The summers of mid 16th century England saw the beginnings of what was to become the nation’s most fashionable sport
The game of cricket originated in Saxon times in the woodland clearings of the weald in South-Eastern England. 1598 is the earliest reference where the game is referred to as creckett.
Cricket attained in popularity and continued to be enjoyed throughout the 17th century played notably on Sundays after church, this being for many a time for leisure and respite from the arduous working week
Wickets could be up to six feet wide and only a few inches high. Pitch dimensions, equipment and playing decisions were variable, the bat resembling a GAA hurling stick and four ball overs delivered underarm along the surface of the wicket. In 1760 pitching the ball became an accepted method of delivery. It was not until 1864 that overarm deliveries became the norm, this incidentally was also the year of the publication of the first Wisden Cricketers Almanac
At this time in England betting was on the increase and before long much of its focus was on what was fast becoming the national game.
County cricket teams began forming around 1660, usually promoted by local aristocracy, dignitaries and landowners of the Shire who now showing an interest in village green cricket had begun to encourage the locals, possibly some becoming the first cricket professionals. It was not until1963 that the distinction between amateur and specialized was finally abolished in English cricket.
In 1744 the laws of cricked were formally drawn up by the Stars and Garter club later to become the Marylebone Cricket Club.
1794saw the first recorded inter-schools match: Charterhouse v Westminster
1806saw the first Gentlemen v Players match at Lord’s later to become the home of MCC
In 1877 England playing in Melbourne lost their first Test Match against Australia by 45 runs, 1880 saw the first Test played in England resulting in a 5 wicket win against Australia at the Oval, this was also the venue for their defeat to Australia in 1882.
A member of the Sporting Times reported “the England team is in ashes” consequently began the era of the Ashes.
The ashes of a bail contained in a small ceramic urn are nevertheless fiercely contested today.
A label containing a six line verse is pasted on the urn. This is the fourth verse of a song-lyric published in Melbourne Punch on 1 February 1883:
When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn; Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return; The welkin will ring loud, The great crowd will feel proud, Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn; And the rest coming home with the urn. In February 1883, just before the disputed Fourth Test, a velvet bag made by Mrs Ann Fletcher, the daughter of Joseph Hines Clarke and Marion Wright, both of Dublin, was given to Bligh to contain the urn.
The MCC has remained the custodian of the laws of cricket whilst Lords cricket museum nevertheless contains the most famous collection of cricket memorabilia in the world.
From its early origins cricket is now played in over 100 countries around the world.