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History of Cricket

The origins of cricket are obscure, and there are several theories on how it started. One is that shepherds used to play it - one would stand in front of the wicket gate to the sheep fold, and another would bowl a stone or something at him, and he would have to hit it with his crook, which was known as a cricce.

Other theories are that it derives from a game called club-ball, or a game played in churchyards...

The first reference to cricket being played is thought to be in 1300, between Prince Edward and his friend Piers Gaveston and the first recorded match took place at Coxheath in Kent in 1646. The first match between counties on 29th June 1709, when Surrey played Kent at Dartford Brent.

The earliest known cricket photographs were taken in 1857, by Roger Fenton at the Artillery Ground, when the Royal Artillery played Hunsdonbury.

As well as shepherds' crooks, early bats were clubs and sticks. These gave way to long, thin battes, which looked a bit like straightened-out hockey sticks, because the ball was bowled under-arm, and the batters swung their bats like clubs!!

By the 18th century, the batte had developed into a longer, heavier, curved version of the one we know now, carved out of a single piece of wood.

Today's bat was invented around 1853, with the blade made of willow, and a cane handle, which is layered with strips of rubber, tied with twine, and covered with rubber to make a grip. The 'V' shaped extension of the handle into the blade is the splice. The early balls were stones and other missiles. Rather dangerous really, and not surprising that someone came up with an alternative! They're now made of cork, and covered with hand-stitched leather quarters dyed red.

The wicket - the stumps are the three posts. Originally there were two, and at one point, four. The size has varied too - in the 17th century, were up to two metres wide!! The bails are the two bits of wood on the top, and if they fall off, it's all over!!  

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The most far-reaching innovation in professional cricket in the last hundred years has been limited over one-day cricket. Today one-day international matches have been now an integral part of the world cricketing scene and is slowly pushing the 'real' cricket, according to the purist - the Test cricket, to the background.

The idea of limited - over cricket was conceived by an M.C.C. commitee established in 1956 to remedy the decline in the attendences and the desperate financial positions of many first-class counties during the late fifties. Its proposal, that a one-day knock-out tournament be introduced. With the start of the Gillette Cup in 1963 in England, a new eara had dawned in popularising this instant version of the sport.

Interestingly, despite its popularity in England in the sixties, the first ever one-day international match was brought about by chance. A hastily arranged match between Australia and England, was played at Melbourne on 5 January, 1971, on the final schduled day of the rain-aborted Ashes Test match to compensate the disappointed public for the loss of cricket. Thus began a new revolution in international cricket, in a match which attracted a crowd of 46,000 spectators and produced receipts of A$ 33,000.

The I.C.C., sensing the crowd pulling potential of the one-day form of the game, soon organised the first-ever World Cup which was held in England in 1975. However it was the advent of Australian television magnate, Kerry Packer, which revolutionised this type of cricket. Innovations such as floodlit (day-night) matches, white balls, black sightscreens and coloured clothing, coupled with skilful marketing strategies have produced instant exitment.

Today one-day international matches are so popular that they are played at every nook and corner of the globe. Sharjah (UAE) became cricket's first out-post in the mid eighties and has the unique distinction of hosting most matches than any other country. International matches have also been played at Singapore and Kenya.

However there has been a proliferation of matches during the recent times. In 1996, a record 127 matches were played, with Pakistan alone playing in 39 of them. One sincerely hopes that this proliferation does not become detrimental and one-day cricket die a natural death.