The single wicket cricket was a form of cricket that was played in ancient times when cricket was still developing as a sport. From as early as 1300, cricket has been played, although back then it was not a sport and was referred to as “creag”. Later on, by 1500s, cricket has established itself as a sport and by 1700s, it was cited as the national sport in England. Before 1600s, it was considered to be children’s play however after 1600, it became a game that was not only appealing to adults but also to huge betting crowds.
In those days, single wicket cricket was a sport played mostly by the working class. In this form of cricket, there are 2 individuals who battle it on the pitch. Both the players take turns at batting and bowling against each other. The bowler is assisted by his team of players or fielders on the ground. Local clubs competed at the single wicket tournaments and had to encounter several knockout rounds before reaching the finals. The exact rules of play vary according to the local practice. Some might prefer to simply deduct runs from the total scored runs of a batsman when he is out, rather than dismissing him from the field. The innings were much shorter than the traditional ones used nowadays and would last for only two or three overs. However, in the 18th century, the innings span was extended to until the batsman was dismissed.
Single wicket cricket had gained much popularity before the eleven-a-side form of cricket was introduced. It was especially admired by gamblers at the Artillery Ground where most of the matches were held during the 18th century. Famous players from that time include Tom Faulkner, Thomas Waymark, Stephen Dingate and Robert Colchin.
On 22-23rd May, 1775 John Small, a great batsman from Hambledon was up against the equally great Edward “Lumpy” Stevens and on three occasions the ball went through the two stump wickets. In those days the wickets used only two stumps unlike three stumps used nowadays. After much protesting, Stevens was successful to convince the patrons to allow a third stump at the wickets.
The single wicket cricket faced a slowdown in the early years of the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club) but again in the 19th century it relived its popularity. Many memorable players like Nicholas Felix and Alfred Mynn took part in unforgettable matches. The matches were popular from 1800 till 1820 but riddled with many gambling related match fixing.
There were a set of laws that were laid down in 1831 which were meant to be followed universally. The ten laws framed then were applied to all major contests that were played during the next twenty or so years. Later on as the popularity of county cricket started to sore as well as the ascend of the All-England Eleven, single wicket cricket again lapsed and from then on has never been seen at its highest level as in 1850s. The form was revived in 1860 but with fewer success.