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From tariqayub, the free encyclopedia   (Redirected from History of English cricket to 1696) Jump to: navigation, search The site traces the sport's development from its perceived origins to the stage where it had become a major sport in England and had been introduced to other countries.

The earliest definite reference to cricket occurs in 1597 and makes clear that the sport was being played c.1550, but its true origin is a mystery. All that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that its beginning was earlier than 1550, somewhere in south-east England within the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey, most probably in the region known as the Weald. Unlike other games with batsmen, bowlers and fielders, such as stoolball and rounders, cricket can only be played on relatively short grass, especially as the ball was delivered along the ground until the 1760s. Therefore, forest clearings and land where sheep had grazed would have been suitable places to play.

The sparse information available about cricket's early years suggests that it was originally a children's game. Then, at the beginning of the 17th century, it was taken up by working men. During the reign of Charles I, the gentry took an increased interest as patrons and occasionally as players. A big attraction for them was the opportunity that the game offered for gambling and this escalated in the years following the Restoration. By the time of the Hanoverian succession, investment in cricket had created the professional player and the first major clubs, thus establishing the sport as a popular social activity in London and the south of England. Meanwhile, English colonists had introduced cricket to North America and the West Indies; and the sailors and traders of the East India Company had taken it to India.

[edit] Origins of cricket as a children's game

[edit] Theories of origin The most widely accepted theory about the origin of cricket is that it developed in early medieval times among the farming and metalworking communities of the Weald, which lies across part of Kent and Sussex.[1] These counties and neighbouring Surrey were the earliest centres of excellence and that it was from there that the game quickly reached London, where its lasting popularity was ensured, and other southern counties like Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire and Middlesex.[2]

Cricket was probably devised by children and survived for many generations as essentially a children's game.[7] Possibly it was derived from bowls, assuming bowls is the older sport, by the intervention of a batsman trying to stop the ball 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 gate (e.g., a wicket gate), a stool or a tree stump as the wicket. The invention of the game could have happened in Norman or Plantagenet times anytime before 1300; or even in Saxon times before 1066.[8]

Cricket essentially belongs to the same family of bat-and-ball games as stoolball, rounders and baseball but whether it evolved from any of these, or vice-versa, cannot be determined.[2] There is a 1523 reference to stoolball at a designated field in Oxfordshire; this may be a generic term for any game in which a ball is somehow hit with a bat or stick.[9] 18th century references to stoolball in conjunction with cricket clearly indicate that it was a separate activity.[10]


In 1598, there was a reference to cricket in an Italian-English dictionary by Giovanni Florio. His definition of the word sgillare was: "to make a noise as a cricket (insect), to play cricket-a-wicket, and be merry".[13] Florio is the first writer known to have defined "cricket" in terms of both an insect and a game. In a later edition of his dictionary in 1611, Florio infers that "to play cricket-a-wicket" has sexual associations with references to frittfritt, defined "as we say cricket a wicket, or gigaioggie", and dibatticare, defined "to thrum a wench lustily till the bed cry giggaioggie".[14]

[edit] The development of village cricket: 1611–1660

[edit] Beginning of adult participation In 1611, a French-English dictionary was published by Randle Cotgrave who defined the noun crosse as "the crooked staff wherewith boys play at cricket".[4] The verb form of the word is crosser, defined as "to play at cricket".[4] Although cricket was defined as a boys' game in Cotgrave's dictionary, as per the Guildford schoolboys above, it was at this time that adult participation began.[4]

The first definite mention of cricket in Sussex was also in 1611 and relates to ecclesiastical court records stating that two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12 pence each and made to do penance. In 1613, another court case recorded that someone was assaulted with a "cricket staffe" at Wanborough, near Guildford.[15]

Also in this period, the first definite mention of cricket in Kent is deduced from a 1640 court case which recorded a "cricketing" of "Weald and Upland" versus "Chalkhill" at Chevening "about thirty years since" (i.e., c.1610). This is the earliest known village cricket match and these contests became popular in the first half of the 17th century. The case concerned the land on which the game was played.[16]

In 1617, the 18-year old Oliver Cromwell played cricket and football in London.[2] In 1622, several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester in west Sussex, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard on Sunday, 5 May. There were three reasons for the prosecution: one was that it contravened a local bye-law; another reflected concern about church windows which may or may not have been broken; the third was that a little childe had like to have her braines beaten out with a cricket batt![17] The latter reason was because the rules at the time allowed the batsman to hit the ball twice and so fielding near the batsman was very hazardous, as two later incidents drastically confirm.

