A cricket match is played on a grass field in the centre of which is a flat strip of ground 22 yards (20 m) long called a cricket pitch. A wicket, usually made of wood, is placed at each end of the pitch and used as a target.
The bowler, a player from the fielding team, bowls a hard leather, fist-sized, 5.5 ounces (160 g) cricket ball from the vicinity of one wicket towards the other, which is guarded by the batsman, a player from the opposing team. The ball usually bounces once before reaching the batsman. In defence of his wicket, the batsman plays the ball with a wooden cricket bat. Meanwhile, the other members of the bowler's team stand in various positions around the field as fielders, players who retrieve the ball in an effort to stop the batsman scoring runs, and if possible to get him or her out. The batsman — if he or she does not get out — may run between the wickets, exchanging ends with a second batsman (the "non-striker"), who has been stationed at the other end of the pitch. Each completed exchange of ends scores one run. Runs are also scored if the batsman hits the ball to the boundary of the playing area. The match is won by the team that scores more runs.
Cricket is essentially an outdoor sport, certainly at major level, and some games are played under floodlights. It cannot be played in poor weather due to the risk of accidents and so it is a seasonal sport. For example, it is played during the summer months in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, while in the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh it is played mostly during the winter months to escape the hurricane and monsoon seasons.
Governance rests primarily with the International Cricket Council (ICC), based in Dubai, which organises the sport worldwide via the domestic controlling bodies of the member countries. The ICC administers both men's and women's cricket, both versions being played at international level. Although men cannot play women's cricket, the rules do not disqualify women from playing in a men's team.
The rules are in the form of a code known as The Laws of Cricket  and these are maintained by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), based in London, in consultation with the ICC and the domestic boards of control.
The game of cricket and its objectives
A cricket match is played between two teams (or sides) of eleven players each on a field of variable size and shape. The ground is grassy and is prepared by groundsmen whose jobs include fertilising, mowing, rolling and leveling the surface. Field diameters of 140–160 yards (130–150 m) are usual. The perimeter of the field is known as the boundary and this is sometimes painted and sometimes marked by a rope that encircles the outer edge of the field. The field may be round, square or oval – one of cricket's most famous venues is called The Oval.
In simple terms, the object of each team is to score more "runs" than the other team and so win the game. However, in certain types of cricket, it is also necessary to completely "dismiss" the other team in order to win the match which would otherwise be drawn.
Before play commences, the two team captains toss a coin to decide which team shall bat or bowl first. The captain who wins the toss makes his decision on the basis of tactical considerations which may include the current and expected pitch and weather conditions.
The key action takes place in a specially prepared area of the field (generally in the centre) that is called the "pitch". At either end of the pitch, 22 yards (20 m) apart, are placed the "wickets". These serve as a target for the "bowling" aka "fielding" side and are defended by the "batting" side which seeks to accumulate runs. Basically, a run is scored when the "batsman" has literally run the length of the pitch after hitting the ball with his bat, although as explained below there are many ways of scoring runs . If the batsmen are not attempting to score any more runs, the ball is "dead" and is returned to the bowler to be bowled again .
The bowling side seeks to dismiss the batsmen by various means  until the batting side is "all out", whereupon the side that was bowling takes its turn to bat and the side that was batting must "take the field" .
In normal circumstances, there are 15 people on the field while a match is in play. Two of these are the "umpires" who regulate all on-field activity. Two are the batsmen, one of whom is the "striker" as he is facing the bowling; the other is called the "non-striker". The roles of the batsmen are interchangeable as runs are scored and "overs" are completed. The fielding side has all 11 players on the field together. One of them is the "bowler", another is the "wicketkeeper" and the other nine are called "fielders". The wicketkeeper (or keeper) is nearly always a specialist but any of the fielders can be called upon to bowl.
Pitch, wickets and creases
The pitch is 22 yards (20 m) long  between the wickets and is 10 feet (3.0 m) wide. It is a flat surface and has very short grass that tends to be worn away as the game progresses. The "condition" of the pitch has a significant bearing on the match and team tactics are always determined with the state of the pitch, both current and anticipated, as a deciding factor.
Each wicket consists of three wooden stumps placed in a straight line and surmounted by two wooden crosspieces called bails; the total height of the wicket including bails is 28.5 inches (720 mm) and the combined width of the three stumps is 9 inches (230 mm).
