Cricket and Jane Austen

The Kia Oval

Mary & I have just got back from a family visit which was to include a day at The Kia Oval (father, son, and father-in-law) watching England play South Africa at cricket. Tickets had been booked many months ago for the second day of this test match on Friday 9th September. The first day (Thursday) was rained off without a bowl being bowled; somewhat ironic in a year of well below average rainfall! The weather forecast for the second day looked more promising but, late Thursday afternoon, news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had died and most sporting fixtures for the following day were cancelled. Disappointing but it was only a game.

My son and grandson had tickets booked for the third day (Saturday) and enjoyed an exciting day's play. We consoled ourselves by watching the game on television.

We broke the car journey home with overnight pub stays in Holybourne and Marlborough; definitely recommend The White Hart in Holybourne for accommodation, food, beer and the friendliness of the staff!

Not far from Holybourne, is Jane Austen's House at Chawton which we visited the following day...

Jane Austen's House, Chawton

...and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the house and gardens. We met quite a few characters dressed like this...

Chawton as it might have looked in the early 19th Century?

Initially, we thought there were 'extras' for the Jane Austen's House. However, we were told they were just Jane Austen fans who liked to dress up and mix socially. It was a warm sunny day (27 ℃ maximum back in Hereford) so the man in black must have, at least, taken his hat and coat off later.

Is there a link between cricket and Jane Austen, I hear you say? Well, of course there is otherwise what would be the point of this post?

The origins of cricket are a little fuzzy but it is believed some form of the game was played in Anglo-Saxon times. There are written references to cricket at the end of the 16th/beginning of the 17th centuries. Cricket was already well-established in the 18th century - Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787 with responsibility for establishing the rules or laws of cricket.

That Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) was aware of the game is clear from this passage taken from her book, Northanger Abbey:

She was fond of all boys’ plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird or watering a rose bush.

Since Jane Austen based many of her characters on people she knew, including family members, we may assume she either knew someone who played cricket or watched a game - though not at Chawton Cricket Club which started in 1883.


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