CRICKET aficionados have rubbished claims by a French hamlet that the sport may have originated there.
Members of Hambledon Cricket Club said the claims by tourist officials in Liettres make no dent whatsoever in the Hampshire village’s world-renowned status as the ‘cradle of cricket’.
It comes as villagers in Liettres insist historical records show the traditional English game was actually being played there 537 years ago.
Villagers point to a record in the national archives of France which says that in October 1478 a man called Estiavannet encountered a gathering of disagreeable people playing an unusual game. It involved balls (boules) and a wooden post (criquet).
The archives contain a letter of protest to King Louis VI, stating that an argument developed over Estiavannet staring at the players, which led to a fight in which someone was killed.
The legend will be rekindled when a tournament is held later this month on a cow pasture.
Hambledon, which does not purport to be the first place in England where cricket was played, proudly guards its standing as the spiritual home of the sport.
The world-famous Hambledon Cricket Club was formed around 1750 although strangely, the earliest surviving record of cricket there dates from 1756, when The Oxford Gazette and Reading Mercury carried an advertisement seeking information about a dog lost at a cricket match on Broadhalfpenny Down.
The club’s current vice-chairman, Christopher Bazalgette, said: ‘I still think it’s an English game.
‘Different forms of early pastimes have been referred to.
‘Hambledon is where the first professional team played.
‘It’s where the game went from being a pastime to the national sport it is today.’
The result of the match in June 1777 when Hambledon took on England and beat them by a whole innings – England mustering 166 runs and 69 to Hambledon’s 403 – epitomises Hambledon’s fame.
The rules of the game were devised at meetings at the Bat and Ball pub, with developments such as the introduction of length bowling and the addition of a third stump.
Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones, who is a member at Hambledon, said: ‘People have played ball games with a bat and ball for centuries.
‘The game of cricket that we know and love, the very art of cricket, was founded in England.’