In case anyone has missed it, Australia has been playing cricket against England in a series or matches referred to as “The Ashes”. Cricket is a game that was once described by Robin Williams as being similar to baseball on Valium. Devotees will sit for hours watching it, whether at the ground or in front of a box. Non-devotees (and I confess that I am one) feel that it is only marginally better than watching paint dry.
I am, however, interested in some of the terms and facts associated with the game:
• The game is believed to have developed from a children’s game in Saxon or Norman times, possibly from the use of a matted lump of sheep’s wool (or a stone or a small lump of wood) as the ball; a stick or a crook or another farm tool as the bat, and a stool or a tree stump or a gate (e.g., a wicket gate) as the wicket.
• An alternative version is that it was played by shepherds who used their crooks to hit at stones pitched at someone standing in front of a wicket gate to the sheepfold.
• The name may have derived from one or more sources:
- the Old French croquet, meaning “goal post, stick’;
- the Middle Dutch cricke, meaning “stick, staff”; or
- the Old English cricc or cryce meaning “a crutch or staff”.
(Click on pics to enlarge)
Development of the cricket bat.
• The first recorded use of the term cricket in the context of fair play is from 1851: “cricket as it should be played.” From there the term has developed into the phrase “It’s not cricket”, meaning that something is unfair or unsportsmanlike, used even in countries such as the US which has little association with the sport.
• The first recorded reference to the game is in a 1598 court case concerning a dispute over a school’s ownership of a parcel of land. Coroner John Derrick testified that he and his school friends had played creckett on the site fifty years earlier. The first reference to the game being played by adults is in 1611 when two men in Sussex were prosecuted for playing cricket on a Sunday instead of going to church.
• The first international cricket game was between the USA and Canada in 1844, played at the grounds of St George’s Cricket Club in New York.
• In 1859, a team of leading English professionals travelled North America on the first-ever overseas tour and, in 1862, the first English team toured Australia.
• Between May and October 1868, a team of Australian Aborigines toured England in what was the first Australian cricket team to travel overseas. They played 47 matches throughout England over a period of six months, winning 14, losing 14 and drawing 19. In addition to playing cricket, the Aborigines frequently put on an exhibition of boomerang and spear throwing at the conclusion of a match.
• In 1877, an England touring team in Australia played two matches against full Australian XIs that are now regarded as the inaugural Test matches. In 1878 the Australians toured England for the first time and although no Tests were played on that tour, it was considered a success, with more tours soon following.
• The Test match played at The Oval in London in 1882 gave rise to The Ashes, This match was the first time that an Australian team had beaten England on English soil.
A mock obituary, written by Reginald Shirley Brooks, was printed in The Sporting Times on Saturday 2 September 1882 and told of the disappointment and embarrassment the English public felt about the loss.
• As a result of the above obituary, the next English tour of Australia in 1882 was labelled by the English press as “the quest to regain the Ashes”.
• During the above 1882 tour of Australia, a group of Victorian women presented English captain Ivo Bligh with an urn containing the ashes of a burnt Test bail (some maintain that it was the ashes of a burnt cricket ball) as a symbol of the "very object" the English captain "had come to Australia to retrieve”. In 1927, on Bligh’s death, his widow presented the urn to Maryleborne Cricket Club. The urn is now housed in the Cricket Museum at Lords.
• The urn has a poem upon it, reportedly written by Ivo Bligh’s wife, Florence. It’s pretty bad:
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.
• Much more poetic is the Australian cricket team victory song, sung after a win and entrusted into the care of a custodian:
Under the Southern Cross I stand,A sprig of wattle in my hand,A native of my native land,Australia, you fucking beauty.
Read about the song in an earlier post at: