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First-class cricket is the highest-standard international or domestic matches in the sport of cricket. A first-class match is one 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.
First-class cricket, along with historical single-wicket and modern limited-overs forms, is one of the highest-standard forms of cricket. The etymology of "first-class cricket" is unknown, but it was used loosely before it acquired official status in 1895, following a meeting of leading English clubs. At a meeting of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) in 1947, it was formally defined on a global basis. A significant omission of the ICC ruling was any attempt to define first-class cricket retrospectively. That has left historians, and especially statisticians, with the problem of how to categorise earlier matches, especially those played in Great Britain before 1895. The solution put forward by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) is to classify all pre-1895 matches of a high standard as important matches.
Test cricket, the highest standard of cricket, is statistically a form of first-class cricket, though the term "first-class" is mainly used to refer to domestic competition. A player's first-class statistics include any performances in Test matches.
Before 1894 "first-class cricket" was a common term, used loosely to suggest that a match had a high standard; adjectives like "great", "important" and "major" were also loosely applied to such matches. There was at the time no concept of what became Test cricket and so an international match would be called a first-class one, as would any match involving two senior county clubs. The earliest known match scorecards date from 1744 but few have been found before 1772. The cards for three 1772 matches have survived and, as scorecards became increasingly common thereafter, these three have formed the basis for retrospective classification of top-level matches as first-class from 1772. On 24 June, a Hampshire XI won by 53 runs against an England XI at Broadhalfpenny Down in Hambledon. This is recognised as cricket's inaugural first-class match and is the first one in ESPN's Cricinfo database.
At the beginning of the 1890s, there were only four formally constituted county clubs. Sussex was the oldest, formed in 1839, and it had been followed by Kent, Nottinghamshire and Surrey. In the early 1860s, several more clubs were founded, and questions began to be raised in the sporting press about which should be categorised as first-class, but there was considerable disagreement in the answers. In 1880, the Cricket Reporting Agency was founded. It acquired influence through the decade especially by association with Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (Wisden) and the press came to generally rely on its information and opinions.
The term acquired official status, though limited to matches in Great Britain, following a meeting at Lord's in May 1894 between the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) committee and the secretaries of the clubs involved in the official County Championship, which had begun in 1890. As a result, those clubs became first-class from 1895 along with MCC, Cambridge University, Oxford University, senior cricket touring teams (i.e., Australia and South Africa at that time) and other teams designated as such by MCC (e.g. North v South, Gentlemen v Players and occasional "elevens" which consisted of recognised first-class players).Officially, therefore, the inaugural first-class match was the opening game of the 1895 season between MCC and Nottinghamshire at Lord's on 1 and 2 May, MCC winning by 37 runs.
The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) on 19 May 1947. It was made clear that the definition "will not have retrospective effect".The definition is as follows:
A match of three or more days' duration between two sides of eleven players officially adjudged first-class, shall be regarded as a first-class fixture. Matches in which either team have more than eleven players or which are scheduled for less than three days shall not be regarded as first-class. The Governing body in each country shall decide the status of teams.
For example, MCC was authorised to determine the status of matches played in Great Britain. To all intents and purposes, the 1947 ICC definition confirmed the 1894 MCC definition, and gave it international recognition and usage.
Hence, official judgment of status is the responsibility of the governing body in each country that is a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The governing body grants first-class status to international teams and to domestic teams that are representative of the country's highest playing standard. Later ICC rulings make it possible for international teams from associate members of the ICC to achieve first-class status but it is dependent on the status of their opponents in a given match.
According to the ICC definition, a match may be adjudged first-class if:
A Test match is a first-class match played between two ICC full member countries, subject to their current status at the ICC and the application of ICC conditions when the match is played.
In 2010, the ICC published its Classification of Official Cricket which includes the criteria with which a match must comply to achieve a desired categorisation. In the section on first-class cricket, there is a list of the types of match that should qualify. It is important to note, given the differences in opinion about what constitutes a first-class match, that the ICC clearly stipulates that its match type list "is not exhaustive and is merely indicative of the matches which would fall into the first-class definition". For example, the list includes matches of recognised first-class teams versus international touring teams; and the leading domestic championships (using their then-current names) such as the County Championship, Sheffield Shield, Ranji Trophy, etc.In February 2020, during the 2019–20 Ranji Trophy, the 60,000th first-class cricket match was played.
