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From British Settlers to Global Phenomenon: The Journey of Cricket across Continents

19th Century Cricket History

 According to expert consensus, cricket is thought to have originated in the Weald, a region characterized by thick forests and open spaces in southeastern England, during the Saxon or Norman eras. The earliest record of cricket being played as a sport by adults dates back to 1611, with a dictionary describing it as a game for boys. Another theory suggests that cricket may have evolved from the game of bowls when a batsman began using their bat to prevent the ball from reaching its target.

English "county teams" were formed in the second half of the 17th century after village cricket had developed by the middle of the century, as the earliest professionals came from village cricket. The first game known in which the teams use county names is in 1709.

Village cricket in the early days

The sport of cricket became a leading one in London and the south-eastern counties of England in the first half of the 18th century. Despite travel constraints, Women's Cricket began to gain popularity in other parts of England in the 1745, when the first known match was played in Surrey. However, its spread was limited by travel constraints.

In 1744, the first Laws of Cricket were written and subsequently amended in 1774, adding innovations such as LBW, a third stump, - the middle stump, and a maximum bat width. It was the "Star and Garter Club" that drafted the laws, whose members established the famous Marylebone Cricket Club in Lord's in 1787. Since then, MCC has made constant revisions to the Laws.

Cricket's beginnings

In response to the invention of pitching the ball after 1760, the straight bat replaced the old “hockey-stick” style of bat, which had replaced rolling the ball along the ground. Prior to the formation of MCC and the opening of Lord's Cricket Ground in 1787, the Hambledon Club in Hampshire was the focal point of the game for thirty years.

As early as the 17th century, cricket was introduced to North America via the English colonies, and in the 18th century, it was cultivated in other parts of the world. In the West Indies, colonists introduced it, and in India, British East India Company mariners introduced it. In 1788, the sport arrived in Australia, and in the early 19th century, it reached New Zealand and South Africa as well.

Early in the 19th Century, the game endured a lack of investment because of the Napoleonic Wars, but recovery began in 1815. Sussex was the first English county club to be formed in 1839, and the others followed suit by the end of the 19th century. It was in 1846 that a traveling “All-England Eleven” was established as a commercial venture to spread the game to areas that had not previously been exposed to top-notch cricket.

It was also the railway network that contributed to the spread of cricket because teams could play one another without having to travel a long distance. Moreover, spectators could travel further to matches, increasing the number of spectators. The British army encouraged the locals to play, increasing the number of teams across the old British Empire.

During the 19th century, women's cricket played a significant role in the development of the sport, and the first women's county match took place in 1811. In the 1890's, the first women's teams began playing the sport in Australia, especially in the South of England. Women's matches were often played in front of large crowds in the South of England.

Grace, W.G.

In 1864 overarm bowling was legalised, and 1864 also marked a notable first with the publication of the first Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, which is still used today. In the same year, W. G. Grace began a long and influential career, contributing greatly to the popularity of cricket.

It was in 1844 that the USA and Canada played the first ever international cricket match at the St George's Cricket Club in New York, and it wasn't until 1859 that a team of leading English professionals toured North America for the first time in history. In 1862, the first English team toured Australia and six years later, an Australian Aborigine team toured England in what was the first Australian cricket team to travel overseas.

England Cricket Team under Ivo Bligh

There were two matches played by an English tour team in Australia in 1877 against full Australian XIs, which are now regarded as the first Test matches. In 1882, the Australians won the Ashes at The Oval in a tense finish, resulting in the creation of the Ashes. The success of this tour ensured a growing demand for similar ventures in the future. The South Africans became the third Test nation in 1889.

A County Championship was established in England in 1890; a Currie Cup was established in South Africa in 1889-90 and a Sheffield Shield was established in Australia three years later. There were many great names in cricket during the “Golden Age of cricket” from 1890 to the outbreak of the First World War, such as Grace, Wilfred Rhodes, C. B. Fry, Ranjitsinhji and Victor Trumper.

When the Imperial Cricket Conference (as the ICC was originally called) was established in 1909, it consisted of only England, Australia and South Africa as members. However, before World War II, the West Indies (1928), New Zealand (1930) and India (1932) also joined as Test nations. Shortly after the war, Pakistan (1952) became a member as well. As Test Cricket gained popularity in these countries, domestic competitions evolved and became more organized. The West Indies established an island-based First-Class competition, New Zealand continued their longstanding Plunkett Shield since 1906, India introduced the Ranji trophy in 1934 and Pakistan founded the Quaid-e-Azam trophy in 1953.

At the beginning of the 20th century, women's cricket began to gain recognition on an international level. The historic first Test Match between England and Australia was played in 1934. In 1958, the International Women's Cricket Council (now merged with ICC) was founded, leading to further growth of the sport. It was in 1973 that the first ever Cricket World Cup for women took place. Hosted by England, the inaugural cup was claimed by captain Rachel Heyhoe-Flint and her team.

