A Brief History Of The Cricket
The origins of cricket are obscured, unrecorded and the source of much speculation. There are two major theories concerning the derivation of the word cricket.
One concerns the Anglo-Saxon word cricce, meaning a crooked staff, i.e. a staff with a club at one end. Developing this theory results in the supposed origins of the game being among shepherds hitting some appropriate object (a stone or pine cone perhaps) with their crooks and, at the same time, defending the wicket gate into the sheep fold.
The other theory traces the word `criquet' to the Flemish or Dutch krickstoel, a piece of furniture on which one kneels in church. A low stool between 18 inches and 2 feet in length once generally called a `cricket' in England, its profile is very similar to that of the long, low wicket in early cricket.
Other theories attribute the game's origins to club-ball, where the striker defends a hole in the ground, or to a game played in the churchyard.
The first recorded cricket match took place at Coxheath in Kent, England in 1646. This match also produced the first record of betting on cricket.
The earliest bats were sticks and, probably, shepherds' crooks. These gave way to clubbed sticks before the introduction of the batte, with its long ,thin shaft and curved thicker end not unlike a slightly straightened-out hockey stick. The clubbed design of these first bats was dictated by the type of bowling encountered, which was similar to that in the game of bowls - underarm and all along the ground.
The world's first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s and the world-famous Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.
But WG Grace played the biggest role in popularising the game -the "Good Doctor" was reckoned the third most recognisable Victorian, behind the Queen and Prime Minister Gladstone.
The game became truly international when an England touring side took on Australia in what came to be considered the first Test match in 1877. South Africa first played international cricket in 1898, West Indies became the fourth Test nation in 1929 and India joined the fray three years later.
Cricket has spread throughout what was once the British Empire and is enjoyed by billions of people every year.