How early cricket survived opposition, censorship to become one of the world’s most popular sports

Painting of the first grand match of cricket played by members of the Royal Amateur Society on Hampton Court Green, August 3rd, 1836. (Artist unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
Painting of the first grand match of cricket played by members of the Royal Amateur Society on Hampton Court Green, August 3rd, 1836. (Artist unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 10 June 2021

How early cricket survived opposition, censorship to become one of the world’s most popular sports

Painting of the first grand match of cricket played by members of the Royal Amateur Society on Hampton Court Green, August 3rd, 1836. (Artist unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
  • In the first of a regular column, cricket lover and expert Jon Pike recalls discovering the humble beginnings of the game, its obscure history and the objects that lent their names to its colourful terminology

LONDON: There was not a single moment when my passion for cricket suddenly developed. It happened slowly, almost like the game itself. I do recall enjoying playing in a chaotic manner during break times at primary school, using wickets painted onto a wall, a tennis ball and a borrowed bat. After school, we played in the lanes behind the closely terraced houses of a coal mining community in the English Midlands, using dustbins as wickets and pieces of wood to hit the ball.

It never occurred to me to ask why a wicket was so called, why it had three stumps, why the bat was shaped the way that it was, or why a proper cricket ball was so hard. I was also unaware that the origins of cricket were obscure or, indeed, that it had a history at all.

Those questions only arose when I was taken, aged nine, for the first time to a professional cricket match at a famous ground in the English city of Nottingham. It was full of people and the spectacle was exhilarating. It was so different to my experience of playing in back yards. Little did I know that the origins of cricket were more akin to my early playing environment than to the spectacle I had just witnessed.

Cricket’s origins have been poorly represented in historical records. There is a common assumption that the game originated in England, through references to stick and stone games with some resemblance to cricket being played as early as 1183. The household accounts of King Edward I in 1300 report of a game much like cricket being played in the county of Kent.

It was the sheep-grazing lands of south-eastern England that provided short grass on which balls of rags or wool could be rolled. The wicket gate (a small gate or door within a larger one) was used as a target, which was defended by a person who wielded a stick similar to a shepherd’s crook.

This idyllic, pastoral, image is a seductive one with which to associate the game’s beginnings in England. It certainly worked on me, serving to increase my appetite to play and understand the game. These romantic undertones are enhanced by the words derived to name the tools needed to play – wicket, stump, bat, bail, (or beil), a French word for a cross piece on the wicket gate, whilst mystique surrounds the way in which the game got its name. I discovered one view that it derives from an old English word for cryce or crutch and a Dutch word, rick, meaning stick, thus suggesting the involvement of merchants from the near European continent.

In my search to learn more, I was disappointed to discover that, if the game was being played between the 12th and 16th centuries, it received almost no references in literature or contemporary records. Those that have been identified were oblique ones, such as reports in a court case in 1598 of cricket being played by pupils of the Royal Grammar School in Guildford in 1550 and, in 1611, two young men were punished in court for playing cricket instead of going to church. I know that feeling, given I skipped piano lessons in favor of playing cricket until found out and suitably admonished for wasting my parent’s money.

The first conclusive records for a game recognisable as cricket emerged in 1646 in Kent for no clear reason that I can find. The match was played for a small wager, curiously of 12 candles. The post-English Civil War government was keen to stamp out public gatherings, drunkenness and gambling, so the holding of the match may have been an act of insolence or rebellion. Perhaps the participants thought the government’s ban was not worth a candle.

Cricket’s apparent lack of popularity may have been influenced by other preferred opportunities for gambling, such as bear baiting, wrestling, racing, or cock fighting. Additionally, it suffered from governmental press and print censorship, designed to prevent opportunities for sedition.

Once this was lifted in 1696, cricket began to flourish. It attracted the attention of the aristocracy, for whom it provided a new vehicle for heavy gambling. When I read about this, as a boy, I was appalled that this seemingly well-mannered game could be tarnished in this way. There was a silver lining in that it created the imperative for codified conditions under which the matches should be played.

