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History 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 members although only ten play Test cricket.

Origin

The origin of cricket is unknown. There is a consensus of expert opinion that it 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 (Julian date; see below).

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 (Julian date) 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.