Evolution of the game Cricket: History of Cricket
The game of cricket was played in England more than five hundred years ago. Although at that time, it was not the same as the game we now call cricket.
There were two different games, each a little like cricket. They were called club ball and stool ball. In the game of club ball, there was a batsman, a bowler and fielders. The ball was covered with leather. The batsman used a stick or pole to hit the ball, but there was no wicket for him to defend. In the game of stool ball, a stool was used as a wicket. The bowler tried to hit the stool with the ball and one man tried to stop him.
The man who was defending the stool did not have a bat. He just hit the ball with his bare hand. The batsman did not score ‘runs’ as cricketers do nowadays. But, every time he defended his stool against a ball, he scored one point. The batsman was ‘out’ if the ball hit the stool, or if the ball was caught by a fieldsman after the batsman had hit it. Many years later, the batsman used a stick, instead of his hand, to defend the stool.
Then sticks began to be used for wickets. There were two wickets about twenty-two yards apart. Each one was made of three sticks. Two sticks were stuck upright in the ground with a third stick across the top. The sticks were often just branches off trees. Sometimes, when shepherds wanted to play cricket, they could not find branches. Then they took a wicket gate from one of their sheep pens and used it as a wicket.
As more cricket was played, the batsman’s stick was made into a bat. Then he began to score ‘runs’; by running between the two wickets. A hole was cut in the ground, between the two upright sticks of the wicket. The batsman had to put his bat in this hole, at the end of every run. The batsman was ‘run out’ if the wicket keeper put the ball into this popping hole, before the batsman got his bat into it. Many wicket keepers had their fingers hurt in this way. The two upright sticks of the wicket were so far apart that the ball could pass between the. So a third stick was put in the middle of the wicket.
Then there was no space for a popping hole, so a new rule was made. The umpire held up a stick. The batsman had to touch this stick, with his bat, at the end of every run. There were just as many hurt fingers, with this rule, as when the popping hole was used. Then, at last, a ‘popping crease’ was marked on the grass, in front of the wicket, as it is in cricket today.
As cricket became a popular game in England, many cricket clubs were formed. Hambledon Cricket Club, which started in the year 1750, became the most famous of all. At the Hambledon Club, the rules of cricket were written down and clubs all over the country agreed to them. Different ways of bowling, fielding and wicket-keeping were tried out. At this time, for every run that a batsman made, a notch was cut in a stick. The runs were called the ‘score’, because the word ‘score’ means a scratch or mark. The man who cut out the notches was called the ‘scorer’. When cricket was first played, the bowler always sent the ball to the batsman with a under-arm throw.
About one hundred and fifty years ago, a young lady was trying to bowl for her brother. She wore a crinoline dress with a long, full skirt. The skirt had hoops in it to make it stand out stiffly. When she tried to bowl under-arm, her crinoline stopped her arm swinging forward. She then began to swing her arm backwards and upwards, to throw the ball from above her head. Now all cricketers bowl over-arm instead of under-arm. In under-arm bowling the ball travelled along the ground.
Then the bat was made wider at the bottom than at the top. Over-arm bowling made the ball bounce in front of the batsman. Then a straight bat began to be used. The early rules did not say how wide the bat should be. At one match a Hambledon, a batsman used a bat almost twelve inches wide. It was as wide as the wicket. No one was able to bowl him out. The rule was then made that a bat could not be wider than four-and-a-half inches. At first, cricket was played mostly by country people. Later, gentlemen in London began to play and many cricket clubs were formed there. The most famous London club was near Marylebone Road. It was started by a man called Thomas Lord and it was called Marylebone Cricket Club.
How it is so well known that people hardly ever use its proper name. It is just spoken of as M.C.C. The M.C.C. cricket ground was always called ‘Lords’, after Thomas Lord. Twice the club moved to new grounds. Each time, Thomas Lord arranged for the turf to be dug up and moved to the new ground. In the early days of cricket, the players did not wear special clothes for the game. They just took off their jackets. Men who wore top hats, kept them on while they were playing. Sometimes a player used his top hat to catch the ball. Some people thought that a ball caught in a top hat was not a fair catch. Finally, a rule was made, saying that the ball should not be caught in a hat. If a player did this, five extra runs were given to the other team.