In 1624, a fatality occurred at Horsted Keynes in East Sussex when a fielder called Jasper Vinall was struck on the head by the batsman, Edward Tye, who was trying to hit the ball a second time to avoid being caught. Mr Vinall is thus the earliest recorded cricketing fatality. The matter was recorded in a coroner's court, which returned a verdict of misadventure.[18] The tragedy was repeated in 1647 when another fatality was recorded at Selsey in West Sussex, a player called Henry Brand being hit on the head by a batsman trying to hit the ball a second time.[19] When the first Laws of Cricket were encoded in 1744, it was illegal to hit the ball twice and a batsman breaking the rule was to be given out.[20] The record of the 1624 case confirms that two villages, Horsted Keynes and West Hoathly, were involved in the match and provides further evidence of the growth of village cricket.[21]

The issue of Sunday play during the years of Puritan influence, from about 1630 to the Restoration, has left several references in ecclesiastical court records. These indicate that inter-parish matches were being played but there is nothing to suggest that any teams representative of counties were formed before the Restoration in 1660.[2] There is no evidence of large scale gambling or patronage prior to the English Civil War and it was those factors which drove the formation of "representative" teams in the 18th century. It must be concluded, therefore, that the cricket being played before the war was of minor standard only: i.e., village cricket.[2]

Village cricket continued to thrive in the 18th century. In 1717, Thomas Marchant, a farmer from Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, first mentioned cricket in his diary. He made numerous references to the game, particularly concerning his local club, until 1727. His son Will played for "our parish", as he often called the Hurstpierpoint team.[22]

[edit] Breaking the Sabbath When the English Civil War began in 1642, the Long Parliament banned theatres, which had met with Puritan disapproval. Although similar action would be taken against certain sports, there is no evidence of cricket having been prohibited. Except that players must not "break the Sabbath", references to the game before and during the Commonwealth suggest that it was approved: Cromwell himself had been a player as a young man.

In 1628, an ecclesiastical case related to a game at East Lavant, near Chichester in West Sussex, being played on a Sunday. One of the defendants argued that he had not played during evening prayer time but only before and after. It did him no good as he was fined the statutory 12d and ordered to do penance. Doing penance involved confessing his guilt to the whole East Lavant congregation the following Sunday.[23]

There are three further references before the Civil War. In a 1636 court case concerning a tithe dispute, a witness called Henry Mabbinck testified that he played cricket "in the Parke" at West Horsley in Surrey.[2][9] In 1637, another ecclesiastical case recorded parishioners of Midhurst, West Sussex, playing cricket during evening prayer on Sunday, 26 February [24]. In 1640, Puritan clerics at both Maidstone and Harbledown, near Canterbury, denounced cricket as "profane", especially if played on Sunday.[25]

In 1654, three men were prosecuted at Eltham in Kent for playing cricket on a Sunday. As the Puritans were now firmly in power, Cromwell's Protectorate having been established the previous year, the penalty was doubled to 24 pence (two shillings). The defendants were charged with "breaking the Sabbath", not with playing cricket.[4] Similarly, when Cromwell's commissioners banned sport in Ireland two years later on the grounds of "unlawful assembly", there is no evidence that the ban included cricket, which had probably not reached Ireland by that time.[26]

[edit] The beginning of amateur cricket The beginnings of cricket's social division between amateurs and professionals, from which the annual Gentlemen v Players contest ultimately evolved, can be traced to the reign of Charles I. In 1629, Henry Cuffin, a curate at Ruckinge in Kent, was prosecuted by an Archdeacon's Court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were "persons of repute and fashion".[27][28] This statement is the first evidence of cricket achieving popularity among the gentry.[29]

