Did you know that a woman invented round-arm bowling? In the early 19th century Christina Willes of Kent bowled round-arm as it was the only way to stop her hooped skirt getting in the way of her delivery. It turned out that her round-arm technique allowed faster delivery, more ‘spin’ and ‘cut’ and was subsequently legalized in 1835. In fact these days underarm bowling is only allowed in exceptional circumstances and round-arm bowling is standard.
In the early days of women’s cricket the women played in large hooped skirts, corsets, laced shoes (with no grip) and bonnets that perched at a crazy angle. Gradually this get-up was refined so that by the 1930’s women wore woolen stockings, brogue shoes, a knee-high skirt and a white blouse, not ideal but better than before!
The Reading Mercury on July 26, 1745 reported on a match between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon, near Guildford in Surrey:
“The greatest cricket match that was played in this part of England was on Friday, the 26th of last month, on Gosden Common, near Guildford, between eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambledon, all dressed in white. The Bramley maids had blue ribbons and the Hambledon maids red ribbons on their heads. The Bramely girls got 119 notches and the Hambledon girls 127. There was of bothe sexes the greatest number that ever was seen on such an occasion. The girls bowled, batted, ran and catches as well as most men could do in that game.”
In those early years of cricket, the fashion of the day dictated what was worn on field so that the like women, men wore on field what they wore daily, i.e. top hats, oxford shoes, high collars and bow ties.
In the mid 1800’s the top hat was replaced with a white bowler hat with a ribbon for the club colours, later a straw hat replaced the bowler hat. There were variations on this theme, as you can see this American team took a Texan approach with their hats. The now familiar ‘varsity’ style cap was first introduced at England’s top schools, Eton and Winchester were first in 1851, Harrow followed in 1852, then Cambridge in 1861 and then Oxford in 1863.
The early days of cricket were also devoid of any protective gear, although perhaps with such unsuitable uniforms the dangers were somewhat mitigated! As the apparel became more appropriate so the game developed and protective gear became necessary. Wicket keeping gloves were introduced in 1820 and by the 1850’s were commonplace. Batting pads were first seen in 1836.
Cricket fashion has certainly come a very long way over the years. In the very early days of cricket ‘Flannels’ were the common uniform, a tradition which remains to this day, albeit in a modified form. Flannels consisted of white trousers, a white shirt, oxford shoes and often a top hat. These days ‘Flannels’ or whites are worn for Test matches only.
Cricket fashion has evolved with the times, these days Club colours are pretty extreme and the introduction of 20/20 cricket has seen uniforms become bold, bright and exciting to match the pace of the game format.