Four lines (aka creases) are painted onto the pitch around the wicket areas to define the batsman's "safe territory" and to determine the limit of the bowler's approach. These are called the "popping" (or batting) crease, the bowling crease and two "return" creases.
The stumps are placed in line on the bowling creases and so these must be 22 yards (20 m) apart. A bowling crease is 8 feet 8 inches (2.6 m) long with the middle stump placed dead centre. The popping crease has the same length, is parallel to the bowling crease and is 4 feet (1.2 m) in front of the wicket. The return creases are perpendicular to the other two; they are adjoined to the ends of the popping crease and are drawn through the ends of the bowling crease to a length of at least 8 feet (2.4 m).
When bowling the ball, the bowler's back foot in his "delivery stride" must land within the two return creases while his front foot must land on or behind the popping crease. If he breaks this rule, the umpire calls "No ball".
The batsman uses the popping crease at his end to stand when facing the bowler but it is more important to him that because it marks the limit of his safe territory and he can be stumped or run out (see Dismissals below) if the wicket is broken while he is "out of his ground".
Pitches vary in consistency, and thus in the amount of bounce, spin, and seam movement available to the bowler. Hard pitches are usually good to bat on because of high but even bounce. Dry pitches tend to deteriorate for batting as cracks often appear, and when this happens spinners can play a major role. Damp pitches, or pitches covered in grass (termed "green" pitches), allow good fast bowlers to extract extra bounce and seam movement. Such pitches tend to offer help to fast bowlers throughout the match, but become better for batting as the game goes on.
Bat and ball
The essence of the sport is that a bowler delivers the ball from his end of the pitch towards the batsman who, armed with a bat is "on strike" at the other end.
The bat is made of wood and takes the shape of a blade topped by a cylindrical handle. The blade must not be more than 4.25 inches (108 mm) wide and the total length of the bat not more than 38 inches (970 mm).
The bowler must employ an action in which the elbow does not straighten (within certain tolerance levels) to "bowl" the ball, which is a hard leather seamed spheroid projectile with a circumference limit of 9 inches (230 mm).
The hardness of the ball, which can be delivered at speeds of more than 90 miles per hour (140 km/h), is a matter for concern and batsmen wear protective clothing including "pads" (designed to protect the knees and shins), "batting gloves" for the hands, a helmet for the head and a "box" inside the trousers (for the more delicate part of the anatomy). Some batsmen wear additional padding inside their shirts and trousers such as thigh pads, arm pads, rib protectors and shoulder pads.
Umpires and scorers
The game on the field is regulated by two umpires, one of whom stands behind the wicket at the bowler's end, the other in a position called "square leg" which is several yards behind the batsman on strike. When the bowler delivers the ball, the umpire at the wicket is between the bowler and the non-striker. The umpires confer if there is doubt about playing conditions and can postpone the match by taking the players off the field if necessary: e.g., rain, deterioration of the light, crowd trouble.
Off the field and in televised matches, there is often a third umpire who can make decisions on certain incidents with the aid of video evidence. The third umpire is mandatory under the playing conditions for Test matches and limited overs internationals played between two ICC full members. These matches also have a match referee whose job is to ensure that play is within the Laws of cricket and the spirit of the game.
Off the field, the match details including runs and dismissals are recorded by two official scorers, one representing each team. The scorers are directed by the hand signals of an umpire. For example, the umpire raises a forefinger to signal that the batsman is out (has been dismissed); he raises both arms above his head if the batsman has hit the ball for six runs. The scorers are required by the Laws of cricket to record all runs scored, wickets taken and overs bowled. In practice they accumulate much additional data such as bowling analyses and run rates.
Unofficial scoring is carried on by spectators for their own benefit and by media scorers on behalf of broadcasters and newspapers.
The innings (always used in the plural form) is the term used for the collective performance of the batting side . In theory, all eleven members of the batting side take a turn to bat but, for various reasons, an "innings" can end before they all do so (see below).
Depending on the type of match being played, each team has one or two innings apiece. The term "innings" is also sometimes used to describe an individual batsman's contribution ("he played a fine innings" etc).