The development of the game as it is played today began to be shaped in 18th century England. Its subsequent journey has taken it far beyond its supposedly rustic origins in the south of England to many parts of the world, some of them unexpected, a subject for another piece. Cricket abounds with stories, fierce rivalries and myths. It also has deep, but discreet, strategic aspects, which have served only to increase my fascination with the game over many years.


Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America
Updated 13 June 2021

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America
  • The electric SUV rally series will not take place in Brazil and Argentina due to safety concerns over COVID-19

Extreme E, the electric off-road racing series, has confirmed that it is seeking alternate destinations for the final two races in Season 1 due to the COVID-19 situation in South America.

Extreme E was due to hold its Amazon X Prix in the Brazilian state of Para, between Oct. 23-24, before heading further south to the Glacier X Prix in Patagonia, Argentina, on Dec. 11-12, however having monitored the global pandemic context, it has decided to postpone visiting the region until Season 2.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the situation regarding all Extreme E locations for 2021 and have chosen to make this pre-emptive decision on racing in South America this year,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said. “As a new series embarking on our opening season, our priority is to deliver a five-race calendar of events which are safe and responsible for our global participants, partners and staff to travel to and attend.

The first-ever Extreme E race, the Desert X Prix, took place across the Said desert of AlUla at the start of April and was won by Rosberg X Racing. Former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s team overcame Andretti United and Lewis Hamilton’s X44, who finished second and third on the podium.

The second race was Ocean X Prix in Senegal and the third will be the Arctic X Prix in Greenland at the end of August.

“This was not a decision made lightly, however current travel advice and restrictions have also meant we have been unable to visit the race areas in advance to undertake the necessary reconnaissance visits, which are especially vital due to the remote nature of our operations,” Agag said.

“We will of course continue to support our important reforestation and agroforestry initiatives, which are already well underway in the region thanks to the help of Dr. Francisco Olivieira and our partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Brazil,” he said. “We would also like to thank the local authorities in Brazil and Argentina who have been supportive throughout the whole process and we hope we can return in 2022.”

Alternative race locations are being explored and will be announced in due course. Options include the possibility of the Western Isles, Scotland, ahead of Glasgow hosting COP26 in November.

Each X Prix event uses its sporting platform to highlight a different issue facing the planet, and as well as raising awareness of these problems, also highlights solutions and leaves a long-lasting positive impact in its race locations through its legacy programs.

These programs include planting one million mangroves in Senegal, turtle conservation in the Red Sea, the empowerment and education of children on climate change in Greenland in collaboration with UNICEF, and agroforestry initiatives and reforestation in Para in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.


Adesanya back to his best in UFC 263 win over Vettori

Adesanya back to his best in UFC 263 win over Vettori
Updated 13 June 2021

Adesanya back to his best in UFC 263 win over Vettori

Adesanya back to his best in UFC 263 win over Vettori
  • Masterful return to form for the New Zealander on a wild night at the Gila River Arena
  • Adesanya suffered the first loss of his MMA career in March after moving up a division

LOS ANGELES: Israel Adesanya was back to his brilliant best Saturday, defeating challenger Marvin Vettori with a show of superior striking and defending his middleweight title at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona.
It was a masterful return to form for the New Zealander on a wild night at the Gila River Arena that also saw the UFC crown its first-ever Mexican-born champion.
“I didn’t feel any threat at all,” said Adesanya, 31, after getting a comfortable unanimous decision.
Adesanya suffered the first loss of his MMA career in March after moving up a division and finding himself outmuscled.
But Saturday saw him down to a weight class where he is noticeably more comfortable. The Nigerian-born fighter’s speed around the cage and his precision striking, with low kicks and jabs, was too much for Vettori from the first bell.
The Italian tried to use his bigger bulk to get Adesanya to the mat, but each time the New Zealander slipped out and got up to his feet again.
In the end, the judges’ cards read 50-45, 50-45, 50-45 – and Adesanya was back in business, describing himself as “the king.”
There were questions before the fight about the mental toll on Adesanya of his career’s first defeat, and of the death last month of one of his close friends who was attacked on a night out in Auckland.
Adesanya dedicated the fight to his friend, and laid his belt down in the middle of the cage in tribute.
Before Adesanya’s masterclass, the 18,000-odd fans in attendance raised the roof when flyweight challenger Brandon Moreno laid on a rear-naked choke in the third round that saw Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo first tap out and then hand over his belt to the Mexican.
Despite his nation’s storied history across all combat sports, there has never before been a Mexican UFC champion and the 27-year-old Moreno broke down in tears as he spoke in the cage afterwards.
“This moment is so amazing,” he said. “I’ve worked my whole life for this. Viva Mexico!”
The pair had thrown up one of the fights of the year when they met at UFC 256 last December, across five rounds of mayhem that was called a majority draw.
This time around, Moreno left nothing to chance, moving with speed and purpose at a high tempo.
Saturday night continued the UFC’s rollout of live events for American fans as the United States emerges from pandemic lockdowns that shut down most action for a year.
The UFC described the Arizona event as a sellout, much like the open-to-the-public events in Jacksonville, Florida, and Houston, Texas.


