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Inter-county cricket matches are known to have been played since the early 18th century, involving teams that are representative of the historic counties of England and Wales. Since the late 19th century, there have been two county championship competitions played at different levels: the County Championship, a first-class competition which currently involves eighteen first-class county clubs among which seventeen are English and one is from Wales; and the Minor Counties Championship, which currently involves nineteen English county clubs and one club that represents several Welsh counties.
County cricket started in the eighteenth century, the earliest known inter-county match being played in 1709, though an official County Championship was not instituted until 1890.
Inter-county cricket was popular throughout the 18th century, although the best teams, such as Kent in the 1740s or Hampshire in the days of the famous Hambledon Club, were usually acknowledged as such by being matched against All-England. The most successful county teams were Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. There was, however, often a crossover between town and county with some strong local clubs tending at times to represent a whole county. Examples are London, which often played against county teams and was in some respects almost a county club in itself; Slindon, which was for a few years in the 1740s effectively representative of Sussex as a county; Dartford, sometimes representative of Kent; and the Hambledon Club, certainly representative of Hampshire and also perhaps of Sussex. One of the best county teams in the late 18th century was Berkshire, which no longer has first-class status.
All matches prior to 1988 were scheduled for three days, normally of a nominal six hours each plus intervals, but often with the first two days lengthened by up to an hour and the final day shortened, so that teams with fixtures elsewhere on the following day could travel at sensible hours. The exception to this was the 1919 season, when there was an experiment with two-day matches played over longer hours, up to nine o'clock in the evening in mid-summer. This experiment was not repeated. From 1988 to 1992 some matches were played over four days. From 1993 onward, all matches have been scheduled for four days.
The eighteen first-class counties are the top league cricket teams. They are named after historic English counties and include one Welsh county.
The first-class counties are:
The full name of the cricket team is usually formed from the name of the county followed by the words County Cricket Club, which are often abbreviated as CCC.
The opening first-class game of an English county cricket season has traditionally been played at Lord's between the MCC and the Champion County (the club that won the County Championship the previous year). When the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) plays against one of the first-class counties, the game is granted first-class status.
The six MCC-sponsored University (MCCU) teams, are also afforded first-class status for some of their matches against a first-class county. They are:
Most of the first-class counties play three-day games against university cricket teams in the early part of the English cricket season. This is partly because the start of the cricket season coincides with the end of the university academic year, and partly because the games act as pre-season warm-ups for the county clubs.
The minor counties are the cricketing counties of England that are not afforded first-class status. Present members are :
Some teams outside of the English counties have been allowed to take part in some English county cricket one-day competitions. They include:
An important year was 1873, when player qualification rules came into force, requiring players to choose at the start of each season whether they would play for the county of their birth or their county of residence. Before this, it was quite common for a player to play for both counties during the course of a single season. Three meetings were held, and at the last of these, held at The Oval on 9 June 1873, the following rules were decided on:
The County Championship is the domestic first-class cricket competition in England and Wales. All of the first-class counties compete in a two-division league format.
The Royal London One-Day Cup is a 50 over one-day cricket competition in county cricket. The 18 English county sides are divided randomly into two groups of nine with each team playing each other once. The top four in each group reach the quarter-finals. The competition culminates at Lord's for the final. The Royal London One Day Cup replaced the Yorkshire Bank 40 over League. The first winners of the competition were Durham in 2014.
The Twenty20 Cup is the top Twenty20 cricket competition contested by the eighteen first-class counties. The games are limited to 20 overs per side, and the emphasis is on fast action. From 2018, the competition is called Vitality Blast for sponsorship reasons.
The competitions of minor counties cricket are the Minor Counties Cricket Championship and the MCCA Knockout Trophy.
The Women's County Championship is played each year, in a similar manner to the men's, but the Women's county game focuses upon 50 over cricket. There is also the Women's Cricket Super League, a T20 competition. Some counties are involved, and feature in a divisional structure. Promotion and relegation is a feature throughout.
