The New York Times, September 15, 1872, p.5:|
Creag. I suppose that not one man in five thousand has any idea of the meaning of this little word of five letters. And yet Creag is the Saxon derivative of the word cricket--the noblest of all athletic games, and a game solely identified, too, with the Anglo-Saxon race. It is a game unknown to the nations of Continental Europe, save by repute; but there is no village in England that does not boast of its local cricket club.
In English towns of moderate size there are at least half a dozen clubs. In the suburbs of London their name is legion. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge every year send forth their representative giants to do battle with the bat and ball, and before sundown every telegraph wire in the United Kingdom has carried the news to thousands of anxious of the result of the match or of the first day's play.
All of the great public schools have their first, second and third elevens. The same with private schools; the same with all local clubs. On a fine Saturday afternoon in Summertime it is no exaggeration to say that the majority of the boys and young men of England are playing at cricket. It is no uncommon thing to find a man who is a member of six or eight clubs.
And yet in America a cricket club is the last thing one would expect to hear of in a country village. Some one led off in a wrong direction, and instead of cricket we have base-ball, which, at the best is a mere development of the old school-boy game of rounders.
The one game, cricket, is as superior to the other game, base-ball, as is silverware to plated metal. In base-ball the hardest and most reckless striker frequently contributes the greatest share to the victory of his club. A cricket-player, on the other hand, must have quickness, caution, nerve, endurance, and good temper. Any inexperienced person standing up to the bowling of such men as Jackson or Willsher, and hundreds of other first-class bowlers, would stand a very good chance of being carried to a hospital instead of walking home to dinner.
The ball leaves their hands with almost cannon-ball rapidity, and is in the hands of the wicket-keeper or long stop before a novice would have time to come to a conclusion as to on which side of him it would pass.
Again, players like Mr. Grace, Charlton Lane, Mr. Mitchell, and others frequently play what in itself would be a long inning of pure defense, being content with scoring a run now and then and patiently waiting till they have "got their eye in," or have "taken the edge off the bowling," before they attempt to "let out." And they have to bring all their knowledge of the science of the game to bear on the unerring direction and swift pace of balls bowled by a skillful bowler when he has once got his hand in, even to do this.
It must be remembered, too, that a man who makes a score of a hundred runs covers a long distance in running backwards and forwards between the wickets--not only when he scores himself, but when the men at the other wicket score--in addition to the great muscular strain involved in making a fine hit. And there is many a man in this country who would rather storm a battery than take his place behind the stumps as wicket-keeper.
It is an unusual thing to find a young Englishman who is not a member of a cricket club. The reason of this is obvious. It has grown to be a national game with the growth of the nation.
The facetious school-boy of twenty years ago could find no stronger authority for his assertion that the game of cricket was played by the early Christians than the quotation from the acts of the Apostles that "Peter stood up with the Eleven." I have, however, the best authority for saying that cricket, or the primitive style of the game then in vogue called creag, was played in England the best part of six centuries ago.
Among the items of expenditure of the English court, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Edward I., there was a sum debited:
Domino Johanni de Leek, capellace Domini Edwardo fil' ad Creag' et altos ludos per vices, per manus proprias.|
This game consisted in driving the ball with a heavy stick, and is supposed by many to have had its origin in the ancient Persian game of chugan, though others maintain that it was more like the bandy play of the Welsh or the Scotch game of golf.
Of this there is no doubt: it was the foundation of the cricket, rounders and base-ball of modern times. There is a description of this game in a manuscript in the Bodelian Library at Oxford, which bears the date 1334--thirty-four years later than the date of the payment of money for Prince Edward's amusements, above alluded to--which would pass very well for a description of the old game of single wicket.
It was not until the close of the seventeenth century that the game was called cricket. At least the word does not occur in any books or records; and in the Schedule of Sports, which King James I., who was most anxious that his subjects should be hardy and athletic, ordered to be compiled with the greatest care, there is no mention of the game as cricket.
But in the Mysteries of Love and Eloquence, published by Edmund Phillips, the poet, who was a nephew of Milton, in the year of the Second Rebellion against the Stuarts in 1685, there appears the following rather illogical sentence:
Would my eyes had been beat out of my head with a cricket ball the day before I saw thee...|
It is evident that the game was as much indulged in by the English aristocracy in those days as it is now. But in those days the formation of clubs of cricket-players was unknown.
The records of cricket tell us that the first regular club was organised in 1750, at Hambledon Downs, in Hampshire.