The main aim of the bowler, supported by his fielders, is to dismiss the batsman. A batsman when dismissed is said to be "out" and that means he must leave the field of play and be replaced by the next batsman on his team. When ten batsmen have been dismissed (i.e., are out), then the whole team is dismissed and the innings is over. The last batsman, the one who has not been dismissed, is not allowed to continue alone as there must always be two batsmen "in". This batsman is termed "not out".
If an innings should end before ten batsmen have been dismissed, there are two "not out" batsmen. An innings can end early because the batting side's captain has chosen to "declare" the innings closed, which is a tactical decision; or because the batting side has achieved its target and won the game; or because the game has ended prematurely due to bad weather or running out of time. In limited overs cricket, there might be two batsmen still "in" when the last of the allotted overs has been bowled.
The bowler bowls the ball in sets of six deliveries (or "balls") and each set of six balls is called an over. This name came about because the umpire calls "Over!" when six balls have been bowled. At this point, another bowler is deployed at the other end and the fielding side changes ends. A bowler cannot bowl two successive overs, although a bowler can bowl unchanged at the same end for several overs. The batsmen do not change ends and so the one who was non-striker is now the striker and vice-versa. The umpires also change positions so that the one who was at square leg now stands behind the wicket at the non-striker's end and vice-versa.
A team consists of eleven players. Depending on his or her primary skills, a player may be classified as a specialist batsman or bowler. A well-balanced team usually has five or six specialist batsmen and four or five specialist bowlers. Teams nearly always include a specialist wicket-keeper because of the importance of this fielding position. Each team is headed by a captain who is responsible for making tactical decisions such as determining the batting order, the placement of fielders and the rotation of bowlers.
A player who excels in both batting and bowling is known as an all-rounder. One who excels as a batsman and wicket-keeper is known as a "wicket-keeper/batsman", sometimes regarded as a type of all-rounder. True all-rounders are rare as most players focus on either batting or bowling skills.
All eleven players on the fielding side take the field together.
One of them is the wicket-keeper aka "keeper" who operates behind the wicket being defended by the batsman on strike. Wicket-keeping is normally a specialist occupation and his primary job is to gather deliveries that the batsman does not hit, so that the batsmen cannot run byes. He wears special gloves (he is the only fielder allowed to do so), and pads to cover his lower legs. Owing to his position directly behind the striker, the wicket-keeper has a good chance of getting a batsman out caught off a fine edge from the bat. He is the only player who can get a batsman out stumped.
Apart from the one currently bowling, the other nine fielders are tactically deployed by the team captain in chosen positions around the field. These positions are not fixed but they are known by specific and sometimes colourful names such as "slip", "third man", "silly mid on" and "long leg". There are always many unprotected areas.
The captain is the most important member of the fielding side as he determines all the tactics including who should bowl (and how); and he is responsible for "setting the field", though usually in consultation with the bowler.
In all forms of cricket, if a fielder gets injured or becomes ill during a match, a substitute is allowed to field instead of him. The substitute cannot bowl, act as a captain or keep wicket. The substitute leaves the field when the injured player is fit to return.
The bowler reaches his delivery stride by means of a "run-up", although some bowlers with a very slow delivery take no more than a couple of steps before bowling. A fast bowler needs momentum and takes quite a long run-up, running very fast as he does so.
The fastest bowlers can deliver the ball at a speed of over 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) and they sometimes rely on sheer speed to try and defeat the batsman, who is forced to react very quickly to a ball that reaches him in an instant.
Other fast bowlers rely on a mixture of speed and guile. Some fast bowlers make use of the seam of the ball so that it "curves" or "swings" in flight and this type of delivery can deceive a batsman into mistiming his shot so that the ball touches the edge of the bat and can then be "caught behind" by the wicketkeeper or a slip fielder.
At the other end of the bowling scale is the "spinner" who bowls at a relatively slow pace and relies entirely on guile to deceive the batsman. A spinner will often "buy his wicket" by "tossing one up" to lure the batsman into making an adventurous shot. The batsman has to be very wary of such deliveries as they are often "flighted" or spun so that the ball will not behave quite as he expects and he could be "trapped" into getting himself out.
In between the pacemen and the spinners are the "medium pacers" who rely on persistent accuracy to try and contain the rate of scoring and wear down the batsman's concentration.
