London: Cricket is not quintessentially English after all, a new Australian research has claimed.
According to the research, north European immigrants imported the game to England in the 14th century, and that it was first resisted by the local population.
The claim challenges the traditional theory that the sport evolved from children's games played in England since Anglo-Saxon times.
The Telegraph quotes Paul Campbell, of the department of English and theatre at the Australian National University, in Canberra, as saying that he has uncovered a reference to the sport in a 1533 poem, attributed to John Skelton, a popular poet and playwright of the day, in which he links it to immigrants from Flanders, in modern day Belgium, France and Holland.
In the work, "The Image of Ipocrisie" - much of which is a diatribe against parts of the Church - Skelton also appears to rail against the Flemish weavers who settled in southern and eastern England from the 14th century, labelling them dismissively as "kings of crekettes".
In what appears to be a call for the weavers to be driven out of England, Skelton writes:
"O lorde of Ipocrites/Nowe shut vpp your wickettes/And clape to your clickettes!/A! Farewell, kings of crekettes!"
The poem is the earliest known reference to the sport and adds weight to claims that the weavers brought the game over with them and played it on fields close to where they tended their sheep, using shepherd''s crooks - or curved sticks - as bats to strike a ball.
It was uncovered by Campbell following a search of historical archives, in which he looked for variations of the early ways in which the word cricket was spelt.
A German academic, who first established that the word has its linguistic origins in Flemish, guided Campbell.
Dr Heiner Gillmeister, of the department of English at the University of Bonn, suggests the term cricket has its roots in the Flemish phrase "met de krik ketsen", or "to chase with a curved stick".
He goes on to suggest that the origins of hockey goals and the wickets in cricket were in imitation of chivalric games, in which a knight on horseback guarded a narrow passage or opening.
It had previously been thought that the first written reference to cricket was in 1589, when it was mentioned during a court case in Guildford, Surrey, in which a certain John Derick - possible from the Flemish name Hendrik - recalled that as a young man at the Royal Grammar School "he and diverse of his fellowes did runne and play there at creckett and other plaies".
But the new finding is the most conclusive proof that the sport - as well as the word itself - was foreign in origin.
Skelton's poem is contained in a collection published by The Ballad Society in 1868.