Clippers beat Jazz in Game 3 of NBA series, cut deficit to 2-1 

Clippers beat Jazz in Game 3 of NBA series, cut deficit to 2-1 
Updated 13 June 2021

Clippers beat Jazz in Game 3 of NBA series, cut deficit to 2-1 

Clippers beat Jazz in Game 3 of NBA series, cut deficit to 2-1 
  • Game 4 is Monday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and 12 rebounds, Paul George added 31 points and the Los Angeles Clippers got back into their second-round series against the Utah Jazz with a 132-106 victory in Game 3 on Saturday night.
Leonard and George each scored at least 30 in the same playoff game for the second time to help the Clippers cut Utah’s series lead to 2-1.
George shot only 34.3 percent from the field in the first two games but was 12 of 24, including 6 of 10 on 3-pointers. He had 13 points in the second quarter, eight during a 13-2 run when LA seized control and took a 57-41 advantage with 2:54 remaining in the first half.
Leonard scored 24 points in the second half. Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum added 17 points apiece for the Clippers.
Game 4 is Monday night at Staples Center.
Donovan Mitchell led Utah with 30 points, his fifth straight games with at least 30. The last player to do that was Leonard last year in the first round against Dallas.
Joe Ingles had 19 points for Utah and Jordan Clarkson added 14. The Jazz were 19 of 44 on 3-pointers, but 17 of 40 inside the arc as the Clippers’ zone defense caused problems.

MITCHELL’S NIGHT
Mitchell missed his first four shots, including a pair of drives to the basket, and didn’t make his first basket until there was 7:34 left in the second quarter. He then proceeded to score Utah’s next 16 points, which included four 3-pointers.
It was the first time in his last 23 games that Mitchell had gone scoreless in the first quarter.

TIP INS
Jazz: Ruby Gobert had 12 points and 10 rebounds. ... Clarkson was assessed a Flagrant-1 foul for slapping Ivica Zubac in the face after a rebound 20 seconds into the second quarter. ... Guard Mike Conley missed his third straight game because of a mild right hamstring strain.
Clippers: LA had struggled from the perimeter in the first two games but was 19 of 36 on 3-pointers Saturday night. Jackson had five 3-pointers, Batum added four and Luke Kennard had a pair in the second half to keep the lead in double digits.
 


Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
Updated 12 June 2021

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
  • 25-year-old Czech champion pays emotional tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna

PARIS: Barbora Krejcikova won her maiden Grand Slam singles title at the French Open on Saturday, beating Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to become the first Czech woman in 40 years to conquer Roland Garros before dedicating her victory to former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna who died four years ago.

Krejcikova, ranked 33 in the world and playing just her fifth main draw in a Slams singles event, triumphed 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 for a second career title.

The 25-year-old emulates compatriot Hana Mandlikova who claimed the trophy in Paris in 1981.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova paid an emotional tribute to her mentor Novotna, who died of cancer at the age of 49 in 2017.

“It’s hard to put into words. I cannot believe I have just won a Grand Slam,” said Krejcikova who was still outside the top 100 when the 2020 French Open took place last October.

“I spent a lot of time with Jana before she died. Her last words to me were ‘enjoy tennis and try and win a Grand Slam’.

“I know she’s looking after me. All this is pretty much because she is looking after me.

“It was amazing that I got the chance to meet her. She was such an inspiration. I miss her and I hope she’s really happy,” added Krejcikova who had to save a match point in her semifinal to defeat Maria Sakkari.