First-class cricket is an official classification of the highest-standard international or domestic matches in the sport of cricket. A first-class match is of three or more days' scheduled duration between two sides of eleven players each and is officially adjudged to be worthy of the status by virtue of the standard of the competing teams. Matches must allow for the teams to play two innings each although, in practice, a team might play only one innings or none at all.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is a cricket club founded in 1787 and based since 1814 at Lord's Cricket Ground, which it owns, in St John's Wood, London. The club was formerly the governing body of cricket and still holds considerable global influence.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is the governing body of cricket in England and Wales. It was formed on 1 January 1997 as a single governing body to combine the roles formerly fulfilled by the Test and County Cricket Board, the National Cricket Association and the Cricket Council. In April 1998 the Women's Cricket Association was integrated into the organisation. The ECB's head offices are at Lord's Cricket Ground in north-west London.
The County Championship is the domestic first-class cricket competition in England and Wales and is organised by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). It became an official title in 1890. The competition consists of eighteen clubs named after, and originally representing, historic counties, seventeen from England and one from Wales.
The Minor Counties are the cricketing counties of England and Wales that are not afforded first-class status. The game is administered by the National Counties Cricket Association (NCCA), which comes under the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). There are currently twenty teams in minor county cricket: nineteen representing historic counties of England, plus the Wales Minor Counties Cricket Club. Of the thirty-nine historic counties of England, seventeen have a first class county cricket team, nineteen have a minor county team, while Huntingdonshire, Rutland, and Westmorland have neither, due to their small population.
Durham County Cricket Club is one of eighteen first-class county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. It represents the historic county of Durham. Founded in 1882, Durham held minor status for over a century and was a prominent member of the Minor Counties Championship, winning the competition seven times. In 1992, the club joined the County Championship and the team was elevated to senior status as an official first-class team. Durham has been classified as an occasional List A team from 1964, then as a full List A team from 1992; and as a senior Twenty20 team since the format's introduction in 2003.
Cambridge University Cricket Club, first recorded in 1817, is the representative cricket club for students of the University of Cambridge. Depending on the circumstances of each individual match, the club has always been recognised as holding first-class status. The university played List A cricket in 1972 and 1974 only. It has not played top-level Twenty20 cricket.
The Friends Provident Trophy was a one-day cricket competition in the United Kingdom.
Devon County Cricket Club is one of 20 minor county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. It represents the historic county of Devon.
Wiltshire County Cricket Club is one of twenty minor county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. Founded in 1893, it represents the historic county of Wiltshire.
Loughborough MCC University is a cricket coaching centre based at Loughborough University in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, and the name under which the university's cricket team plays.
Durham MCC University is a cricket coaching centre based at Durham University in Durham, County Durham, England, and the name under which the university's cricket team plays.
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in England, and has been played since the 16th century. Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lord's, developed the modern rules of play and conduct.
Cricket is a popular sport in Wales with its roots beginning in the late 18th century and has been played throughout Wales ever since. All cricket within Wales is regulated by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) making it effectively part of all cricket played within the English cricket system. Glamorgan County Cricket Club is Wales' only first-class County team, and Welsh players are eligible to represent England as Wales does not currently have its own Test cricket team or cricket body. Cricket is played within the Welsh schools system, and is considered one of the country's main summer sports.
Paul Merwood Best is a former English cricketer. Best is a left-handed batsman who bowls slow left-arm orthodox who played for Warwickshire County Cricket Club. He was born at Nuneaton, Warwickshire and educated at Bablake School, Coventry.
Andrew Graham Salter is a Welsh cricketer. Salter is a right-handed batsman who bowls right-arm off break. He was born at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, and was educated at Milford Haven School.
The 2017 English cricket season was the 118th in which the County Championship had been an official competition. The season, which began on 28 March and ended on 29 September, featured two global one-day competitions played in England and Wales, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup. England Women's team won the World Cup, defeating India Women in the final at Lord's. Pakistan beat India in the Champions Trophy final.
The 2020 English cricket season was originally scheduled to run between 2 April and 25 September. It was planned to have first-class, one-day and Twenty20 cricket competitions throughout England and Wales and as well as the launch of a new franchised 100 ball competition, The Hundred; it would have been the 131st year in which the County Championship has been an official competition.