The game underwent major development in the 18th century to become England's national sport.[citation needed] Its success was underwritten by the twin necessities of patronage and betting.[34] Cricket was prominent in London as early as 1707 and, in the middle years of the century, large crowds flocked to matches on the Artillery Ground in Finsbury.[citation needed] The single wicket form of the sport attracted huge crowds and wagers to match, its popularity peaking in the 1748 season.[35] Bowling underwent an evolution around 1760 when bowlers began to pitch the ball instead of rolling or skimming it towards the batsman. This caused a revolution in bat design because, to deal with the bouncing ball, it was necessary to introduce the modern straight bat in place of the old "hockey stick" shape.[36][citation needed]
Cricket has close historical ties with Australian rules football and many players have competed at top levels in both sports.[136] In 1858, prominent Australian cricketer Tom Wills called for the formation of a "foot-ball club" with "a code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during the off-season. The Melbourne Football Club was founded the following year, and Wills and three other members codified the first laws of the game.[137] It is typically played on modified cricket fields.[138]
In the approximate centre of the field is a rectangular pitch (see image, below) on which a wooden target called a wicket is sited at each end; the wickets are placed 22 yards (20 m) apart.[60] The pitch is a flat surface 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, with very short grass that tends to be worn away as the game progresses (cricket can also be played on artificial surfaces, notably matting). Each wicket is made of three wooden stumps topped by two bails.[61]