The history of cricket to 1725 traces the sport's development from its perceived origins to the stage where it had become a major sport in England and had been introduced to other countries.
The earliest definite reference to cricket occurs in 1598 and makes clear that the sport was being played c. 1550, but its true origin is a mystery. All that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that its beginning was earlier than 1550, somewhere in south-east England within the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Unlike other games with batsmen,bowlers and fielders, such as stoolball and rounders, cricket can only be played on relatively short grass, especially as the ball was delivered along the ground until the 1760s. Therefore, forest clearings and land where sheep had grazed would have been suitable places to play.
The sparse information available about cricket's early years suggests that it was originally a children's game. Then, at the beginning of the 17th century, it was taken up by working men. During the reign of Charles I, the gentry took an increased interest as patrons and occasionally as players. A big attraction for them was the opportunity that the game offered for gambling and this escalated in the years following the Restoration. By the time of the Hanoverian succession, investment in cricket had created professional players and first-class clubs, thus establishing the sport as a popular social activity in London and the south of England. Meanwhile, English colonists had introduced cricket to North America and the West Indies, and the sailors and traders of the East India Company had taken it to the Indian subcontinent.
The most widely accepted theory about the origin of cricket is that it first developed in early medieval times to the south and south-east of London in the geographical areas of the North Downs, the South Downs and the Weald. The counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey were therefore the earliest centres of excellence and it was from here that the game reached London, where its lasting popularity was ensured, and other southern counties like Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire andMiddlesex. As early as 1610, a cricket match was recorded at Chevening in Kent between teams representing the Downs and the Weald.