. The large Test Match Edition was added by 1969. A final set was the expensive and short lived Floodlighting Edition which arrived in 1981. This showed how cricket was changing in the 1980s, but although a "NatWest special with pyjamas on", was in planning that year, this was an aborted update of the game. (The Natwest trophy was originally a 60-over tournament, with the first version being played over the summer of 1981). Instead, all Subbuteo cricket production ceased in 1982.
As with the football display edition, this was basically the club edition without a pitch. The box matches the size and design of the football version, and makes for an attractive compact set. As the pitch was the most expensive part of the set, it cut the price drastically. In the 1960s, the display edition was 22/11d, whereas the club edition was 45/11d. The display edition had left the range by 1973, and so is only available in this early box type. I've shown the interior of this one, to show how the contents were laid out. The same layout was used as half of the Club Edition (shown below) with the pitch taking up the other half of the box.
The illustrated set has paperwork dated to 1966-67, and had some distinctive early variations. The score determinator was the thin papery version, the bat handle was still the item from the flat sets, and both batsmen were the action figure (see notes above).
The standard cricket set of course, and the longest running version. This included one fielding team, a bowler, two batsmen, two umpires, the balls, the bat, the wickets and wicket stops. In both the display and club editions, the usual arrangement was red capped batsmen, and light blue capped fielders. The early sets have the same variations to the pieces that were seen in the display set (so see above for details).
The set has two distinct boxes. Like the football game, the mid 1970s saw the box lid switch to a landscape design, with a bigger picture and a brighter colour. The original lid is still illustrated in the 1972-73 catalogue, and I have seen the later version with paperwork dated to 1975. Oddly, the Test Match Edition has an early 1970s picture variation to look for with the original box, but I've yet to see this on a club edition, and there isn't a big window date-wise for this to fit into.
The late 1970s box originally kept the card interior (as shown) but later swapped to polystyrene. The polystyrene interiors were designed to be modular, so you can see the insert in the Test Match Edition pictures below. Whilst a lot of collectors like the original card look, the polystyrene interior was undoubted an improvement for cricket when it came to protecting the small and fragile game pieces.
The 1980s sets see a new rules book with a sky blue cover (designed to match those for Hockey and rugby at the time). If you are unlucky, the final 1980s sets can also feature a horrible nylon pitch.
Test Match Edition (C310).
This expensive set was designed in the manner of the football International editions, and therefore included most of the cricket accessory range - a scoreboard, the sightscreens, the groundsmen, and the deckchair supporters. Like the 1960s football editions, the fence surround wasn't included in this set (rather sadly), which is why it remains one of the rarer cricket items. The set was a later arrival to the game, turning up in 1969. The reason was simply because the extra components were also later arrivals to the range. The 1966-67 Cricket range only reached set TC-M. Charles Stadden's invoice for the two deck chair users and the "man in cap pulling roller" was dated 19th January 1967.
The above pictures show that the early box actually has two different illustrations to look out for. The one on the left is the original 1960s version, matched to the Display and Club. The one on the right is more difficult to date, because the early 1970s catalogues rarely illustrate the set boxes. This later version does appear on the reverse of the 1975-76 catalogue, which is right at the end of its run - the more modern looking set shown below had replaced it in the following year's illustration.
My 1970s version of this set features England (in blue caps) and Australia (in green caps), although sets can also feature the West Indies. The two batsmen and the wicket keeper are supplied in the colours of both teams, but as only one fielding team is supplied, this tends to be all fielders without caps to keep them neutral. I'm not sure how this was supposed to work with the West Indies, but of course, you could buy the fielding sides as separate sets.
Like the Club Edition, the Test Match set has a change of lid in the late 1970s to match the look of the other sports of the time. The new look was an improvement, with a richer blue, a bigger and better picture, and more prominent Subbuteo logos. The little circle featuring a kid playing the game was common to all the sports sets of the time.
This set then switched to a polystyrene inner at the end of the 1970s. Both card and polystyrene inners were designed the same way, with the standard club edition insert next to the one featuring the extras. The box lid had a final minor change in the 1980s, gaining a red bar for the Edition title, which matched the newly introduced floodlighting version. That set finally gains a number, and becomes set C310.
In the later versions of this set, you might be unlucky to get a nylon pitch. In addition, the sets finally start using fielders with caps, but often the hats are un-painted, so in effect, you have white capped fielders. I guess this kept them neutral.
C330: Floodlighting Edition.
Only available right at the end of the cricket run (from 1981-83), this was basically the Club edition with a pair of floodlights added. I thought floodlit one day cricket matches were a more recent development than this, but in fact they started in the mid 1970s. There are a couple of minor tweaks to this version. The cricket balls were white (so that they show up under the floodlights) and the batsmen and wicket keeper's pads were painted black. As with the 1980s Test Match Edition, you can get "neutral" fielders with white caps.
The Floodlighting set was the most expensive cricket set produced, costing £17.50 in 1981 compared with £10.50 for the Club, and £12.50 for the Test Match. This surprised me at first, but is logical when you think of the cost of floodlights compared to a scoreboard, sightscreens and some spectators. Nevertheless, the boxes of Test and Floodlighting set are the same size, and somehow the Test Match one feels the more classy. Which is perhaps why the floodlighting set did not sell in any great numbers.
If the floodlighting set had been a success, then Subbuteo Sports Games were all set to launch a set of cricketers in coloured outfits. Sadly, the cutbacks of the early 1980s put pay to that idea. But you can recreate the look with some Wicketz players.
If you want to look at the cricket accessories, then these now have their own page.
[ Main Page | Next Page ]