All bowlers are classified according to their pace or style. The classifications, as with much cricket terminology, can be very confusing. Hence, a bowler could be classified as LF, meaning he is a left arm fast bowler; or as LBG, meaning he is a right arm spin bowler who bowls deliveries that are called a "leg break" and a "googly"!
During the bowling action the elbow may be held at any angle and may bend further, but may not straighten out. If the elbow straightens illegally then the square-leg umpire may call no-ball. The current laws allow a bowler to straighten his arm 15 degrees or less.
At any one time, there are two batsmen in the playing area. One takes station at the striker's end to defend the wicket as above and to score runs if possible. His partner, the non-striker, is at the end where the bowler is operating.
Batsmen come in to bat in a batting order, decided by the team captain. The first two batsmen - the "openers" - usually face the most hostile bowling, from fresh fast bowlers with a new ball. The top batting positions are usually given to the most competent batsmen in the team, and the non-batsmen typically bat last. The pre-announced batting order is not mandatory and when a wicket falls any player who has not yet batted may be sent in next.
If a batsman "retires" (usually due to injury) and cannot return, he is actually "not out" and his retirement does not count as a dismissal, though in effect he has been dismissed because his innings is over. Substitute batsmen are not allowed, although substitute fielders are.
A skilled batsman can use a wide array of "shots" or "strokes" in both defensive and attacking mode. The idea is to hit the ball to best effect with the flat surface of the bat's blade. If the ball touches the side of the bat it is called an "edge". Batsmen do not always seek to hit the ball as hard as possible and a good player can score runs just by making a deft stroke with a turn of the wrists or by simply "blocking" the ball but directing it away from fielders so that he has time to take a run.
There is a wide variety of shots played in cricket. The batsman's repertoire includes strokes named according to the style of swing and the direction aimed: e.g., "cut", "drive", "hook", "pull", etc.
Note that a batsman does not have to play a shot and can "leave" the ball to go through to the wicketkeeper, providing he thinks it will not hit his wicket. Equally, he does not have to attempt a run when he hits the ball with his bat. He can deliberately use his leg to block the ball and thereby "pad it away" but this is risky because of the lbw rule.
In the event of an injured batsman being fit to bat but not to run, the umpires and the fielding captain may allow another member of the batting side to be a runner. If possible, the runner must already have batted. The runner's only task is to run between the wickets instead of the injured batsman. The runner is required to wear and carry exactly the same equipment as the incapacitated batsman. It is possible for both batsmen to have runners.
The primary concern of the batsman on strike (i.e., the "striker") is to prevent the ball hitting the wicket and secondarily to score runs by hitting the ball with his bat so that he and his partner have time to run from one end of the pitch to the other before the fielding side can return the ball. To register a run, both runners must touch the ground behind the crease with either their bats or their bodies (the batsmen carry their bats as they run). Each completed run increments the score.
More than one run can be scored from a single hit but, while hits worth one to three runs are common, the size of the field is such that it is usually difficult to run four or more. To compensate for this, hits that reach the boundary of the field are automatically awarded four runs if the ball touches the ground en route to the boundary or six runs if the ball clears the boundary on the full. The batsmen do not need to run if the ball reaches or crosses the boundary.
Hits for five are unusual and generally rely on the help of "overthrows" by a fielder returning the ball. If an odd number of runs is scored by the striker, the two batsmen have changed ends and the one who was non-striker is now the striker. Only the striker can score individual runs but all runs are added to the team's total.
The decision to attempt a run is ideally made by the batsman who has the better view of the ball's progress and this is communicated by calling: "yes", "no" and "wait" are often heard.
Running is a calculated risk because if a fielder breaks the wicket with the ball while no part of the batsman or his bat is grounded behind the popping crease, the batsman nearest the broken wicket is run out.
A team's score is reported in terms of the number of runs scored and the number of batsmen that have been dismissed. For example, if five batsmen are out and the team has scored 224 runs, they are said to have scored 224 for the loss of 5 wickets (commonly shortened to "224 for five" and written 224/5 or, in Australia, "five for 224" and 5/224).