Krejcikova, who can also win a third Grand Slam women’s doubles title on Sunday with Katerina Siniakova, was presented with the trophy by Czech-born Martina Navratilova who won two French Opens in 1982 and 1984 but as an American citizen.

Krejcikova will rise to number 15 in the world as a result of her win on Saturday as she became the sixth successive first-time major winner in Paris.

She is also the third unseeded champion at Roland Garros in the last five years after Jelena Ostapenko in 2017 and Iga Swiatek in 2020.

If she adds the doubles on Sunday, she’ll be the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to claim both titles at the same Roland Garros.

Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Slam final at the 52nd attempt and was attempting to become the third oldest first-time winner of a major.

“I was preparing a speech for this moment ever since I was a little kid and now I am lost for words,” said the 29-year-old.

“Many thanks to my friends who came here from all over the world for one match — maybe they thought this was my one and only chance!

“Congratulations to Barbora. I don’t know how you play singles and doubles. I was dead on the last point.”

In a nervy start to the final, Krejcikova was broken in the first game, serving up two double faults.

However, the Russian was unable to capitalize and dropped the next six games as her Czech opponent grabbed three breaks and raced way with the opener inside half an hour.

Krejcikova was rewarded for her bold attacking, hitting 13 winners to the Russian’s seven.

Pavlyuchenkova, who made her Slam debut back in 2007, was the more composed player in the second set, stretching out to 5-1.

A medical timeout at 5-2, during which she was seen munching Haribo gummy bears, merely delayed the Russian leveling the final.

In the decider, the players exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games, before the Czech broke to love for 4-3 on the back of a 10-shot rally. Pavlyuchenkova saved two championship points in the ninth game and a third in the 10th but Krejcikova became champion on the fourth when the Russian hit long.

Both women capitalized on a draw in which the top seeds fell and just kept falling.

World No. 1 and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty hobbled out in the second round.

Serena Williams was knocked out in the fourth round, world number two Naomi Osaka withdrew after one match, while 2018 champion Simona Halep never even made it to Paris.


Denmark’s Christian Eriksen conscious in hospital after collapsing at Euro 2020

Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2021

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen conscious in hospital after collapsing at Euro 2020

Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
  • The Danish DBU football association tweeted that the 29-year-old was 'awake and at Rigshospitalet for further examinations'

COPENHAGEN: Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen was conscious in hospital on Saturday, soccer officials said, after collapsing during his side's Euro 2020 opening soccer match with Finland and being given CPR on the pitch.

Eriksen collapsed suddenly in the 42nd minute of the match while running near the left touchline after a Denmark throw-in. As a hush fell over the 16,000-strong crowd, his teammates formed a ring around him as medics pumped his chest.

A Reuters photographer at the game saw Eriksen raise his hand as he was carried away from the pitch on a stretcher, and the Danish football association later said on Twitter that the 29-year-old was awake at the nearby Rigshospitalet, where he was being examined.

“We have been in contact with him and the players have spoken to Christian,” said Peter Moller of the Danish Football Association.

The game was initially suspended but it was decided that it would resume at 1830 GMT, with Finland eventually running out 1-0 winners.

“He is doing well and they are playing the match for Christian,” Moller said.

The game was scoreless when Eriksen, who plays club soccer for Inter Milan in Italy, collapsed just before halftime in their Group B clash. Teammates Martin Braithwaite and Thomas Delaney rushed to assist him, with Delaney beckoning furiously for medical assistance.

People gathered outside bars in central Copenhagen, many in tears, in the long period when Eriksen's condition remained unclear.

Both teams subsequently left the field with officials holding up sheets to hide the stricken player from view, and the stadium announcer told fans that the game had been suspended due to a medical emergency and to stay in their seats.

The crowd at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen sang the Danish national anthem and shouted “Christian Eriksen” while they were waiting for news about the player.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Christian Eriksen and his family,” Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo said on Instagram. “The world of football stands together hoping for good news. I’m counting on finding you soon back on the pitch, Chris! Stay strong!”

Eriksen's team-mate at Inter Milan, Lautaro Martinez, wrote on the site: “Come on Chris! Please Chris.”