Cricket - A Short History

Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most popular games in the world. The game probably originated as a pastime for shepherd children in England and survived for centuries before the first known match was played between English Counties in 1709. In the 18th century cricket left the shores of England and entered the various British Colonies like the West Indies and India and then into Australia when it was colonized in 1788. This was followed by its introduction in New Zealand and South Africa in the beginning of the 19th century.

The first laws of cricket were brought into force and subsequently amended in 1774, when new items like the leg before wicket rule, middle stump and the maximum permissible width of a bat were added to the existing rules. These laws also held that the principals or captains would choose a couple of gentlemen from the crowds present to settle all disputes to be known as umpires. The codes were formulated by the Star and Garter Club whose members subsequently formed the Marylebourne Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's Cricket ground in 1787. The MCC thereafter became the custodian of the Laws and has been responsible for all changes, alterations made to it.

Initially bowling was done by rolling the ball all along the ground but later bowlers started tossing the ball up and came with variations to the movement of the ball in the air or after pitching and the arts of swing and seam and spin bowling were born. The overarm bowling action was formally legalized only as late as 1864.Initially the bats were shaped like hockey sticks which were effective when the ball was rolled along the ground, were totally useless against swing bowling and the first straight edged bat was born.

Probably the Greatest of England cricketers, Sir W.G.Grace, made his debut in first class cricket 1865. His skills were exemplary and he brought numerous technical changes which was widely acclaimed. He, incidentally was the only ever victim of Sherlock Holme’s creator Arthur Conan Doyle in a county match.

In 1877, and English side went over to and played two matches against the Australian national side. These were the first Test matches ever played. In reply the Australians toured England in the following year for the first time. But the most famous tour came about in 1882 and the legendary match at The Oval gave rise to The Ashes, which to this day remains the most famous cricket trophy in the World. South Africa became the third Test playing nation in the year 1889. The rest of the major Test playing nations started playing much later.