The game of cricket has a known history spanning
from the 16th century to the present day, with international matches played since 1844,
although the official history of international Test cricket began in 1877. During this time,
the game developed from its origins in England into a game which is now played professionally
in most of the Commonwealth of Nations. Early cricket Origin
No one knows when or where cricket began but there is a body of evidence, much of it circumstantial,
that strongly suggests the game was devised during Saxon or Norman times by children living
in the Weald, an area of dense woodlands and clearings in south-east England that lies
across Kent and Sussex. It is generally believed that cricket survived as a children’s game
for many generations before it was increasingly taken up by adults around the beginning of
the 17th century. Possibly cricket was derived from bowls, assuming bowls is the older sport,
by the intervention of a batsman trying to stop the ball from reaching its target by
hitting it away. Playing on sheep-grazed land or in clearings, the original implements may
have been a matted lump of sheep’s wool as the ball; a stick or a crook or another
farm tool as the bat; and a stool or a tree stump or a gate as the wicket.
Derivation of the name of “cricket” A number of words are thought to be possible
sources for the term “cricket”. In the earliest known reference to the sport in 1598, it is
called creckett. The name may have been derived from the Middle Dutch krick(-e), meaning a
stick; or the Old English cricc or cryce meaning a crutch or staff. Another possible source
is the Middle Dutch word krickstoel, meaning a long low stool used for kneeling in church
and which resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket.
According to Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert of Bonn University, “cricket”
derives from the Middle Dutch met desen, which also suggests a Dutch connection in the game’s
origin. It is more likely that the terminology of cricket was based on words in use in south
east England at the time and, given trade connections with the County of Flanders, especially
in the 15th century when it belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy, many Middle Dutch words
found their way into southern English dialects. First definite reference Despite many prior suggested references, the
first definite mention of the game is found in a 1598 court case concerning an ownership
dispute over a plot of common land in Guildford, Surrey. A 59-year old coroner, John Derrick,
testified that he and his school friends had played creckett on the site fifty years earlier
when they attended the Free School. Derrick’s account proves beyond reasonable doubt that
the game was being played in Surrey circa 1550.
The first reference to cricket being played as an adult sport was in 1611, when two men
in Sussex were prosecuted for playing cricket on Sunday instead of going to church. In the
same year, a dictionary defined cricket as a boys’ game and this suggests that adult
participation was a recent development. Early 17th century
A number of references occur up to the English Civil War and these indicate that cricket
had become an adult game contested by parish teams, but there is no evidence of county
strength teams at this time. Equally, there is little evidence of the rampant gambling
that characterised the game throughout the 18th century. It is generally believed, therefore,
that village cricket had developed by the middle of the 17th century but that county
cricket had not and that investment in the game had not begun.
The Commonwealth After the Civil War ended in 1648, the new
Puritan government clamped down on “unlawful assemblies”, in particular the more raucous
sports such as football. Their laws also demanded a stricter observance of the Sabbath than
there had been previously. As the Sabbath was the only free time available to the lower
classes, cricket’s popularity may have waned during the Commonwealth. Having said that,
it did flourish in public fee-paying schools such as Winchester and St Paul’s. There is
no actual evidence that Oliver Cromwell’s regime banned cricket specifically and there
are references to it during the interregnum that suggest it was acceptable to the authorities
provided that it did not cause any “breach of the Sabbath”. It is believed that the nobility
in general adopted cricket at this time through involvement in village games.
Gambling and press coverage Cricket certainly thrived after the Restoration
in 1660 and is believed to have first attracted gamblers making large bets at this time. In
1664, the “Cavalier” Parliament passed the Gaming Act 1664 which limited stakes to £100,
although that was still a fortune at the time, equivalent to about £13 thousand in present
day terms . Cricket had certainly become a significant gambling sport by the end of the
17th century. There is a newspaper report of a “great match” played in Sussex in 1697
which was 11-a-side and played for high stakes of 50 guineas a side.
With freedom of the press having been granted in 1696, cricket for the first time could
be reported in the newspapers. But it was a long time before the newspaper industry
adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, coverage of the game.
During the first half of the 18th century, press reports tended to focus on the betting
rather than on the play. 18th-century cricket Patronage and players
Gambling introduced the first patrons because some of the gamblers decided to strengthen
their bets by forming their own teams and it is believed the first “county teams” were
formed in the aftermath of the Restoration in 1660, especially as members of the nobility
were employing “local experts” from village cricket as the earliest professionals. The
first known game in which the teams use county names is in 1709 but there can be little doubt
that these sort of fixtures were being arranged long before that. The match in 1697 was probably
Sussex versus another county. The most notable of the early patrons were
a group of aristocrats and businessmen who were active from about 1725, which is the
time that press coverage became more regular, perhaps as a result of the patrons’ influence.
