The History Of Cricket

The origins of cricket are a bit of a mystery. Both written and pictorial evidence, of what appears to be cricket, date back to the Plantagenet period.

In these paintings, it is somewhat difficult to determine whether the game being played is indeed cricket or a version of ‘rounders’.

Here's our brief guide to the history of cricket.

The first most likely depiction of the game comes from an illustration of a man demonstrating a stroke to a boy holding a straight club in a Decretal of Pope Gregory IX. 

A review of the accounts of the Royal Household in the year 1300 reveals the sums of 100 shillings and 6 pounds were spent on ‘creag’ and other sports of Prince Edward. 

The reference mentions Edward I, then aged 15, playing a game called ‘creag’ in Newenden, Kent.

There is no definitive evidence that this game was indeed cricket, but it does seem likely.

In Tudor times there were definite references to boys playing ‘creckett’ and during the seventeenth century there were also references made that Oliver Cromwell played cricket in his youth.

The first definite mention of the game came in a court case in 1597 over a dispute between the ownership of a plot of land involving the Royal Grammar School in Guilford.

A coroner by the name of John Derrick testified that he and his friend had played ‘Kreckett’ on the land some fifty years earlier. By the end of the seventeenth century there were mentions of cricket games in local newspapers, but the first real reference in literature appeared in a poem about a rural cricket match in March 1706 by William Goldwin.

It is generally accepted that cricket began as a children’s game around 1550 somewhere in the counties of Sussex, Surrey and Kent in an area known as the Weald. These areas were perfect for the game as there were clearings in the forest where the sheep had grazed and therefore provided the short grass needed for the playing field. 

The game was then played by working men in the early 1600s and soon interest grew from the gentry as it gave them a gambling opportunity.

There is also another possibility that cricket was derived from ancient bat-and-ball games played in the Indian subcontinent. It was then transported to Europe via Persia and the near east by merchants and from here developed into the cricket we know here in England and which is played professionally in most of the Commonwealth.

By the end of the 17th Century, cricket had risen in popularity and the big games were reported on.

The first of these matches documentated was a Sussex match in 1697.

It is generally believed that ‘village cricket’ had developed by the middle of the 17th century but it was not until the following century that ‘county cricket’ really developed.

After the Puritan era, cricket thrived and so did the enormous rise in gambling on games.

In 1664 a Gambling Act was passed to limit an individual stake to £100, a small fortune in those days and a world away from the current cricket betting culture.

As cricket moved into the eighteenth century, the enormous gambling led to the first patrons of teams being formed which is the likely origin of the county game today.

Cricket then started to move around the world. In the eighteenth century cricket travelled around the colonies to places such as West Indies, India and New Zealand.

It arrived in South Africa and New Zealand the following century.

The Laws of Cricket were codified for the first time in 1744 by the so-called ‘Star and Garter Club’ who ultimately founded the MCC at Lord’s in 1787.

Cricket faced a real crisis at the start of the nineteenth century as virtually all matches ceased during the periods of war. It was after this time that the campaign to allow overarm bowling started to gain support.

The game saw fundamental changes as all the modern day county clubs were established.

The first ever International match took place between Canada and USA in 1844 and it was not for another 15 years that England would embark on their first tour.

1864 was a massive year for cricket as it was not only the year that legalised the use of overarm bowling, but it was the year that the fatherstone of English cricket, WG Grace, made his debut.

As cricket moved into the twentieth century, the game started to change. First, in 1889, the normal four ball over was replaced with first five balls and then to the current six ball over in 1900.

The Australians actually tried an eight ball over at this time and it was adopted experimentally in England for the 1939 season but never succeeded.

In the 1960s, England county teams started playing limited overs cricket for the first time which resulted in the shortened version of the game having great support. Since then cricket has become an even bigger attraction and is currently one of the most popular sports in the world.

The introduction of shorter brands of cricket, including the hugely popular Twenty20 concept, have proved a major success in drawing a new audience.

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