Cricket of the 17th Century
Cricket already existed at the beginning of the 17th century, and in some areas of South Eastern England, it quickly becomes ubiquitous and well-liked. By the close of the following century, M.C.C. will be firmly established, the game will be played all over the world, and the modern era will have just begun.
Thus, these 200 years cover a very interesting period that, in our ignorance, we can still refer to as the game’s infancy and development. Our ignorance stems from the fact that we don’t know the game’s exact origins or the extent of its development from that point until King James the First’s reign.
Although it was oddly kept in a formal state, the game of cricket known as a wicket, which was still played in New England even into this century, was undoubtedly a perpetuation of the informal cricket that the early settlers in North America introduced, leading some students of that game to believe it had no relation to cricket at all.
As a concrete example of how early 17th-century cricket was different from ours, we can only really point to that difference in wicket size. It’s frequently said that the first game was single-wicket, although it’s unclear how double-wicket could have evolved from single-wicket considering that single-wicket is, in some ways, just the informal version of the approved game.
The game gained popularity in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex throughout the first half of that century, as well as in some areas of Essex and East Anglia more broadly. Due to its popularity among some members of the community, cricket was widely played. However, people of quality had to vigorously refute claims that cricket was inappropriate for a gentleman or a person.
Although it was not yet well-established when the Civil War started, the game was moving up the social scale. It is probable that the Interregnum offered both obstacles and opportunities. It was during this period, in the first ten or fifteen years of the new century, that we first heard of matches being widely advertised for sizeable sums of money.
Although almost all of our earliest references to the game mention gambling, it wasn’t until this century that betting amounts reached what, given the current value of money, would now be considered colossal proportions, amounting to thousands of guineas on a single match. Cricket was widely gaining popularity. For the first time, people understood that the game can make money.
But it wasn’t until the 18th century that the game started picking up the audience. It became a spectacular event. The 18th century changed cricket like anything. It turned in into something that has now become the most important sport in the world.