These men included the 2nd Duke of Richmond, Sir William Gage, Alan Brodrick and Edward
Stead. For the first time, the press mentions individual players like Thomas Waymark.
Cricket moves out of England Cricket was introduced to North America via
the English colonies in the 17th century, probably before it had even reached the north
of England. In the 18th century it arrived in other parts of the globe. It was introduced
to the West Indies by colonists and to India by British East India Company mariners in
the first half of the century. It arrived in Australia almost as soon as colonisation
began in 1788. New Zealand and South Africa followed in the early years of the 19th century.
Cricket never caught on in Canada, despite efforts by an imperial-minded elite to promote
the game as a way of identifying with the British Empire. Canada, unlike Australia and
the West Indies, witnessed a continual decline in the popularity of the game during 1860–1960.
Linked to upper class British-Canadian elites, the game never became popular with the general
public. In the summer season it had to compete with baseball. During the First World War,
Canadian units stationed in Britain played baseball, not cricket.
Development of the Laws The basic rules of cricket such as bat and
ball, the wicket, pitch dimensions, overs, how out, etc. have existed since time immemorial.
In 1728, the Duke of Richmond and Alan Brodick drew up Articles of Agreement to determine
the code of practice in a particular game and this became a common feature, especially
around payment of stake money and distributing the winnings given the importance of gambling.
In 1744, the Laws of Cricket were codified for the first time and then amended in 1774,
when innovations such as lbw, middle stump and maximum bat width were added. These laws
stated that the principals shall choose from amongst the gentlemen present two umpires
who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The codes were drawn up by the so-called “Star
and Garter Club” whose members ultimately founded MCC at Lord’s in 1787. MCC immediately
became the custodian of the Laws and has made periodic revisions and recodifications subsequently.
Continued growth in England The game continued to spread throughout England
and, in 1751, Yorkshire is first mentioned as a venue. The original form of bowling was
superseded sometime after 1760 when bowlers began to pitch the ball and study variations
in line, length and pace. Scorecards began to be kept on a regular basis from 1772 and
since then an increasingly clear picture has emerged of the sport’s development. The first famous clubs were London and Dartford
in the early 18th century. London played its matches on the Artillery Ground, which still
exists. Others followed, particularly Slindon in Sussex which was backed by the Duke of
Richmond and featured the star player Richard Newland. There were other prominent clubs
at Maidenhead, Hornchurch, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Bromley, Addington, Hadlow and Chertsey.
But far and away the most famous of the early clubs was Hambledon in Hampshire. It started
as a parish organisation that first achieved prominence in 1756. The club itself was founded
in the 1760s and was well patronised to the extent that it was the focal point of the
game for about thirty years until the formation of MCC and the opening of Lord’s Cricket Ground
in 1787. Hambledon produced several outstanding players including the master batsman John
Small and the first great fast bowler Thomas Brett. Their most notable opponent was the
Chertsey and Surrey bowler Edward “Lumpy” Stevens, who is believed to have been the
main proponent of the flighted delivery. It was in answer to the flighted, or pitched,
delivery that the straight bat was introduced. The old “hockey stick” style of bat was only
really effective against the ball being trundled or skimmed along the ground.
Cricket and crisis Cricket faced its first real crisis during
the 18th century when major matches virtually ceased during the Seven Years’ War. This was
largely due to shortage of players and lack of investment. But the game survived and the
“Hambledon Era” proper began in the mid-1760s. Cricket faced another major crisis at the
beginning of the 19th century when a cessation of major matches occurred during the culminating
period of the Napoleonic Wars. Again, the causes were shortage of players and lack of
investment. But, as in the 1760s, the game survived and a slow recovery began in 1815.
On 17 June 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo British soldiers played a cricket
match in the Bois de la Cambre park in Brussels. Ever since the park area where that match
took place has been called La Pelouse des Anglais.
MCC was itself the centre of controversy in the Regency period, largely on account of
the enmity between Lord Frederick Beauclerk and George Osbaldeston. In 1817, their intrigues
and jealousies exploded into a match-fixing scandal with the top player William Lambert
being banned from playing at Lord’s Cricket Ground for life. Gambling scandals in cricket
have been going on since the 17th century. In the 1820s, cricket faced a major crisis
of its own making as the campaign to allow roundarm bowling gathered pace.