Following a period of economic prosperity after the war, the 1950s saw a decrease in scoring and slower gameplay in county cricket. This defensive style resulted in a decline in attendance. To counteract this, English county teams introduced changes in 1963, switching to a format with only one innings per game and a set limit of overs. This new version, known as limited-overs cricket, quickly gained popularity. As a result, a national league was established in 1969, leading to fewer matches being played in the County Championship.

International Women's Day

In 1970, South Africa was indefinitely suspended from international cricket due to the implementation of apartheid. As a result, the South African Cricket Board initiated "rebel tours" for international players to form teams and compete in South Africa. These tours persisted throughout the 1980s until it became evident that apartheid was coming to an end. In 1991, South Africa was readmitted into international sports. They participated in the 1992 World Cup and shortly after, played their first Test Match since their return against the West Indies in Barbados in April.

As a time-filler after a Test match had been abandoned due to heavy rain on the opening days, the first limited-over international match occurred at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1971. In response to this development, the International Cricket Conference organized the first Men's Cricket World Cup in England in 1975, in which all Test-playing nations of the time participated and the West Indies won at Lord's.

In 1977, Kerry Packer established a privately run cricket league that recruited top players from around the world. This league, known as World Series Cricket, gave banned South African players a chance to display their talents on a global stage alongside other skilled players. Although it ran for only two years, this venture had lasting impacts such as increased player salaries and the introduction of innovations like colored uniforms and night matches. It didn't take long for these advancements to also be adopted by international cricket.

Cricket returns to South Africa

Due to the success of the inaugural World Cup, it became a regular part of the cricket calendar in 1979 and 1983. After the tournament moved to India and Pakistan in 1987, the last event with a red ball and white clothing took place in India and Pakistan. With floodlights, coloured clothing, and a white ball, World Cup Cricket entered a new era in 1992.

In 1992, a third umpire adjudicated run-out appeals using television replays for the first time in a Test series between South Africa and India. It has since been expanded to include stumping, catches, and boundary decisions as part of the third umpire's duties.

As the international game continued to develop, several ICC Associate and Affiliate Members began participating in domestic competitions and then international competitions. Three of those countries became Test nations in the closing years of the 20th century: Sri Lanka (1982), Zimbabwe (1992) and Bangladesh (2000).

In the 21st century, cricket has experienced some of the biggest changes in its history, with the shortest version of the sport, Twenty20 cricket, arguably the biggest.

The emergence of Twenty20 cricket, initially introduced in county cricket in England back in 2003, has sparked a wave of creativity and advancement within the sport. In response to explosive batsmen and their ability to hit shots from all angles, bowlers have honed an array of diverse deliveries while fielding skills have greatly improved. Notably, 2004 marked the debut of Women’s Twenty20 International matches, followed by the first Men’s Twenty20 International the next year, solidifying it as the third official format of the game.

In September 2007, India's victory over Pakistan in the final of the first ever ICC World Twenty20, played in Johannesburg, attracted a worldwide TV audience of more than 400 million. In the following year, the Indian Premier League was launched. Cricketers in the 21st century are now faced with playing cricket year-round as further Twenty20 leagues have been launched around the world.

As part of the new century, the ICC introduced the “Test Championship Table” in 2001 and the “One-day International Championship Table” the following year. The leaders of the Test rankings hold the ICC Test Championship Mace and have evolved into the official MRF Tyres ICC Team Rankings across all three formats of the game.

A significant amount of progress has been made in women's cricket

In addition, the ICC broadened its development initiative with the goal of generating additional national teams equipped to excel in different formats. This endeavor was exemplified in 2004 through the introduction of first-class cricket to 12 nations, mostly for the first time, via the ICC Intercontinental Cup. The World Cricket League also heavily contributed by introducing competitive limited overs-cricket to numerous new countries. Furthermore, several associate nations such as Kenya, Ireland, Afghanistan and the Netherlands achieved remarkable triumphs on the global platform during ICC Global Events.

By obtaining Full-Member status in June 2017, Afghanistan and Ireland were rewarded for their consistent performances both on and off the field, resulting in the significant development and growth of cricket in their countries.

There have also been innovations on the pitch, with the introduction of Power-plays in Limited Overs cricket affecting fielding restrictions, the use of two new balls in One Day Internationals, and even dugouts for incoming batsmen in Twenty20. As a result of the first ever day-night Test Match between Australia and New Zealand using a pink ball, there was also a big development in Test Match cricket.

The success of associate nations in the 21st century

As a result of technological advances in recent years, the game has also been improved by ball tracking, flashing stumps and bails to ensure accurate run-out decisions, infra-red cameras and edge detection technologies can be used to determine whether the bat has hit the ball, and Duckworth-Lewis-Stern can be used to calculate targets and results in limited-overs matches when the weather is unfavorable.

Players were permitted to refer some on-field decisions to the third umpire in a series between India and Sri Lanka in 2008, which has evolved into the official Decision Review System.

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