Bat-and-ball game between two teams of 11 players each. It is played with a small solid ball and long flat-sided wooden bats, on a round or oval field, at the centre of which is a finely mown pitch, 20 m/22 yd long. At each end of the pitch is a wicket made up of three upright wooden sticks (stumps), surmounted by two smaller sticks (bails). The object of the game is to score more runs than the opposing team. A run is normally scored by the batsman striking the ball and exchanging ends with his or her partner until the ball is returned by a fielder, or by hitting the ball to the boundary line for an automatic four or six runs.
Rules A batsman stands at each wicket and is bowled a stipulated number of balls (usually six), after which another bowler bowls from the other wicket. A batsman is usually got ‘out’ by being bowled, caught, run out, stumped, or l.b.w. (leg before wicket) – when the batsman's leg obstructs the wicket and is struck by the ball. A good captain will position fielders according to the strength of the opposition's batsman. Games comprise one or two innings, or turns at batting, per team. Two umpires arbitrate; one stands behind the wicket at the non-striker's end and makes decisions on l.b.w., close catches, and any infringements on the bowler's part; the other stands square of the wicket and is principally responsible for decisions on run-outs and stumpings. In Test matches, these officials were traditionally supplied by the host country, but are now supplied from a panel selected by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
History It became popular in southern England in the late 18th century. Rules were drawn up in 1774 and modified following the formation of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1787. The game's amateur status was abolished in 1963; sponsored one-day cricket was introduced in the same year. From 1967 two overseas players were allowed in British first-class teams but in the 1980s this was reduced to only one.
Modern cricket and great players Every year a series of Test matches are played among member countries of the Commonwealth, where the game has its greatest popularity: Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh. Test matches up to five days, but otherwise the majority of matches last one, three, or four days. Great cricketers have included the English players W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, and Len Hutton; the Australian Don Bradman; the Indians K S Ranjitsinhji and Sunil Gavaskar; the South African A D Nourse; the Pakistanis Hanif Mohammad and Imran Khan; and the West Indians Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers, Viv Richards, and Brian Lara. Among the main events are the County Championship, first officially held in 1890; the Norwich Union League, first held in 1969; the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy, first held in 1963; the Benson and Hedges Cup, first held in 1972; and the World Cup, first held in 1975 and contested every four years. The ICC announced in 1998 that the ninth cricket World Cup, planned for 2007, would be held in the West Indies, with some games taking place in the USA and Canada. The UK hosted the World Cup in 1999 and South Africa will do so in 2003. At the same time, the ICC also announced that cricket (along with rugby union) would be introduced to the Commonwealth Games for the first time at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 1999.
Changes in professional cricket In October 1998 the 18 first-class counties gave their assent to the England and Wales Cricket Board's radical proposals to restructure professional cricket. From the 1999 season the 40-over Sunday league was replaced by a 45-over National League (with relegation and promotion), which has two nine-team divisions. Also from 1999, Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy matches were reduced from 60 to 50 overs. From the year 2000 the amount of international cricket played during the English season increased to seven Tests and ten limited overs internationals. Also from 2000 the English County Championship was split into two divisions of nine teams.
History The exact origins of cricket are unknown, but it certainly dates back to the 16th century. The name is thought to have originated from the Anglo-Saxon word cricc, meaning a shepherd's staff. The first players were the shepherds of south-east England, who used their crooks as bats and the wicket gate and movable bail of the sheep pens as a target for the bowlers. In the 18th century, runs were recorded by notches cut on a stick. The wicket consisted of two stumps and a crosspiece (the third stump was added in the late 1770s). Until about 1773 bats retained the curve akin to a hockey stick, suited to deal with the prevalent under-arm bowling of the time. By about 1780 the straight bat was in almost universal use to counter the advance in bowling technique whereby the ball rose from the pitch on a ‘length’. The first major alteration in the laws for which the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was responsible was the licence given to the bowler in 1835 to raise his arm as high as the shoulder and bowl round-arm. Formerly he was compelled to deliver the ball underarm and the new method had for years been the subject of heated argument. This concession was the prelude to the legalization of over-arm bowling in 1864. Modern bat blades are made of willow (salix coerulea) with handles of compressed cane and rubber; early bats were in one piece. The early Victorian period saw the introduction of protective clothing.
Test cricket and the International Cricket Council The first Test match held in England was in 1880. In 1882 Australia's victory over England at the Oval inspired a journalist to write a mock obituary notice of English cricket, in which he coined the term the Ashes. The introduction of the six-ball over in England in 1900 aided higher scoring; bowlers countered the batting dominance by the practice of swerve bowling (by fast bowlers), and the introduction in the early 1900s of the ‘googly’, a style quickly adopted around the world. In 1909 the Imperial Cricket Conference, renamed the International Cricket Conference (ICC) in 1965 and the International Cricket Council in 1989, was set up with England, Australia, and South Africa as founder members; they were later joined by the West Indies, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh.
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The name of the game apparently derives from Old French criquet, ‘goal post’, ‘wicket’. It is first recorded in an English text only in the 16th cen