Sporting Vernacular 45. CRICKET

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ALTHOUGH YESTERDAY'S play in Durban indicated a few bright spots, the signs are that hopes of an English cricket revival are shrouded in obscurity - like the word "cricket" itself.

One theory is that it came from the Old French criquet - the stick used in an old version of boules - or that the word's likely source, the Flemish krick or its Middle Dutch cousin, cricke, stick or staff. It is unclear whether the reference was to the implement used to hit the ball or the ball's target, the forerunner of today's stumps. Another possible ancestor is the Flemish krick-stoel, a long, low stool similar to early wickets.

Some writers have linked cricket with old bat and ball games such as stool-ball, trap-ball and tip-cat, while others relate it to creag, a game played by the Prince of Wales around 1300. The word appeared in a document of 1598, the Guild Merchant Book, which related it back to Henry VIII's reign. Talking about John Denwick, a coroner from Guldeford, the book records: "hee and several of his fellowes did runne and play... at Creckett and other plaies."