The evolution of cricket equipment

Most sportsmen and women in this era, both professional and amateur, rely heavily on the quality of the equipment they use, whether it's football boots, rowing boats, swimming suits or tennis rackets. They might seek the lightest, the strongest, the most flexible, the most aerodynamic or the hardest. Most sports are developing their equipment, and cricket is no exception. Brighter and better technology has been utilised to kit out the modern cricketer like never before. No self-respecting, safety-conscious batsman would take to the field these days without the latest and best bat, gloves, boots, helmet and batting pads he could afford. This wasn't always the case, however.

Origins of the sport

Cricket was probably invented somewhere in Northern Europe between the founding of Londinium and the year 1066. Back then, cricket was very different. None of the equipment we see today would have been utilised by the original teams - if indeed there were teams. There were no bats, no balls, no wickets, no bails, no creases, no helmets and no pads. Dickie Bird might have been standing at one end, but that's another story.

Instead of a ball, they would have used a small piece of wood and a club of some sort in place of a bat. The first game of cricket may have been one-on-one.

The exact moment the game reached our shores is not recorded. Various geographical and socioeconomic groups claim a hand: agricultural workers in Southern England, Kentish glass-makers and even immigrant Dutch cloth-workers.

Roots of modern cricket

What can be agreed is that by Tudor times, the game as we know it today was at least recognisable and had a strong following in Southern parts of England, especially Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Within a few years, it was being played at a number of schools and some of the more colourful players were being recorded for various misdemeanors at local magistrates' courts.

In those days, we would have recognised that two teams played against each other, the batsman held a bat, and the bowler threw a ball to try to hit the wickets. When he did hit the wicket, Dickie Bird would hold up a bent finger to give him out.

In 1695, we find the first reference to two teams of 11. From 1729, we have the earliest remnants of a bat, which is now held in the museum at Lords. 1771 saw the width of a bat limited to 4 ¼inches, a law that still stands today. 1780 introduced the first six-seamed cricket ball, and around approximately 1836, batting pads were first worn. In 1850, the first recorded wicket keeper gloves were worn. The final innovation introduced to the game that probably defines modern cricket more than anything came in 1978 when Graham Yallop wore the first protective helmet in a test match.

Sporting equipment will continue to evolve around the globe, and cricket will be no exception. It's anyone's guess what the batsmen of the future will be wearing!

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