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Origins of Cricket: How did the game begin?

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Although there are records of cricket that date back centuries, the actual origins of the game are rather vague. Historians disagree on specifics, but it is generally believed that cricket originated from an old pastime played by English shepherds. It is thought that they used their crooks to hit a ball made of stone or wool.

The First Records of Cricket

 

The first evidence of cricket dates back to 1550 when a game was played by pupils of Royal Grammar School in Guildford, England. The next record of the game comes from 1598 when cricket was included in Florio’s Italian-English dictionary. In 1611, Randle Cotgrave’s French-English dictionary used the word “cricket staff” as a translation of the French word “crosse”. Also in the year 1611, two youngsters from Sussex in England were punished for playing the game of cricket instead of going to church.

 

Although it is clear that some form of cricket was being played from the mid-sixteenth century, the first match to be recorded was almost a century later in 1646. The game was played at Coxheath in Kent, England.

 

It is not clear exactly when cricket started being played in other countries. But it is known that the British took cricket to India in the early eighteenth century. The first match in India was played in 1721. And by the late eighteenth century, cricket was spread far and wide due to England’s imperialism.

 

Gambling and Rules

 

Today, you can easily bet on cricket games and other sports online. And you can find all the latest cricket odds and news at sites like Casumo India, where hundreds of slots and table games are also available. But, of course, centuries earlier people did not have that option. That does not mean that gambling was not rife, though. Indeed, early cricket was synonymous with gambling, and it is that which contributed to cricket becoming such a popular game.

 

People used to place massive bets on matches. Records show that in an 11-a-side match in 1679, stakes were as high as 50 guineas per side. With sky-high-stakes being bet, it was necessary to agree on a set of official rules. The oldest set of cricket rules in existence dates from 1744. They are printed on a handkerchief, which is currently on display at the MCC Museum at Lord’s, London. By the end of the seventeenth century, cricket was a major gambling sport in Britain.

 

 
 
The Development of the Game

 

During the eighteenth century, cricket went through some changes. The game had become massively popular, and large crowds would gather to watch games at the Artillery Ground in Finsbury, London. Single wicket games were the most popular. Bowling a ball instead of skimming or rolling it towards the batsman did not come into effect until 1760. When that change happened, alterations to the bat design occurred, and it became recognised as the type of cricket bat used today. Before then, cricket bats were shaped more like hockey sticks. Also, practices like using three-stump wicket and leg before wicket were not included until the latter half of the century.

 

The eighteenth-century also saw the formation of the famous Hambledon Club, which was the most prominent club until the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed two decades later. The MCC has since gone on to become one of the most prominent organisations in world cricket.

 

Until the late eighteenth century, professional cricket was restricted to the aristocratic classes of England. But it was not long before the game became open to all and went on to become England’s national game.

 

After England’s imperialism spread cricket to various other countries in the eighteenth century, the game started to become just as popular overseas as it was in England. In 1844, the first international cricket match was played between Canada and the United States. The nineteenth-century also saw new developments in how the game was played. For instance, underarm bowling was replaced, first by roundarm bowling, and then by overarm bowling. And thus, cricket started to resemble the modern game very-closely.

©Cricket World 2020

 


David Miller & Andrew Tye