It was the gentry who introduced large-scale gambling into cricket and some of these gamblers subsequently became patrons by forming select teams that would improve their chances of winning. During the Commonwealth, gambling was, of political necessity, low key. The earliest reference to gambling on a cricket match is in the records of a 1646 court case concerning non-payment of a wager that was made on a game at Coxheath in Kent on 29 May that year. Curiously, the wager was for twelve candles, but the participants included members of the local gentry.[30] In 1652, a case at Cranbrook against John Rabson, Esq. and others referred to "a certain unlawful game called cricket". Rabson was evidently a member of the gentry but the other defendants were all working class.[31]

Cricket has long been recognised as a sport that bridged the class divide but, in time, the cricketing gentlemen came to be called "amateurs" to emphasise the distinction between themselves and the professionals who belonged to the lower social classes, mostly to the working class.[32] The amateur was not merely someone who played cricket in his spare time but a particular type of first-class cricketer who existed officially until 1962, when the distinction between amateur and professional was abolished and all first-class players became nominally professional. In terms of remuneration, amateurs claimed expenses for playing while professionals were paid a salary or fee.[33] Amateur cricket was an extension of the game played in schools, universities and other centres of education, both as a curricular and extracurricular activity. The schools and universities formed the "production line" that created nearly all the first-class amateur players.[4]

[edit] Rules and equipment of early cricket Early cricketers played in their everyday clothes and had no protective equipment such as gloves or pads. A 1743 painting of a game in progress at the Artillery Ground depicts two batsmen and a bowler dressed alike in white shirt, breeches, white knee-length stockings and shoes with buckles. The wicket-keeper wears the same clothes with the addition of a waistcoat. An umpire and scorer wear three-quarter length coats and tricorn hats. Apart from the shirts and stockings, none of the clothes are white and no one wears pads or gloves. The ball is bowled along the ground, as in bowls, at varying speed towards a wicket consisting of two stumps mounted by a single crosspiece. The batsman addresses the delivery with a bat that resembles a modern hockey stick, this shape being ideal for dealing with a ball on the ground.[37][38]

The cricket bat of the 1720s was shaped like a modern hockey stick so that it could address a ball that was not pitched. The record of the 1622 case at Boxgrove contains the earliest reference to the cricket bat. The term "batt" in cricket was peculiar to Kent and Sussex, where coastal smugglers were known as "batmen" because of the cudgels they carried. The earliest reference to a "flat-faced" bat (i.e., with a flat surface at the bottom of the stick in ice hockey style) also occurs in 1622.[39] The term "bat" remained comparatively rare until about 1720. The terms in more general use were "staff", "stave" or "stick". These tended to have regional usage: for example, "stave" was used in the Gloucester area and "batt" in the south-east; while "staff" and especially "stick" were more widely used.[6] "Bat" is derived from the French "battledore", shaped like a table tennis bat, which was used by washerwomen to beat their washing with.[40].

The earliest reference to the cricket ball is found in 1658 in Mysteries of Love and Eloquence by Edward Phillips.[2] The pitch has been 22 yards long (i.e., a chain) since the first known code of laws in 1744 [41] and it is believed this length had been in use since the introduction of Gunter's chain in 1620.[42] The over consisted of four deliveries until the 19th century.[41]

The earliest known reference to the wicket is contained in lines written in an old bible in 1680 which invited "All you that do delight in Cricket, come to Marden, pitch your wickets".[43] Marden is in West Sussex, north of Chichester, and close to Hambledon, which is just across the county boundary in Hampshire. The wicket until the 1770s comprised two stumps and a single bail. By that time, the shape of the wicket was high and narrow after the 1744 Laws of Cricket defined the dimensions as 22 inches high and six inches wide. But earlier 18th century pictures show a wicket that was low and broad, perhaps two feet wide by one foot high. The ends of the stumps were forked to support the light bail and there were criteria for the firmness of pitching the stumps into the ground and for the delicate placing of the bail so that it would easily topple when a stump was hit.[6]

