What’s happening when a match is lit? From Answers.com:
Matches contain sulfur, glass powder, and an oxidizing agent as the components in the match head. When you strike a match, the friction due to the particles of glass powder rubbing together generates enough heat to convert some of the red phosphorous to white phosphorous, which burns in the presence of oxygen gas. The heat from the friction also causes the oxidizing agent to produce oxygen gas, igniting the small amount of white phosphorous. Once ignited, the oxygen gas fuels the flame while the rest of the sulfur catches on fire. Of course, this entire process happens in a fraction of a second.
The basic idea is, when a liquid comes in contact with something really hot—about twice as hot as the liquid’s boiling point, although it changes on certain factors like the size of the drop—the liquid never comes in direct contact with the surface; vapor acts as a barrier that keeps the two separated. When you flick drops of water on to a pan to check the heat, that skittering you see and hear is because of this effect.