ORIGIN OF CRICKET 

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ORIGIN OF CRICKET 

The sport of cricket has a known history beginning in the late 16th century. Having originated in south-east England, it became the country’s national sport in the 18th century and has developed globally in the 19th and 20th centuries. International matches have been played since 1844 and Test cricket began, retrospectively recognised, in 1877. Cricket is the world’s second most popular spectator sport after association football. Governance is by the International Cricket Council (ICC) which has over one hundred countries and territories in membership although only twelve play Test cricket.

Origin:

Cricket was probably created 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. The first definite reference is dated Monday, 17 January 1597 (“Old Style”Julian date, the year equating to 1598 in the modern calendar).

There have been several speculations about the game’s origins including some that it was created in France or Flanders. The earliest of these speculative references is dated Thursday, 10 March 1300 and concerns the future King Edward II playing at “creag and other games” in both Westminster and Newenden. It has been suggested that “creag” was an Olde English word for cricket but expert opinion is that it was an early spelling of “craic”, meaning “fun and games in general”.

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 (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.

First definite reference:

A 1597 (Old Style – 1598 New Style) court case in England concerning an ownership dispute over a plot of common land in Guildford, Surrey mentions the game of creckett. A 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friends had played crecketton 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, and is the earliest universally accepted reference to the game.

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.

Derivation of the name of “cricket”:

A number of words are thought to be possible sources for the term “cricket”. In the earliest definite reference,it was spelled 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, or the French word criquet meaning a wooden post. The Middle Dutch word krickstoel means a long low stool used for kneeling in church; this resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket. According to Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert of the University of Bonn, “cricket” derives from the Middle Dutch phrase for hockey, met de (krik ket)sen (i.e., “with the stick chase”).

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.

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.

 

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