Although there is a reference to King Edward I’s royal household accounts in 1300 of a game that sounds a lot like Cricket being played in Kent county in southeastern England, its exact origins are lost in the mists of time.
It very likely originated in this sheep-raising area of England, however, thanks to the short grass in the pastures making bowling, or rolling a bag of wool or rags at a target, possible. This would usually be the paddock’s wicket gate, which, in turn, was defended with a bat very like a shepherd’s crooked staff!
There’s No Straight Line
As appealing as the idea of a single pastime evolving seamlessly into one of the most popular sports at betting sites in New Zealand and around the rest of the world may be, it’s not very probable.
There were actually several different games, each played under local rules, that eventually came together to form the Gentleman’s Game as we know it today. Hitting balls with sticks does seem to have been a popular pastime, and further records reveal Edward II wielding a bat and Oliver Cromwell enjoying this kind of gameplay as well. In fact, the word bat is from the old English one for stick or club!
The Beginning of the Bat
The earliest types of bats resembled Hockey sticks. They were long, heavy clubs that curved outwards at the bottom and this design reflected the type of bowling prevalent at the time. Fast, underarm bowls which rolled along the ground were favoured.
By the 18th Century, the bat had begun developing into a heavier, longer, more curved version of the one we use today, with the blade and handle both carved from a single piece of wood.
Matches Then and Now
References aside, the first recorded match took place in Kent in 1646, and by the later part of this century, there were fines in place for those skipping church to play. The game’s popularity grew in the 1700s, and so did its documentation, and we have the first published description of it written by William Goldwyn in 1706.
The first laws of Cricket were established and recorded in 1744. They stated that principals would choose from among the gentlemen present two umpires who would be able to decide on all disputes. They stipulated that stumps need to be 22 inches high and that the bail across them should measure six inches. Balls were to weigh between five and six ounces, and the sets of stumps were to be paced 22 yards apart. There doesn’t seem to have been limits or minimums set on the size or shape of the bat, however!
It seems that 40 notches was viewed as a huge score, but this was probably thanks to bowlers being able to make fast pitches at shins that didn’t enjoy the protection of pads.
The first Cricket Club in the World was formed in the 1760s in Hambledon, Hampshire, England, and the Marylebone Cricket Club was founded soon after, in 1787, at Lord’s Cricket Ground, in St John’s Wood, London.