There has been a lot of conjecture about the origin of the wicket, but suffice to say that the 17th century outline shape is more akin to the profile of a church stool, which is low and broad. Furthermore, the legs of the stool were called stumps, which adds further credence to the idea that stools were used as early wickets.[6] According to the Churchwarden's Accounts for Great St. Mary's Church of Cambridge (1504–1635), a church stool was sometimes known in the south-east by the Dutch name of "kreckett", this being the same word used for the game by John Derrick in 1597.[6]

There were two main forms of cricket in the 17th and 18th centuries. One was single wicket in which, as the name implies, there is only one batsman, although teams of threes or fives often took part. The converse is the "double wicket" form, with two batsmen, and this has long been associated with eleven-a-side teams playing two innings each.

In early cricket, there were two umpires as now, but the modern square-leg umpire stood close to the striker's wicket. Both umpires carried a bat which the running batsman was required to touch in order to complete his run.[44] There were two scorers who sat on the field and recorded the scores by making notches on tallysticks; runs were then known as notches for this reason.[45]

[edit] The development of major cricket: 1660–1700 The Restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660 was immediately followed by the reopening of the theatres and sanctions imposed by the Puritans on sports were also lifted. Although there are only scattered references to the game in the time of Charles II, it is clear that its popularity was increasing and that it was expanding.[46]

The Restoration was effectively completed during the spring of 1660 and, in the general euphoria which both accompanied and followed these historic events, gambling on cricket and other sports was freely pursued.[46] The large amounts at stake led some investors to try and improve their chances of winning by forming teams that were stronger than the typical parish XI. This was the beginning of the patronage that sustained and controlled cricket through the 18th century. The first teams representing several parishes and even whole counties were formed in the 1660s and the period saw the first "great matches" (sic) as the sport evolved from village cricket to major cricket.[47]

The Gaming Act 1664 was passed by the "Cavalier" Parliament to try and curb some of the post-Restoration excesses. It limited stakes to £100 which was in any case a fortune at the time.[46] It is known that cricket could attract stakes of 50 guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling throughout the next century.[48]

The shortage of references in the latter part of the 17th century is due to the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 which imposed very stringent controls on the newspaper industry. Sport, including cricket, was not a subject to be reported and the few references found are in official records, such as court cases, or in private letters and diaries.

In 1695, Parliament decided against a renewal of the 1662 Licensing Act and so cleared the way for a free press on the Act's expiry in 1696. Censorship had already been relaxed following the Bill of Rights in 1689. It was from this time that cricket matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports. The earliest known newspaper report of a match was in the Foreign Post dated Wednesday, 7 July 1697:

"The middle of last week a great match at cricket was played in Sussex; there were eleven of a side, and they played for fifty guineas apiece".

[edit] The terms of the wager The patrons ensured that cricket was financed in the 18th century but their interest, equally applicable to horse racing and prizefighting, was based on the opportunities that cricket provided for gambling. Every important match in the 18th century, whether first-class or single wicket was played for stakes. The early newspapers recognised this and were more interested in publishing the odds than the match scores. Reports would say who won the wager rather than who won the match.[62] Sometimes, gambling would lead to dispute and two matches ended up in court when rival interests sought legal rulings on the terms of their wagers.

On Monday, 1 Sept 1718, a game on White Conduit Fields in Islington between London and the Rochester Punch Club was unfinished because the Rochester players walked off in an attempt to have the game declared incomplete. This was so that they would retain their stake money. London was clearly winning at the time. The London players sued for their winnings and the game while incomplete was the subject of a lawsuit where the terms of the wager were at issue. The court ordered it to be "played out" and this happened in July 1719. Rochester with 4 wickets standing needed 30 more runs to win but lost by 21.[63
The introduction of Articles of Association, agreed before matches by the stakeholders, largely resolved any problems between patrons and match organisers. The concept was more important in terms of defining the rules of play and eventually these were codified as the Laws of Cricket.[65]