A few years afterward, a club was formed at Farnham, in Surrey, and Surrey has ever since been one of the leading, if not actually the leading cricketing county of England. Such men as Sherman, the bowler, Tom Lockyer, the wicket keeper, Rev. Charlton Lane, one of the finest batters that ever played in the Oxford eleven, Fred. Oliver, of Wimbledon, another hero of the Oxford eleven, the Hoares, the whole family of Walkers, and hundreds of others, have shed lustre over cricket in the County of Surrey. Kent and Sussex, too, can show most brilliant records, but their county clubs are no match for the Surrey County Club of the present day.
Sussex was, perhaps, the first to make a splurge in the cricketing world. Thirty years ago, on the Box's cricket ground at Brighton, the Lillywhites, Wisden, Box, Pilch and Charles Taylor were certain to draw thousands to witness their splendid play.
It was the elder Lillywhite, too, the father of the present well-known brothers of that name, who first bowled what is called round-hand in public. It is said that he had long been desirous of getting a spin on the ball which would make it shoot the moment it struck the ground. It happened that a man named Wills, also a Sussex man, brought his wife or sister down to Lillywhite's cricket ground one evening to see the play. She picked up the ball and threw it, not over her shoulder as a man would do, but with that round swing of the arm peculiar to women when in the act of throwing.
The ball, on striking the ground, shot forward from the spin on it, and Wills called Lillywhite's attention to the fact. He seized upon the idea, practiced the action of bowling round-hand, and brought about a revolution in cricket, which gave it an immense impetus. It is no exaggeration to say that there are ten times as many cricket clubs in England today as there were thirty years ago.
The great centre of cricket is, and has long been, the Marylebone Cricket Club. The records of Lords Cricket Ground at St. John's Wood, in the suburbs of London, form by far the most brilliant page in the history of cricket. It is not a local club, and the name of every cricketing celebrity from all parts of the country is or has been enrolled among its list of members.
It occupies by common consent a position similar to that of the Jockey Club. It lays down the laws of cricket, gives decisions in disputes about the game, and exercises a general judicial authority.
The eleven gentlemen who in a few days will be among us are all members of this Club, as well as of their own local clubs. Their visit will afford Americans an opportunity of seeing the game of cricket played in all its glory. It will be an exhibition of skill which cannot be surpassed, and will present to our people the novel feature of amateurs who have reached a point of excellence in their national game, which, in our national game of base-ball, is only attained by high-paid professionals.
This is a feature worthy of the earnest study of all our young athletes while they are enjoying the witnessing of the series of matches which are to begin at Hoboken on Wednesday next.
The New York Times, November 30, 1884 p. 12:|
It was due to the efforts of one Thomas Lord, who was promised the support of Lord Winchilsea, Col. Lennox, afterward Duke of Richmond, and others, if he would start a ground at Marylebone in succession to the ground in the White Conduit Fields, then probably being built over.
Lord was a descendant of a Roman Catholic family of Yorkshire farmers who had suffered in the confiscations of 1745. About 1782 he was a wine merchant, and a cricketer of great zeal and ability.
Lord, who appears to have had energy, closed with the offer, and established a ground in what is now Dorset-square--not perhaps, we may opine, without some help from the Sackville interest with the owners of the Portman estate.
On this ground, called Lord's, a match was played in three days of June, 1787, between eleven of England and five men of the White Conduit Club with six men given. Lord Winchilsea and Sir Peter Burrell played for the latter, who were easily defeated.
Lord's efforts resulted in the establishment of the Marylebone Cricket Club, who revised the rules of their favorite game before the season of 1788, on June 27 of which year they played and won their first recorded match. We say their first recorded match because, owing to the destruction by fire in 1825 of many of the old annals of the Marlyebone Club, their early history is not perfectly traceable, and it is by no means impossible that the club may have played their opening match before.
Lord staid, and the Marylebone Club staid with him, at Dorset-square, till 1810 or 1811, when, in consequence apparently of a disagreement with Mr. Portman about rent, he migrated to a ground called the new or middle ground, near North Bank, Regent's Park.
Three years later the Regent's Canal was cut through the ground, and Lord removed to the ground now owned by the Marylebone Club in St. John's Wood road. The original turf used in Dorset-square was taken up, so says Mr. Lillywhite, with each removal, and consequently when the Marylebone Club played on June 22, 1814, their first important match, defeating Hertfordshire in one inning, they played on the same turf as that which years before had afforded foothold to the men of the moribund White Conduit Club.
From 1814, "Lord's" has been a household word in cricket, and so firmly is the Marylebone Club established, and so widely is it supported, that there is every reason to hope that the poet's assertion,
"Princes and Lords may flourish or may fade,"
is not wholly predicable in a cricket sense.
--The Quarterly Review.