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Cricket is England’s great pastime with origins dating back to the early 1600s as an organized sport amongst adults. Many experts say it was invented by children much earlier and some go so far as to believe its origins go back to 1300 and the court of King Edward I, but this is not completely verifiable. What is verifiable is that the first recorded game of cricket was in 1646 in Kent, although a court reference from Guildford mentions the sport as early as 1598. It seems that the church felt the need to impose fines to those men who skipped services in favor of the game.
From cricket’s beginnings in the Weald, in the areas of Kent and Sussex, it had spread across the country rapidly and just as rapidly came the gambling. In order to impose control, Parliament felt the need to pass the Gaming Act of 1664, limiting wagers to £100. By 1700, the game had gained even further popularity when cricket was first introduced to newspapers.
It cannot be denied that early cricket was a gamblers sport and it was the gamblers themselves that organized the first teams. Soon, the teams were consolidated into county teams with county names being known for the first time in 1709. Soon, cricket spread from the motherland to the colonies and took root internationally.
The laws of cricket did not come about until 1744. The laws were developed as a more standard code that simplified previous “Articles of Agreement” began by the Duke of Richmond in 1728. These articles were a contract for a set of rules, but they only pertained to a single game and were implemented to ease gambling disputes. New articles were written for each game. The Laws of Cricket of 1744 were revised once in 1774 by the Star and Garter Club who went on to become MCC at Lord’s.
Professional teams began to spring up with the first being Yorkshire in 1751. Soon after, in the 1760s, the original method of ball delivery, bowling, was given up in favor of pitching. Pitching was soon being studied and developed into an art all its own. The other prominent teams of the time were London, Dartford, Bromley, Chertsey, Hadlow, Addington, Maidstone, Maidenhead, and, perhaps the most famous, Hambledon.
Cricket faltered only once during the Napoleonic Wars and all games were suspended, but after the war, matches resumed and have been going strong ever since.