Additional runs can be gained by the batting team as extras (called "sundries" in Australia) by courtesy of the fielding side. This is achieved in four ways:
- No ball – a penalty of one extra that is conceded by the bowler if he breaks the rules of bowling either by (a) using an inappropriate arm action; (b) overstepping the popping crease; (c) having a foot outside the return crease
- Wide – a penalty of one extra that is conceded by the bowler if he bowls so that the ball is out of the batsman's reach
- Bye – extra(s) awarded if the batsman misses the ball and it goes past the wicketkeeper to give the batsmen time to run in the conventional way (note that the mark of a good wicketkeeper is one who restricts the tally of byes to a minimum)
- Leg bye – extra(s) awarded if the ball hits the batsman's body, but not his bat, and it goes away from the fielders to give the batsmen time to run in the conventional way.
When the bowler has bowled a no ball or a wide, his team incurs an additional penalty because that ball (i.e., delivery) has to be bowled again and hence the batting side has the opportunity to score more runs from this extra ball.
The batsmen have to run (i.e., unless the ball goes to the boundary for four) to claim byes and leg byes but these only count towards the team total, not to the striker's individual total for which runs must be scored off the bat.
There are ten ways in which a batsman can be dismissed and some are so unusual that only a few instances of them exist in the whole history of the game. The most common forms of dismissal are "bowled", "caught", "leg before wicket" (lbw), "run out", "stumped" and "hit wicket". The unusual methods are "hit the ball twice", "obstructed the field", "handled the ball" and "timed out".
Before the umpire will award a dismissal and declare the batsman to be out, a member of the fielding side (generally the bowler) must "appeal". This is invariably done by asking (or shouting) the term "Owzat?" which means, simply enough, "How is that?" If the umpire agrees with the appeal, he will raise a forefinger and say "Out!". Otherwise he will shake his head and say "Not out". Appeals are particularly loud when the circumstances of the claimed dismissal are unclear, as is always the case with lbw and often with run outs and stumpings.
- Bowled – the bowler has hit the wicket with the ball and the wicket has "broken" with at least one bail being dislodged (note that if the ball hits the wicket without dislodging a bail it is not out) 
- Caught – the batsman has hit the ball with his bat or with his hand and the ball has been caught on the full by a member of the fielding side 
- Leg before wicket (lbw) – is complex but basically means that the batsman would have been bowled if the ball had not hit his leg first 
- Run out – a member of the fielding side has broken or "put down" the wicket with the ball while a batsman was out of his ground; this usually occurs by means of an accurate throw to the wicket while the batsmen are attempting a run 
- Stumped – is similar except that it is done by the wicketkeeper after the batsman has missed the bowled ball and has stepped out of his ground; the keeper must break the wicket with the ball in his hand for a stumping (if the keeper throws the ball at the wicket, it is a run out) 
- Hit wicket – means simply that a batsman did just that, often by hitting the wicket with his bat or by falling onto it or running into it 
- Hit the ball twice – is very unusual and was introduced as a safety measure to counter dangerous play and protect the fielders, although when it does occur it is usually because the batsman has tried to stop the ball hitting the wicket after he has already played it 
- Obstructed the field – another unusual dismissal which tends to involve a batsman deliberately getting in the way of a fielder 
- Handled the ball – a batsman must not deliberately use his hand to protect his wicket (note that the bowled ball often hits the batsman's hand but this is not intentional by the batsman and so is not out; though he can of course be caught off his hand) 
- Timed out – usually means that the next batsman did not arrive at the wicket within two minutes of the previous one being dismissed 
Note that it is usually the striker who is out when a dismissal occurs but the non-striker can be dismissed, invariably by being run out.
A batsman may leave the field without being dismissed. If injured or taken ill the batsman may temporarily retire, and be replaced by the next batsman. This is recorded as retired hurt or retired ill. The retiring batsman is not out, and may resume the innings later. An unimpaired batsman may retire, and this is treated as being dismissed retired out; no player is credited with the dismissal.
Batsmen cannot be out bowled, caught, leg before wicket, stumped or hit wicket off a no ball. They cannot be out bowled, caught, leg before wicket, or hit the ball twice off a wide.
Some of these modes of dismissal can occur without the bowler bowling a delivery. The batsman who is not on strike may be run out by the bowler if he leaves his crease before the bowler bowls, and a batsman can be out obstructing the field or retired out at any time. Timed out is, by its nature, a dismissal without a delivery. With all other modes of dismissal, only one batsman can be dismissed per ball bowled.