|South Africa||4-Day Domestic Series|
|New Zealand||Plunket Shield|
|Duleep Trophy||Competition between teams selected by BCCI|
|Irani Cup||Played between the winner of Ranji Trophy and a Rest of India team selected by BCCI|
|Pakistan||Quaid-e-Azam Trophy||Played by zonal associations since 2019.|
|West Indies||Regional Four Day Competition|
|Sri Lanka||Premier Trophy|
|Bangladesh||National Cricket League||Played by 8 division-based teams selected by the BCB.|
|Bangladesh Cricket League||Played between 4 zone teams selected by the BCB|
|Afghanistan||Ahmad Shah Abdali 4-day Tournament|
The absence of any ICC ruling about matches played before 1947 (or before 1895 in Great Britain) is problematic for those cricket statisticians who wish to categorise earlier matches in the same way. They have responded by compiling their own match lists and allocating a strictly unofficial first-class status to the matches they consider to have been of a high standard. It is therefore a matter of opinion only with no official support. Inevitable differences have arisen and there are variations in published cricket statistics. In November 2021, the ICC retrospectively applied first-class status to women's cricket, aligning it with the men's game.
A key issue for the statisticians is when first-class cricket for their purpose is deemed to have begun. Writing in 1951, Roy Webber argued that the majority of matches prior to 1864 (i.e., the year in which overarm bowling was legalised) "cannot be regarded as first-class" and their records are used "for their historical associations".This drew a line between what was important historically and what should form part of the statistical record. Hence, for pre-1895 (i.e., in Great Britain) cricket matches, "first-class" is essentially a statistical concept while the historical concept is broader and takes account of historical significance. Webber's rationale was that cricket was "generally weak before 1864" (there was a greater and increasingly more organised effort to promote county cricket from about that time) and match details were largely incomplete, especially bowling analyses, which hindered compilation of records. According to Webber's view, the inaugural first-class match should have been the opening game of the 1864 season between Cambridge University and MCC at Fenner's on 12 and 13 May, Cambridge winning by 6 wickets.
When the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) published its Guide to First-Class Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles in 1982, it tentatively agreed with Webber's 1864 start date by saying that "the line between first-class and other matches becomes more easily discernible about that date".A year earlier, the ACS had published its Guide to Important Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles 1709 – 1863 in which it listed all the known matches during that period which it considered to have historical importance. The ACS did stipulate that they had taken a more lenient view of importance regarding matches played in the 18th century than they did of matches played in the 19th century. As they explained, surviving details of 18th century matches are typically incomplete while there is a fairly comprehensive store of data about 19th century matches, certainly since 1825.
Subsequently, Webber's view has been challenged by those who suggest earlier dates for the commencement of "first-class statistics". Bill Frindall believed that 1815 should be the start to encompass the entire roundarm bowling phase of cricket's history. However, roundarm did not begin in earnest until 1827. In Frindall's view, the inaugural first-class match should have been the opening game of the 1815 season between MCC and Middlesex at Lord's on 31 May and 1 June, Middlesex winning by 16 runs.The most significant internet-based views are those of CricketArchive (CA) and ESPNcricinfo (CI), both of which hold that the earliest first-class match was Hampshire versus All-England at Broadhalfpenny Down on 24 and 25 June 1772. CA has numbered this match "f1" (i.e., first-class match number one) and CI as "First-Class # 1".
However commendable these views may be, they are not only unofficial but also entirely statistical. The 1772 match left a scorecard that is complete apart from the bowling analyses and so the data is sufficient for a statistical study, especially as the scorecard was itself the start of a trend and there are surviving scorecards from every season commencing 1772. The historical view centres on the historical significance of a match and its known contemporary importance measured by, as is often the case with early matches, the amount of money at stake. Other factors are the size of the crowd, if known, and the fact that a match was deemed notable enough to be reported in the press. The earliest match known to have been accorded superior status in a contemporary report (i.e., "a great match" in this case) and to have been played for a large sum of money was one in Sussex between two unnamed eleven-a-side teams contesting "fifty guineas apiece" in June 1697, a match of enormous historical significance but with no statistical data recorded.
Test cricket is the form of the sport of cricket with the longest match duration and is considered the game's highest standard. Rotary Test matches are played between national representative teams that have been granted Test status, as determined and conferred by the International Cricket Council (ICC). It is called Test because the long, gruelling matches are mentally and physically testing. Two teams of 11 players each play a four-innings match, which may last up to five days. It is generally considered the most complete examination of a team's endurance and ability.<
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.