19th-century cricket The game also underwent a fundamental change
of organisation with the formation for the first time of county clubs. All the modern
county clubs, starting with Sussex in 1839, were founded during the 19th century. No sooner had the first county clubs established
themselves than they faced what amounted to “player action” as William Clarke created
the travelling All-England Eleven in 1846. Though a commercial venture, this team did
much to popularise the game in districts which had never previously been visited by high-class
cricketers. Other similar teams were created and this vogue lasted for about thirty years.
But the counties and MCC prevailed. The growth of cricket in the mid and late
19th century was assisted by the development of the railway network. For the first time,
teams from a long distance apart could play one other without a prohibitively time-consuming
journey. Spectators could travel longer distances to matches, increasing the size of crowds.
In 1864, another bowling revolution resulted in the legalisation of overarm and in the
same year Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack was first published.
The “Great Cricketer”, W G Grace, made his first-class debut in 1865. His feats did much
to increase the game’s popularity and he introduced technical innovations which revolutionised
the game, particularly in batting. International cricket begins
The first ever international cricket game was between the USA and Canada in 1844. The
match was played at the grounds of the St George’s Cricket Club in New York. In 1859, a team of leading English professionals
set off to North America on the first-ever overseas tour and, in 1862, the first English
team toured Australia. Between May and October 1868, a team of Australian
Aborigines toured England in what was the first Australian cricket team to travel overseas. In 1877, an England touring team in Australia
played two matches against full Australian XIs that are now regarded as the inaugural
Test matches. The following year, the Australians toured England for the first time and were
a spectacular success. No Tests were played on that tour but more soon followed and, at
The Oval in 1882, arguably the most famous match of all time gave rise to The Ashes.
South Africa became the third Test nation in 1889.
National championships A major watershed occurred in 1890 when the
official County Championship was constituted in England. This organisational initiative
has been repeated in other countries. Australia established the Sheffield Shield in 1892–93.
Other national competitions to be established were the Currie Cup in South Africa, the Plunkett
Shield in New Zealand and the Ranji Trophy in India.
The period from 1890 to the outbreak of the First World War has become an object of nostalgia,
ostensibly because the teams played cricket according to “the spirit of the game”, but
more realistically because it was a peacetime period that was shattered by the First World
War. The era has been called The Golden Age of cricket and it featured numerous great
names such as Grace, Wilfred Rhodes, C B Fry, K S Ranjitsinhji and Victor Trumper.
Balls per over In 1889 the immemorial four ball over was
replaced by a five ball over and then this was changed to the current six balls an over
in 1900. Subsequently, some countries experimented with eight balls an over. In 1922, the number
of balls per over was changed from six to eight in Australia only. In 1924 the eight
ball over was extended to New Zealand and in 1937 to South Africa. In England, the eight
ball over was adopted experimentally for the 1939 season; the intention was to continue
the experiment in 1940, but first-class cricket was suspended for the Second World War and
when it resumed, English cricket reverted to the six ball over. The 1947 Laws of Cricket
allowed six or eight balls depending on the conditions of play. Since the 1979/80 Australian
and New Zealand seasons, the six ball over has been used worldwide and the most recent
version of the Laws in 2000 only permits six ball overs.
20th-century cricket Growth of Test cricket When the Imperial Cricket Conference was founded
in 1909, only England, Australia and South Africa were members. India, West Indies and
New Zealand became Test nations before the Second World War and Pakistan soon afterwards.
The international game grew with several “affiliate nations” getting involved and, in the closing
years of the 20th century, three of those became Test nations also: Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe
and Bangladesh. Test cricket remained the sport’s highest
level of standard throughout the 20th century but it had its problems, notably in the infamous
“Bodyline Series” of 1932–33 when Douglas Jardine’s England used so-called “leg theory”
to try and neutralise the run-scoring brilliance of Australia’s Don Bradman.
Suspension of South Africa The greatest crisis to hit international cricket
was brought about by apartheid, the South African policy of racial segregation. The
situation began to crystallise after 1961 when South Africa left the Commonwealth of
Nations and so, under the rules of the day, its cricket board had to leave the International
Cricket Conference. Cricket’s opposition to apartheid intensified in 1968 with the cancellation
of England’s tour to South Africa by the South African authorities, due to the inclusion
of “coloured” cricketer Basil D’Oliveira in the England team. In 1970, the ICC members
voted to suspend South Africa indefinitely from international cricket competition. Ironically,
the South African team at that time was probably the strongest in the world.
Starved of top-level competition for its best players, the South African Cricket Board began
funding so-called “rebel tours”, offering large sums of money for international players
to form teams and tour South Africa. The ICC’s response was to blacklist any rebel players
who agreed to tour South Africa, banning them from officially sanctioned international cricket.