[edit] Matches of the early 18th century Periodicals called The Post Boy and The Post Man were useful sources for cricket advertisements during the early 18th century. In 1700, a series of matches to be held on Clapham Common was pre-announced on 30 March by The Post Boy. The first was to take place on Easter Monday and prizes of £10 and £20 were at stake. No match reports could be found so the results and scores remain unknown. The advert says the teams would consist of ten "Gentlemen" per side but the invitation to attend was to "Gentlemen and others". This clearly implies that cricket had achieved both the patronage that underwrote it through the 18th century and the spectators who demonstrated its lasting popular appeal.[66] On 24 July 1705, The Post Man announced West of Kent v Chatham, an 11-a-side game at Malling, Kent.[66]

On 1 and 3 July 1707, Croydon played London twice, the first game played in Croydon, possibly at Duppas Hill, and the second at Lamb's Conduit Field in Holborn. Both matches were advertised by The Post Man as "two great matches at cricket (to be) plaid (sic), between London and Croydon; the first at Croydon on Tuesday, July 1, and the other to be plaid in Lamb's-Conduit-Fields, near Holborn, on the Tuesday following, being the 3rd of July". No post-match reports could be found so the results and scores are unknown.[66]

The earliest known match that definitely involved county teams was Kent v Surrey at Dartford Brent on Wednesday, 29 June 1709. This was advertised in the Post Man the previous Saturday and played for a stake of £50. Dartford Brent was a popular Kent venue in the 18th century and was probably used for matches in the 17th century. It is likely that Dartford, as the foremost Kent club in this period, provided not only the venue but also the nucleus of the team, while the Surrey team would have been drawn from a number of Surrey parishes and subscribed by their patron.[67]

[edit] Dartford v London The first great rivalry in cricket history was between the Dartford and London clubs who are first known to have played each other in 1722. On Wednesday, 19 August 1719, London v Kent was played at White Conduit Fields and Kent won. This is the earliest known definite result. The report said the teams played for "a considerable sum of money".[64]

On Saturday, 9 July 1720, London v Kent at White Conduit Fields was won by London. In this match, two London fielders were badly injured by a clash of heads.[64] H T Waghorn wrote that advertising and reporting of cricket ceased for some years after this game and he wondered if that was due to a perception that the sport is dangerous.[64] The real reason was the impact of the South Sea Bubble. When the South Sea Company was found to be insolvent, its crash in 1720 caused massive repercussions throughout the economy and many formerly prosperous investors were ruined, including some of cricket's patrons. The reason for fewer reports was the withholding of patronage and investment, hence fewer matches.[69]

On Wednesday, 18 July 1722, London v Dartford in Islington was the subject of a letter in The Weekly Journal dated 21 July 1722. The result of the match is unknown. In 1723, the prominent Tory politician Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford recorded in his journal: "At Dartford upon the Heath as we came out of the town, the men of Tonbridge and the Dartford men were warmly engaged at the sport of cricket, which of all the people of England the Kentish folk are the most renowned for, and of all the Kentish men, the men of Dartford lay claim to the greatest excellence".[70] It is more than likely to have been Dartford Brent where this game was taking place.[70]

On Thursday, 18 June 1724, London v Dartford was the earliest known match at Kennington Common, near where The Oval is now sited. The result is unknown.[71] On Monday, 10 August 1724, there was a match in Islington (result unknown) which featured the combined parishes of Penshurst, Tunbridge and Wadhurst versus Dartford. This was recorded in a diary entry by one John Dawson, who may have watched it. No details are known but Mr Dawson says it was "a great cricket match".[72]

[edit] The growth of cricket in England and overseas The earliest known mention of cricket being played outside England is dated Saturday, 6 May 1676. A diarist called Henry Tonge, who was part of a British mission at Aleppo in Turkey (now in Syria), recorded that "at least forty of the English" left the city for recreational purposes and, having found a nice place to pitch a tent for dinner, they "had several pastimes and sports" including "krickett". At six they "returned home in good order" [73].