Cricket is a multi-faceted sport with different formats, depending on the standard of play, the desired level of formality, and the time available. One of the main differences is between matches limited by time in which the teams have two innings apiece, and those limited by number of overs in which they have a single innings each. The former, known as first-class cricket if played at the senior level, has a scheduled duration of three to five days ; 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 separate form of limited overs is Twenty20, originally designed so that the whole game could be played in a single evening, in which each team has an innings limited to twenty overs.
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 Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) was founded in England in 1973 for the purpose of researching and collating information about the history and statistics of cricket. Originally called the Association of Cricket Statisticians, the words "and Historians" were added in 1992 but it has continued to use the initialism ACS.
The Argentina national cricket team is the team that represents the country of Argentina in international cricket. The team is organised by the Argentina Cricket Association (ACA), which became an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1974.
The France national cricket team is the men's team that represents the country of France in international cricket. They became an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1998, having previously been an affiliate member since 1987. The country is best known for winning the silver medal in the cricket event at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, the only time cricket has been held at the Olympics. France now plays most of its matches in European Cricket Council (ECC) tournaments, although the team also appeared at the 2001 ICC Trophy.
The Myanmar national cricket team is the team that represents the country of Myanmar in international cricket matches. It has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2006 and an associate member since 2017.
1864 was the 78th season of cricket in England. It was a significant year in cricket history, as it saw the legalisation of overarm bowling and the first edition of John Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac.
The 1774 English cricket season was the third in which matches have been awarded retrospective first-class cricket status. The scorecards of five first-class matches have survived.
The 1787 English cricket season was the 16th in which matches have been awarded retrospective first-class cricket status. It saw the foundation of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's Old Ground in London. The season saw 11 top-class matches played in the country.
The 1788 English cricket season was the 17th in which matches have been awarded retrospective first-class cricket status and the second after the foundation of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The season saw 11 top-class matches played in the country.
The 1790 English cricket season was the 19th in which matches have been awarded retrospective first-class cricket status and the fourth after the foundation of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The season saw 12 top-class matches played in the country.
Variations in published cricket statistics have come about because there is no official view of the status of cricket matches played in Great Britain before 1895 or in the rest of the world before 1947. As a result, historians and statisticians have compiled differing lists of matches that they recognise as "unofficially" first-class. The problem is significant where it touches on some of the sport's first-class records and especially the playing career of W. G. Grace.
Simon Mark Hewitt is an English-born former French first-class cricketer. A right-handed batsman and right-arm medium pace bowler, he played more than 100 times for the France national cricket team between 1989 and 2001, most of the time captaining the side, having previously played for Oxford University. His brother Steven played cricket for Cambridge University.
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a field at the centre of which is a 22-yard (20-metre) pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two bails balanced on three stumps. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the bowler, "bowls" (propels) the ball from one end of the pitch towards the wicket at the other end, with an "over" being completed once they have legally done so six times. The batting side has one player at each end of the pitch, with the player at the opposite end of the pitch from the bowler aiming to strike the ball with a bat. The batting side scores runs either when the ball reaches the boundary of the field, or when the two batters swap ends of the pitch, which results in one run. The fielding side's aim is to prevent run-scoring and dismiss each batter. Means of dismissal include being bowled, when the bowled ball hits the stumps and dislodges the bails, and by the fielding side either catching a hit ball before it touches the ground, or hitting a wicket with the ball before a batter can cross the crease line in front of the wicket to complete a run. When ten batters have been dismissed, the innings ends and the teams swap roles. The game is adjudicated by two umpires, aided by a third umpire and match referee in international matches.
Frederic Alexander Waldock played first-class cricket for Oxford University and Somerset between 1919 and 1924, and then for representative sides in his native Sri Lanka between 1927 and 1934. He was born at Colombo, Sri Lanka and died at Galmington, Taunton, Somerset.
John Donald Martin is an English retired cricketer who played first-class cricket for Oxford University and Somerset. He also played Minor Counties cricket for Oxfordshire and Berkshire. He was born in Oxford.
Michael Godfrey Melvin Groves is a former cricketer who played first-class cricket for Western Province, Oxford University, Somerset County Cricket Club, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Free Foresters between 1961 and 1968. He was born at Taihape, Manawatu, New Zealand.
The Liverpool and District cricket team played 14 first-class matches between 1882 and 1894, all at their home ground Aigburth.