The June Meeting  2017

It’s Not Cricket! - Philip Newfield

President, David Richardson, introduced Phillip Newfield who told members that his interest in cricket started at a very early age,  when he and his brother used a grocery box as a wicket in the garden and they hit a tennis ball with a small bat given as a present by their parents.

He went on to explain that the origins of the game were unknown but probably started in Saxon times with children playing on farmland and probably in South East England.      It is generally accepted that the simple pastime involved one child serving up a small piece of wood or other small object and another hit it with a piece of wood or a deliberately made club.    Eventually the game was taken up by adults around the beginning of the seventeenth century.        A court case in 1598 is recorded which details an ownership dispute of a plot of common land in Guildford in which the game of cricket is mentioned and testimony was given in which the defendant played cricket on the site fifty years earlier.      There followed a first reference to cricket being played by adults when in 1611 two men in Sussex were prosecuted for playing cricket on Sunday instead of going to church.    

Some references occur during the English Civil War [1642 – 1651] which indicated that the game was now a pastime for adults and contested by local parish teams.        The first reference to cricket being played abroad appeared in 1636 and that was in Aleppo, Syria,  by British residents.        There is some evidence that the game was played for money on Clapham Common in 1697 but in any case by this time the game of cricket had become a significant  sport which attracted the attention of gamblers.

Hambledon in Hampshire has claims to be ‘The Cradle of Cricket’  having been involved in the early origins of the game.  The  foundation of the Hambledon Club in 1750  was an important event as it became the leading club in the development of the game  for many years.     The  first century (100 runs by one batsman)  was recorded in in 1769 at Sevenoaks in Kent in a minor match,  

Gambling continued to influence the development of the game as it was deemed necessary to come up with agreed rules.  Some of the gamblers began forming their own teams and over  time county teams, including prestigious Wimbledon County Cricket Club,  began to make an appearance.

The earliest surviving cricket bat is dated 1739 and belonged to John Chitty.       It is now in the pavilion at The Oval.     Kent is credited with having beaten a national English side in 1744 by one wicket at the Artillery ground off City Road.       It is about this time that the laws of cricket were systematised and amended and the need to appoint two impartial umpires, who could decide any and all disputes arising during a match, was laid down.

Philip went on to talk about the early history of Lord’s Cricket Ground, now known as the ‘Home of English Cricket’, in St John’s Wood where Thomas Lord opened the first ground in 1787.      He was acting on behalf of the White Conduit Club and bought the land for £50.00.       For various reasons the ground was relocated to its present site not far away  and was opened for the 1814 season.       The first leg before wicket law [lbw] was introduced 1795,   the first over- arm bowling took place in 1807  and the first women were introduced to the game in 1811.       Changes were also made to the shape of the bat  which was now straight as against the former hockey stick style. 

 In 1830 the first intervarsity -  match between Oxford and Cambridge took place.

Further milestones included the first match at the Oval in 1845, and the first ‘Roses’ match between Yorkshire and Lancashire in 1849.      Leg pads were worn for the first time in this game.      The first test match in England, when England played Australia, was also played at the Oval in 1880.

Philip went on to talk about W G Grace [1848-1915] a highly esteemed player who was of vital importance to the development of the game.    He is considered to be one of the greatest ever batsmen.     Making his first class debut in 1865 he played for 44 seasons in the English national team, the MCC, Gloucestershire and London County.     He made his highest score at the South v North match held at the Oval and in 1871 made a total of 10 centuries including one  at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.        He became a member of the MCC and treasurer in 1869 and played for them on a regular basis.       His most significant test was at the Oval when England played Australia in 1882 and Australia won by 7 runs.      It was here that the legend of the Ashes was borne and is based on a satirical obituary for English cricket which appeared in the British newspaper ‘The Sporting Times’ after this match.      The stumps from the match were burned and these ‘Ashes’ are said to be housed in a wooden urn which was decorated in 1927.  They are presented to the winner of every series between England and Australia.      They are insured at Christies for a large sum of money and are placed between two officials when journeying between both countries.  

Cricket, by virtue of being played since the earliest times by the English, has always been played worldwide beginning with the Commonwealth countries  and then in North America in 1859 with an overseas tour by an English team.        Curiously the Canadians have not adopted the game.  

  The official county championships were begun in Britain in1890 and this had a significant effect on strengthening the organisation of cricket by being repeated in other countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, and the West Indies.        India’s first test match was played in 1932, and Pakistan’s in 1952.        The South Africa match was cancelled in 1970 because of the politics associated with apartheid and the  first match against Sri Lanka was played in 1982.        While the test match series continue to be popular, cricket as a recreational pastime appears to be declining all over the country possibly because it is not played in many state schools and is very rarely shown on terrestrial television.   

Other major events in the evolution of the game include in 1900 the over being composed of 6 balls, in 1910 the award of 6 runs for a hit over the boundary of the ground and in 1978 the wearing of protective helmets.

The 20th Century has produced some great characters.        Jack Hobbs played for Surrey from 1905 to 1934 and for England in 61 test matches during which time he made 61760 runs and 199 centuries.  


In the 1930’s  Don Bradman was  Australia’s idol.     His batting was so good that a controversial set of tactics known as  ‘Bodyline Bowling’, of which Harold Larwood  was the chief exponent, was devised by the England team to restrict his scoring ability.  



 Dennis Compton, regarded as a remarkable batsman, played for England in 78 test matches and spent his whole career with Middlesex CC.       He was also a noted left arm bowler and a stand at Lord’s cricket ground is named in his honour.     He retired in 1957.         Len Hutton [1916-1990] played as opening batsman for Yorkshire from 1934 -1955 and for England in 79 test matches between 1937 and 1955.      He was the first Professional cricketer in the 20th century to captain England in test matches.    Previous captains had all been ‘Gentlemen’!

Australian Shane Warne who retired in 2007 was regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game taking over 1,000 international wickets and he is now a cricket commentator.         Viv Richards, former Antiguan cricketer who represented the West Indies at test and international levels, was voted as one of the five cricketers of the century.      He is now an occasional commentator on the sport.          

Ritchie Benaud, Australian cricketer, team captain and test cricket all- rounder, retired in 1964 after an illustrious career and became a highly regarded commentator.         E W Swanton [1907 – 2000] ,British author of books on cricket and a sports journalist for the Daily Telegraph,  was renowned for his commentaries on the BBC at a time when cricket attracted more national attention than it does today.

When answering questions, Philip replied to Derek West that the bails across the cricket stumps were now made of heavier material so as not to be accidentally dislodged by the wind.

Lawrie Jones thanked our speaker for a very good talk even though some of his idols had not been mentioned.    The talk had been entertaining showing among other things that Philip knows the game inside out.   

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