As players were poorly remunerated during the 1970s, several accepted the offer to tour
South Africa, particularly players getting towards the end of their careers for which
a blacklisting would have little effect. The rebel tours continued into the 1980s but
then progress was made in South African politics and it became clear that apartheid was ending.
South Africa, now a “Rainbow Nation” under Nelson Mandela, was welcomed back into international
sport in 1991. World Series Cricket The money problems of top cricketers were
also the root cause of another cricketing crisis that arose in 1977 when the Australian
media magnate Kerry Packer fell out with the Australian Cricket Board over TV rights. Taking
advantage of the low remuneration paid to players, Packer retaliated by signing several
of the best players in the world to a privately run cricket league outside the structure of
international cricket. World Series Cricket hired some of the banned South African players
and allowed them to show off their skills in an international arena against other world-class
players. The schism lasted only until 1979 and the “rebel” players were allowed back
into established international cricket, though many found that their national teams had moved
on without them. Long-term results of World Series Cricket have included the introduction
of significantly higher player salaries and innovations such as coloured kit and night
games. Limited-overs cricket
In the 1960s, English county teams began playing a version of cricket with games of only one
innings each and a maximum number of overs per innings. Starting in 1963 as a knockout
competition only, limited overs grew in popularity and, in 1969, a national league was created
which consequently caused a reduction in the number of matches in the County Championship.
Although many “traditional” cricket fans objected to the shorter form of the game, limited-over
cricket did have the advantage of delivering a result to spectators within a single day;
it did improve cricket’s appeal to younger or busier people; and it did prove commercially
successful. The first limited-over international match
took place at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1971 as a time-filler after a Test match had
been abandoned because of heavy rain on the opening days. It was tried simply as an experiment
and to give the players some exercise, but turned out to be immensely popular. limited-over
internationals have since grown to become a massively popular form of the game, especially
for busy people who want to be able to see a whole match. The International Cricket Council
reacted to this development by organising the first Cricket World Cup in England in
1975, with all the Test-playing nations taking part.
Analytic and graphic technology Limited-overs cricket increased television
ratings for cricket coverage. Innovative techniques introduced in coverage of limited-over matches
were soon adopted for Test coverage. The innovations included presentation of in-depth statistics
and graphical analysis, placing miniature cameras in the stumps, multiple usage of cameras
to provide shots from several locations around the ground, high-speed photography and computer
graphics technology enabling television viewers to study the course of a delivery and help
them understand an umpire’s decision. In 1992, the use of a third umpire to adjudicate
run-out appeals with television replays was introduced in the Test series between South
Africa and India. The third umpire’s duties have subsequently expanded to include decisions
on other aspects of play such as stumpings, catches and boundaries. From 2011, the third
umpire was being called upon to moderate review of umpires’ decisions, including LBW, with
the aid of virtual-reality tracking technologies, though such measures still could not free
some disputed decisions from heated controversy. 21st-century cricket
In June 2001, the ICC introduced a “Test Championship Table” and, in October 2002, a “One-day International
Championship Table”. As indicated by ICC rankings, the various cricket formats have continued
to be a major competitive sport in most former British Empire countries, notably the Indian
subcontinent, and new participants including the Netherlands. As of August 2013, the top
rankings were held by South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.
The ICC expanded its development programme, aiming to produce more national teams capable
of competing at the various formats. Development efforts are focused on African and Asian nations,
and on the United States. In 2004, the ICC Intercontinental Cup brought first-class cricket
to 12 nations, mostly for the first time. Cricket’s newest innovation is Twenty20, essentially
an evening entertainment. It has so far enjoyed enormous popularity and has attracted large
attendances at matches as well as good TV audience ratings. The inaugural ICC Twenty20
World Cup tournament was held in 2007. The formation of Twenty20 leagues in India – the
unofficial Indian Cricket League, which started in 2007, and the official Indian Premier League,
starting in 2008 – raised much speculation in the cricketing press about their effect
on the future of cricket. See also
History of women’s cricket References Bibliography
Altham, H. S.. A History of Cricket, Volume 1. George Allen & Unwin.
Birley, Derek. A Social History of English Cricket. Aurum.
Bowen, Rowland. Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development. Eyre & Spottiswoode.
Box, Charles. The Theory and Practice of Cricket, from its origin to the present time. Frederick
Warne. Harte, Chris. A History of Australian Cricket.
London: Andre Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-98825-4. McCann, Tim. Sussex Cricket in the Eighteenth
Century. Sussex Record Society. Underdown, David. Start of Play. Allen Lane.
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: various editions External links
Wisden Online archives “BBC News – Today – Audio slideshow: ‘Swinging
Away'”. BBC Online. 20 May 2010.