Cricket is an internationally popular team sport which probably had its origins in southern England. But when was cricket invented? It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment, but we'll give you all the evidence about the game's beginnings and how it has become the second most popular spectator sport in the world. We'll get as close to an exact answer to when was cricket invented that anyone can give!
What Is Cricket? A Brief Description of the Sport
The first official rules of cricket were written in 1744, and very little about the game has changed since then. It is best known in English-speaking areas of the world and is steeped in history and tradition. One of the most commonly known traditions is that cricket is thought of as a ‘gentleman's game,' meaning that sportsmanlike conduct is expected of all the players and officials.
But not every English-speaking person is familiar with the ins and outs of the game. Before we dive into the vague origins of the game, we'll briefly look at how it is played and how it has become the world-renowned sport it is today.
International Cricket is governed today by the International Cricket Council, but the original rules were codified and are still maintained by the Marylebone Cricket Club, which gives us our first clue in answer to the question when was cricket invented. The MCC is the only organization that can change the rules and they have only done so 7 times in the history of the game. The latest revision was released in 2017.
The Cricket Field
Cricket is played on a round or oval shaped field that has a defined rectangular space in the center that is called the pitch. The pitch is where most of the game action occurs. A wicket sits at each end of the pitch within defined and marked areas. A wicket is a construction of three upright poles known as stumps. Two bails, or wooden crosspieces are laid across the tops of the wickets.
Two teams of 11 players each play in a cricket game. At any given time in the game, there are 13 players active on the field—the entire fielding team and two batters or strikers from the opposing team.
There are always two umpires on the field as well. And a third umpire stays off the field but is available to help with calls.
The Game Play
A bowler, stationed at one end of the pitch, throws a ball toward a wicket at the other end of the pitch. A striker stands with a bat in front of the wicket in order to protect it and keep the ball from hitting it. The striker's objectives are to protect the wicket and to score runs.
The team who scores the most runs wins the game. A striker scores runs by hitting the pitched ball with the bat and putting the ball in play. While the fielding team is retrieving and returning the ball, the striker (and his or her partner striker who is stationed at the other end of the pitch) run between wickets to score runs.
If the ball hits the wicket, the striker is calledall out and must give the bat to the next striker in the lineup. There are other technical reasons that a striker may be retired from play all of which add to the interesting complexity of play.
The Game Equipment
Cricket is played with a ball, bats and wickets. Only the striker and the wicket keeper, who play in vulnerable positions ,wear protective gear. Traditionally cricket players wear white uniforms, but since the advent of professional and international play, teams can wear team colors.
The bat is a flat board with a cylindrical handle, and the ball is leather covered cork. The wicket stumps and bails are made of wood. All equipment specifications are laid out in detain in the official Laws of Cricket document.
When Was Cricket Invented?
The Origins of the Game
So, when was cricket Invented? Unlike more modern sports, cricket probably wasn't so much invented as developed over decades, even centuries of play. The game may have come to England with Norman invaders. Children, and perhaps shepherds, played an early version of the game in Southern England for many years before there was any official, written mention of it.
The speculation that shepherds may have played a precursor to the modern game comes from the fact that the bats that used in early games were crook-shaped, and the ball seems to have been rolled on the ground towards the batter. It wasn't until the 1760s that the shape of the bat changed to its modern rectangular shape and the ball began to be thrown in the air.
The first historical reference to the game was made in 1550 when it was characterized as a game played by students. In 1598, an Italian-English Dictionary contained a reference to the game as a sport for children. By 1611, however adults were playing the game. Two young men were prosecuted for playing cricket instead of attending church.
The first actual recorded cricket match took place in Kent, in 1646. By the end of the 17th century, cricket was known as a popular gambling game, and sometimes the stakes were very high. One game drew bets as high as 50 guineas.
Both the aristocracy and the working classes were drawn to the game. Aristocrats of the 17th and 18th centuries were in a position not only to bet large sums on games, but to recruit and sometimes support players from the working classes. The gentry sometimes created teams made up of servants, and other times paid individual recruited players.
The first Cricket Club was the Hambledon Club (also known as the Hampshire Club). It was founded in the 1760s. Its function was to organize games between counties. The Marylebone Cricket Club was founded twenty years later. The MCC has continued to this day to be the rule keeper of the international game.
First Women's Game
The first women's cricket game took place in 1745. Women's teams played in the first ever Cricket World Cup in 1975.
The British Empire expanded in the 18th Century and with it, cricket. The first international match between the United States and Canada occurred in 1844. The British introduced the sport in all the areas they colonized. A few more refinements were added to the rules as time went on. For example, in the late 1700s the overhand pitch became a standard, rather than the underarm throws that were more like the earliest games of shepherds. The governing body also made several changes to the types and lengths of games.
Test Cricket is the longest form of the game, but it is the least popular for spectators. A Test Cricket match can last for days. Today most professional matches are limited-overs types of games that can be played in one day. The Twenty-Twenty, or T20, form of the game is the most daring innovation and the most popular form of the game. In T20, each team is limited to one Innings and 20 overs which significantly reduces the length of the game.
The turn of the 20th Century has been called the Golden Age of Cricket. Many players gained fame in this era, including in the United States, where the Philadelphia team represented the high point of interest in the sport in the US.
But now, cricket may be entering another Golden Age. India's new Premier League competition is the second most followed sporting event in the world.
Only Olympic competitions have a greater following.
In What Countries Is Cricket Popular?
Cricket is most popular in English-speaking countries around the world, as it was carried out of England with the expansion of the British Empire. Cricket is well established in India, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, North America and South Africa. Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also became involved in international play in the late 20th Century.
Australia sent a team made up of native Aboriginals to tour England in 1868. In 1877, England reciprocated by sending a team for at Test match (the long form of the game) in Melbourne. This was the origin of the most famous cricket rivalry in history.
In an 1882 rematch, England lost and two Australian women burned a cricket ball and offered it in effigy to the captain of the English team in an urn. Since then the rivalry between the two countries has been known as The Ashes.
Two teams, from England and France, played cricket in the Olympics of 1900. The Olympic Games have not included a cricket match since, though the game may make a reappearance in 2020.
Cricket has its origins in the distant past. But it has remained a popular game for centuries. When was cricket invented? No one really knows. But that doesn't seem to dampen the public's interest. The sport continues to change to meet the demands of players and fans.