Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on a field, at the centre of which is a rectangular pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and limit the runs scored by the batting team.
A run is scored by the striking batsman hitting the ball with his bat, running to the opposite end of the pitch and touching the crease there without being dismissed. The teams switch between batting and fielding at the end of an innings.
In professional cricket the length of a game ranges from 20 overs of six bowling deliveries per side, to Test cricket played over five days. The Laws of Cricket are maintained by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) with additional Standard Playing Conditions for Test matches and One Day Internationals.
Cricket was first played in southern England in the 16th century. By the end of the 18th century, it had developed into the national sport of England. The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the mid-19th century, the first international matches were being held. The ICC, the game’s governing body, has ten full members. The game is played particularly in Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies, Southern Africa and England.
The History of Cricket
The earliest definite reference to cricket being played in England (and anywhere) is in evidence given at a 1598 court case which mentions that “creckett” was played on common land in Guildford, Surrey, around 1550. It is believed that it was originally a children’s game but references around 1610 indicate that adults had started playing it and the earliest reference to inter-parish or village cricket occurs soon afterwards. In 1624, a player called Jasper Vinall was killed when he was struck on the head during a match between two parish teams in Sussex.
During the 17th century, numerous references indicate the growth of cricket in the south-east of England. By the end of the century, it had become an organised activity being played for high stakes and it is believed that the first professionals appeared in the years following the Restoration in 1660. A newspaper report survives of “a great cricket match” with eleven players a side that was played for high stakes in Sussex in 1697, and this is the earliest known reference to a cricket match of such importance.
The game underwent major developments in the 18th century and became the national sport of England. Betting played a major part in that development with rich patrons forming their own “select XIs”. Cricket was prominent in London from as early as 1707, and large crowds flocked to matches on the Artillery Ground in Finsbury. The single wicket form of the sport attracted huge crowds and wagers.
Bowling evolved from 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.
The Hambledon Club was founded in the 1760s, and for the next 20 years until the formation of the MCC and the opening of Lord’s Old Ground in 1787, Hambledon was both the game’s greatest club and its focal point. MCC quickly became the sport’s premier club and the custodian of the Laws of Cricket. New Laws introduced in the latter part of the 18th century included the three stump wicket and leg before wicket (lbw).
The 19th century saw underarm bowling replaced by first round-arm and then overarm bowling. Both developments were controversial. Organisation of the game at county level led to the creation of the county clubs, starting with Sussex CCC in 1839, which ultimately formed the official County Championship in 1890. Meanwhile, the British Empire had been instrumental in spreading the game overseas and by the middle of the 19th century, it had become well established in India, North America, the Caribbean, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In 1844, the first international cricket match took place between the United States and Canada (although neither has ever been ranked as a Test-playing nation).
In 1859, a team of England players went on the first overseas tour (to North America). The first Australian team to tour overseas was a team of Aboriginal stock-men, who travelled to England in 1868 to play matches against county teams. In 1862, an English team made the first tour of Australia and in 1876–77, an England team took part in the first-ever Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia.
W.G. Grace started his long career in 1865; his career is often said to have revolutionised the sport. The rivalry between England and Australia gave birth to The Ashes in 1882, and this has remained Test cricket’s most famous contest. Test cricket began to expand in 1888–89 when South Africa played England. The last two decades before the First World War have been called the “Golden Age of cricket”. It is a nostalgic name prompted by the collective sense of loss resulting from the war, but the period did produce some great players and memorable matches, especially as organised competition at county and Test level developed.
The inter-war years were dominated by one player: Australia’s Don Bradman, statistically the greatest batsman of all time. It was the determination of the England team to overcome his skill that brought about the infamous Bodyline series in 1932–33, particularly from the accurate short-pitched bowling of Harold Larwood.
Test cricket continued to expand during the 20th century with the addition of the West Indies, India, and New Zealand before the Second World War and then Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in the post-war period. However, South Africa was banned from international cricket from 1970 to 1992 because of its government’s apartheid policy.
Cricket entered a new era in 1963 when English counties introduced the limited overs variant. As it was sure to produce a result, limited overs cricket was lucrative and the number of matches increased. The first Limited Overs International was played in 1971. The governing International Cricket Council (ICC) saw its potential and staged the first limited overs Cricket World Cup in 1975.
In the 21st century, a new limited overs form, the Twenty20, has made an immediate impact.
Types of Cricket Matches
Cricket is a multi-faceted sport which can be divided into major cricket and minor cricket based on playing standards. A more pertinent division, particularly in terms of major cricket, is between matches in which the teams have two innings apiece and those in which they have a single innings each. The former, known as first-class cricket, has a duration of three to five days (there have been examples of “timeless” matches too); the latter, known as limited overs cricket because each team bowls a limit of typically 50 or 20 overs, has a planned duration of one day only (a match can be extended if necessary, due to bad weather, etc).
Typically, two-innings matches have at least six hours of playing time each day. Limited overs matches often last six hours or more. There are usually formal intervals on each day for lunch and tea with brief informal breaks for drinks. There is also a short interval between innings.
The Rules of Cricket
If the team that bats last is all out having scored fewer runs than their opponents, the team is said to have “lost by (amount of) runs” (where the amount is the difference between the number of runs scored by the teams). If the team that bats last scores enough runs to win, it is said to have “won by (amount of) wickets”, where the amount is the number of wickets left to fall. For instance a team that passes its opponents’ score having only lost six wickets would have won “by four wickets”.
In a two-innings-a-side match, one team’s combined first and second innings total may be less than the other side’s first innings total. The team with the greater score is then said to have won by an innings and (amount of) runs, and does not need to bat again: the amount is the difference between the two teams’ aggregate scores.
If the team batting last is all out, and both sides have scored the same number of runs, then the match is a tie; this result is quite rare in matches of two innings a side. In the traditional form of the game, if the time allotted for the match expires before either side can win, then the game is declared a draw.
If the match has only a single innings per side, then a maximum number of deliveries for each innings is often imposed. Such a match is called a “limited overs” or “one-day” match, and the side scoring more runs wins regardless of the number of wickets lost, so that a draw cannot occur. If this kind of match is temporarily interrupted by bad weather, then a complex mathematical formula, known as the Duckworth-Lewis method after its developers, is often used to recalculate a new target score.
A one-day match can also be declared as a “no-result” if fewer than a previously agreed number of overs have been bowled by either team, in circumstances that make normal resumption of play impossible; for example, wet weather.
The International Cricket Council (ICC), which has its headquarters in Dubai, is the international governing body of cricket. It was founded as the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 by representatives from England, Australia and South Africa, renamed the International Cricket Conference in 1965, and took up its current name in 1989.
The ICC has 104 members: 10 Full Members that play official Test matches, 34 Associate Members, and 60 Affiliate Members. The ICC is responsible for the organisation and governance of cricket’s major international tournaments, most notably the Cricket World Cup. It also appoints the umpires and referees that officiate at all sanctioned Test matches, One Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals.
Each nation has a national cricket board which regulates cricket matches played in its country. The cricket board also selects the national squad and organises home and away tours for the national team. In the West Indies, these matters are addressed by the West Indies Cricket Board which consists of members appointed by four national boards and two multi-national boards.