History of cricket
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.
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. In medieval times, the Weald was populated by small farming and metal-working communities. It is generally believed that cricket survived as a children's game for many centuries before it was increasingly taken up by adults around the beginning of the 17th century.
It is quite likely that cricket was devised by children and survived for many generations as essentially a children’s game. Adult participation is unknown before the early 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 (or even a stone or a small lump of wood) 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 (e.g., a wicket 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 (see below), 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 de (krik ket)sen (i.e., "with the stick chase"), 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 reference to the game is found in a 1598 court case concerning dispute over a school's ownership of a plot of land. A 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friends had played creckett on the site fifty years earlier. The school was the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and Mr Derrick's account proves beyond reasonable doubt that the game was being played in Surrey c.1550.
The first reference to it 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 defines cricket as a boys' game and this suggests that adult participation was a recent development.
Early seventeenth 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.
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 providing 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 £11 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.
Eighteenth 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 colonization began in 1788. New Zealand and South Africa followed in the early years of the 19th century.
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 (i.e., rolling the ball along the ground as in bowls) 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.
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.
Nineteenth 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Twentieth century cricket
Growth of Test cricket
When the Imperial Cricket Conference (as it was originally called) 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 (1970-1991)
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 (ICC). 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 whom 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 overs 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 overs 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 overs internationals (LOIs or ODIs, after One-day 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.
Increasing use of technology
Limited overs cricket increased television ratings for cricket coverage. Innovative techniques that were originally introduced for coverage of LOI matches was 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 runout 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. As yet, the third umpire is not called upon to adjudicate lbw appeals, although there is a virtual reality tracking technology (i.e., Hawk-Eye) that is approaching perfection in predicting the course of a delivery.
21st century cricket
Cricket remains a major world sport in terms of participants, spectators and media interest.
The ICC has expanded its development program with the goal of producing more national teams capable of competing at Test level. 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.
In June 2001, the ICC introduced a "Test Championship Table" and, in October 2002, a "One-day International Championship Table". Australia has consistently topped both these tables in the 2000s.
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 with a follow-up event in 2009. 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