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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 08:16 GMT
Story of Cricket Part I: England
Cricket's early origins are vague but one thing is not in doubt: the sport grew up in England.

Cartoon of WG Grace
WG Grace was cricket's first celebrity
The first published references to the game, historian Peter Wynne-Thomas tells the Story of Cricket, were in the 1600s, when fines were handed out for those missing church to play.

A game played by the masses in the country was taken into public schools and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the century that followed.

The world's first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s and the world-famous Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.

STORY OF CRICKET
The BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew tells the first chapter on the BBC World Service
The programme launches a six-part series detailing the history of the game around the globe
Former Test cricketers Ian Chappell, Barry Richards, Michael Holding and Ravi Shastri present subsequent programmes
Civil War victor Oliver Cromwell had played his part when he ordered the gentry out of London after deposing King Charles I.

But WG Grace played the biggest role in popularising the game -the "Good Doctor" was reckoned the third most recognisable Victorian, behind the Queen and Prime Minister Gladstone.

The game became truly international when an England touring side took on Australia in what came to be considered the first Test match in 1877.

The home side won that match by 45 runs but when they were victorious in England five years later a newspaper published an obituary, first coining the term "Ashes".

Dennis Lillee
In those days there was no series at all except Australia versus England
Dennis Lillee
South Africa first played international cricket in 1898, West Indies became the fourth Test nation in 1929 and India joined the fray three years later.

But for much of the 19th Century, the Ashes dominated international cricket.

"In those days there was no series at all except Australia versus England," Australia fast bowler Dennis Lillee, who was born in 1949, tells the programme.

"It was what we were brought up to play cricket for."

Australia have won the last eight contests, dating back to 1989, but former England captain Tony Grieg believes the attraction of the Ashes remains.

"If you speak to the [Australian] players they really want to beat India in India," he says.

Play at Lord's
Lord's is still considered the home of cricket
"I would love to see England be competitive because it would be easy to revive the feeling of yesteryear."

Cricket has spread throughout what was once the British Empire, with a desire for revenge playing a part in motivating former dominions.

Former Pakistan batsman Asif Iqbal says: "There was a Raj for over 100 years and we wanted to show we had graduated and become good enough to beat [England]."

The MCC ran cricket until 1967 but the International Cricket Council has since taken over the role worldwide and the England and Wales Cricket Board now governs at home.

BROADCAST TIMES
Part 1: 8/1/03 - 10/1/03
All times GMT
Aus and NZ : Thurs 2106, Fri 0306, 0706, 1606
East Asia: Fri 0206, 0706, 1306, 1906
South Asia: Thurs 2206, Fri 0506, 0906, 1406
East Africa: Fri 0706, 1406, Sat 0006
West Africa: Fri 0906, 1646, Sat 0006
Middle East: Fri 0806, 1306, 1706, Sat 0106
Europe: Fri 0906, 1306, 1906, Sat 0106
Americas: Fri 1406, 2006, Sat 0106, 0606
The biggest role the club now plays is in running Lord's, a ground still considered the home of cricket, and an arena with special meaning for players worldwide.

"It does not have the best of pitches, it does not have the best of playing fields but it has got an atmosphere you can feel," said Australian legend Sir Donald Bradman.

Former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd added: "Lord's is our grand stage to display our talents.

"If there is one place a cricketer would like to make a hundred, of any sort, it would be at Lord's. It has an aura of greatness about it."

England may no longer be the best in the world at cricket, but it is still the game's spiritual home.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Historian Peter Wynne-Thomas
"The first reference to cricket was in Guildford in 1598"




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