An innings is closed when:
- Ten of the eleven batsmen are out (have been dismissed); in this case, the team is said to be "all out"
- The team has only one batsman left who can bat, one or more of the remaining players being unavailable owing to injury, illness or absence; again, the team is said to be "all out"
- The team batting last reaches the score required to win the match
- The predetermined number of overs has been bowled (in a one-day match only, most commonly 50 overs; or 20 in Twenty20)
- A captain declares his team's innings closed while at least two of his batsmen are not out (this does not apply in one-day limited over matches)
If the team that bats last is all out having scored fewer runs than their opponents, the team is said to have "lost by n runs" (where n 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 n wickets", where n 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 n runs, and does not need to bat again: n 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 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.
Types of match and competition
Cricket is a multi-faceted sport which, in very broad terms, 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 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.
Historically, a form of cricket known as single wicket has been extremely successful and many of these contests in the 18th and 19th centuries qualify as major cricket matches. In this form, although each team may have from one to six players, there is only one batsman at a time and he must face every delivery bowled while his innings lasts. Single wicket has rarely been played since limited overs cricket began.
Test cricket is the highest standard of first-class cricket. A Test match is an international fixture between teams representing those countries that are Full Members of the ICC.
Although the term "Test match" was not coined until much later, Test cricket is deemed to have begun with two matches between Australia and England in the 1876-77 Australian season. Subsequently, eight other national teams have achieved Test status: South Africa (1889), West Indies (1928), New Zealand (1929), India (1932), Pakistan (1952), Sri Lanka (1982), Zimbabwe (1992) and Bangladesh (2000).
It should be noted Welsh players are eligible to play for England, which is in effect an England and Wales team. The West Indies team comprises players from numerous states in the Caribbean, most notably Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands.
Test matches between two teams are usually played in a group of matches called a "series". Matches generally last up to five days and a series normally consists of three to five matches. Test matches that are not finished within the allotted time are drawn.
Since 1882, most Test series between England and Australia have been played for a trophy known as The Ashes. Some other series have individual trophies too: for example, the Wisden Trophy is contested by England and West Indies; the Frank Worrell Trophy by Australia and West Indies.
Limited overs cricket is sometimes called "one day cricket" because each match is scheduled for completion in a single day. In practice, matches sometimes continue on a second day if they have been interrupted or postponed by bad weather. The main objective of a limited overs match is to produce a definite result and so a conventional draw is not possible, but matches can be undecided if the scores are tied or if bad weather prevents a result. Each team plays one innings only and faces a limited number of overs. Typically, the limit is 40 or 50. In Twenty20 cricket, each team faces 20 overs only.
Standard limited overs cricket was introduced in England in the 1963 season in the form of a knockout cup contested by the first-class county clubs. In 1969, a national league competition was established. The concept was gradually introduced to the other major cricket countries and the first limited overs international was played in 1971. In 1975, the first Cricket World Cup took place in England. Limited overs cricket has seen various innovations including the use of multi-coloured kit and floodlit matches using a white ball.
Twenty20 is a new variant of limited overs itself with the purpose being to complete the match within about three hours, usually in an evening session. The original idea, when the concept was introduced in England in 2003, was to provide workers with an evening entertainment. It has been commercially successful and has been adopted internationally. The inaugural Twenty20 World Championship was held in 2007.
First-class cricket includes Test cricket but the term is generally used to refer to the highest level of domestic cricket in those countries with full ICC membership, although there are exceptions to this. First-class cricket in England is played for the most part by the 18 county clubs which contest the County Championship. The concept of a champion county has existed since the 18th century but the official competition was not established until 1890. The most successful club has been Yorkshire County Cricket Club with 30 official titles.
Australia established its national first-class championship in 1892-93 when the Sheffield Shield was introduced. In Australia, the first-class teams represent the various states. New South Wales has won the most titles with 45 to 2008.
National championship trophies to be established elsewhere included the Ranji Trophy (India), Plunket Shield (New Zealand), Currie Cup (South Africa) and Shell Shield (West Indies). Some of these competitions have been updated and renamed in recent years.
Domestic limited overs competitions began with England's Gillette Cup knockout in 1963. Countries usually stage seasonal limited overs competitions in both knockout and league format. In recent years, national Twenty20 competitions have been introduced, usually in knockout form though some incorporate mini-leagues.
