Cricket - A Brief History of a Gentleman's Game

Cricket is the worldís second most popular spectator sport and in some parts of the world, especially the Indian sub-continent, it is revered as a virtual religion. However, it is a sport with humble origins, developed in rural England.

A very English Sport

Cricket is unmistakably English. Some say that it first emerged as far back as Saxon or Norman times (around the ninth century), but certainly by the Tudor period, cricket had certainly established itself as a popular pastime. In fact, in 1624, Jasper Vinall was the first man recorded to have been killed by a cricket ball in Sussex, south England. By 1727, the first rules of the game were devised by two English gentlemen, the Duke of Richmond and Mr Brodrick of Peper Harow, Surrey. Later in the eighteenth century, Thomas Lord hosted matches at the ground which is still regarded as the home of cricket, Lordís in north London and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), still a major influence on the game, was founded.

Cricket spreads with the British empire

As Britainís influence on the world grew, so did cricket. The British Empire would eventually cover around a quarter of the globe and unsurprisingly cricket soon found new audiences in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In fact, it was one of Britainís largest colonies which hosted the first ever recorded international cricket match Ė a match between the United States and Canada in 1844! The sport never really caught on in North America, but it has certainly remained a massive attraction in other remnants of the British Empire - India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies (Caribbean islands) are all major cricket-playing nations.

A dynamic, modern sport

In the late nineteenth century, cricket began to become competitive. Englandís county championship was formed, still in competition today and was shortly followed by Australiaís domestic competition, the Sheffield Shield. During the early twentieth century, international competition boomed, with Test matches keenly fought at the sportís very highest level. The first international stars of the game were born, with the likes of Len Hutton and Sir Donald Bradman.

However, with matches lasting for several days, a demand grew to speed up cricketís pedestrian nature. In the 1960s, English counties began to compete in limited overs, one-day cricket for the first time. It proved to be a popular and commercially successful template and the Cricket World Cup was held for the first time in 1975, involving all of the Test-playing nations. At the same time, England was no longer the premier cricketing force. The West Indies dominated the 1980s, as Australia would in the 2000s. 2003 signalled another giant leap for cricket, as the popular Twenty20 form of the game was contested for the first time. Consequently, the cricket betting options online with William Hill and elsewhere have been more varied ever since. Cricket continues to provide excitement the world over, reaching new audiences all the time.

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