Various leagues, often organised on a state, county or regional basis, that include clubs which are classed as "minor" although in many cases the playing standards are anything but minor. Give examples like Australia's grade structure and the Minor Counties Championship.
Village cricket and significant local leagues like the Lancashire League.
Other types of cricket
There are numerous informal variations of the sport played throughout the world that include indoor cricket, French cricket, beach cricket, Kwik cricket and all sorts of card games and board games that have been inspired by cricket. In these variants, the rules are often changed to make the game playable with limited resources or to render it more convenient and enjoyable for the participants.
Indoor cricket is played in a netted, indoor arena, and is quite formal but most of the outdoor variants are very informal.
Families and teenagers play backyard cricket in suburban yards or driveways, and the teeming cities of India and Pakistan play host to countless games of "Gully Cricket" or "tapeball" on their streets (played in long narrow streets) with rules like the one bounce catch. Such rules and, usually, lack of space ensure the batsmen have to play cautiously. Tennis balls and homemade bats are often used, and a variety of objects may serve as wickets: for example, the batter's legs as in French cricket, which did not in fact originate in France, and is usually played by small children. Sometimes the rules are improvised: e.g., it may be agreed that fielders can catch the ball with one hand after one bounce and claim a wicket; or if only a few people are available then everyone may field while the players take it in turns to bat and bowl.
In Kwik cricket, the bowler does not have to wait for the batsman to be ready before a delivery, leading to a faster, more exhausting game designed to appeal to children, which is often used PE lessons at English schools. Another modification to increase the pace of the game is the "Tip and Run", "Tipity" Run, "Tipsy Run" or "Tippy-Go" rule, in which the batter must run when the ball touches the bat, even if it the contact is unintentional or minor. This rule, seen only in impromptu games, speeds the match up by removing the batsman's right to block the ball.
In Samoa a form of cricket called Kilikiti is played in which hockey stick-shaped bats are used. In original English cricket, the hockey stick shape was replaced by the modern straight bat in the 1760s after bowlers began to pitch the ball instead of rolling or skimming it.
In Estonia, teams gather over the winter for the annual Ice Cricket tournament. The game juxtaposes the normal summer pursuit with harsh, wintry conditions. Rules are otherwise similar to those for the six-a-side game.
Origin and development of cricket
Cricket is "a club striking a ball (like) the ancient games of club-ball, stool-ball, trap-ball, stob-ball" . Each of these have at times been described as "early cricket".
Cricket can definitely be traced back to Tudor times in 16th century England but it may have originated much earlier than that. The most common theory of origin is that it was invented by children of the farming and metalworking communities in the Weald between Kent and Sussex during the medieval period. Written evidence exists of a game known as creag being played by Prince Edward, the son of Edward I (Longshanks), at Newenden, Kent in 1300  and there has been speculation, but no evidence, that this was a form of cricket.
A number of words are thought to be possible sources for the term "cricket". In the earliest known reference to the sport in 1598 (see below), it is called creckett. The name may have been derived from the Dutch krick(-e), meaning a stick; or the Old English cricc or cryce meaning a crutch or staff . Another likely source is the Dutch word krickstoel, meaning a long low stool used for kneeling in church and which resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket.
According to Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert of Bonn University, "cricket" derives from the Dutch met de (krik ket)sen (i.e., "with the stick chase"), which also suggests a Dutch connection in the game's origin. It is more likely that the terminology of cricket was based on words in use in south east England at the time and, given trade connections with the County of Flanders, especially in the 15th century when it belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy, many Dutch words found their way into southern English dialects .
In 1598, a court case referred to a sport called creckett being played by boys at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford around 1550. This is the sport's earliest definite mention. 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 tragic circumstances. 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 development 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 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 to match. Bowling evolved 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 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 roundarm 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 ever 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) and in 1862, an English team made the first tour of Australia. In 1876-77, an England team took part in the first-ever Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia.
The legendary W G Grace started his long career in 1865. It can fairly be said that he revolutionised the sport and did much to ensure its massive popularity.
The rivalry between England and Australia gave birth to The Ashes in 1882 and this has remained Test cricket's most 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: 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.
Test cricket continued to expand during the 20th century with the addition of 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 saw its potential and staged the first limited overs Cricket World Cup in 1975. In the 21st century, a new limited overs form, Twenty20, has made an immediate impact.
International structure of cricket
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 International 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.