Cricket is a multi-faceted sport with multiple formats that can effectively be divided into first-class cricket, limited overs cricket and, historically, single wicket cricket. The highest standard is Test cricket (always written with a capital "T") which is in effect the international version of first-class cricket and is restricted to teams representing the twelve countries that are full members of the ICC (see above). 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; since 1882, most Test series between England and Australia have been played for a trophy known as The Ashes. The term "first-class", in general usage, is applied to top-level domestic cricket. Test matches are played over five days and first-class over three to four days; in all of these matches, the teams are allotted two innings each and the draw is a valid result.[119]
Cricket has close historical ties with Australian rules football and many players have competed at top levels in both sports.[136] In 1858, prominent Australian cricketer Tom Wills called for the formation of a "foot-ball club" with "a code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during the off-season. The Melbourne Football Club was founded the following year, and Wills and three other members codified the first laws of the game.[137] It is typically played on modified cricket fields.[138]
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Historically, cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire, leading to the first international matches in the second half of the 19th century. The game's governing body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has over 100 members, twelve of which are full members who play Test matches. The game's rules are held in a code called the Laws of Cricket which is owned and maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. The sport is followed primarily in the Indian subcontinent, Australasia, the United Kingdom, southern Africa and the West Indies, its globalisation occurring during the expansion of the British Empire and remaining popular into the 21st century.[1] Women's cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. The most successful side playing international cricket is Australia, which has won seven One Day International trophies, including five World Cups, more than any other country and has been the top-rated Test side more than any other country.
During the 1980s, India developed a more attack-minded batting line-up with stroke makers such as the wristy Mohammed Azharuddin, Dilip Vengsarkar and all-rounders Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri. India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983, defeating the favourites and the two-time defending champions West Indies in the final at Lords, owing to a strong bowling performance. In spite of this, the team performed poorly in the Test arena, including 28 consecutive Test matches without a victory. In 1984, India won the Asia Cup and in 1985, won the World Championship of Cricket in Australia. Apart from this, India remained a weak team outside the Indian subcontinent. India's Test series victory in 1986 against England remained the last Test series win by India outside the subcontinent for the next 19 years. The 1980s saw Gavaskar and Kapil Dev (India's best all-rounder to date) at the pinnacle of their careers. Gavaskar made a Test record 34 centuries as he became the first man to reach the 10,000 run mark. Kapil Dev later became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 434 wickets. The period was also marked by an unstable leadership, with Gavaskar and Kapil exchanging the captaincy several times.

In England, a number of association football clubs owe their origins to cricketers who sought to play football as a means of keeping fit during the winter months. Derby County was founded as a branch of the Derbyshire County Cricket Club in 1884;[139] Aston Villa (1874) and Everton (1876) were both founded by members of church cricket teams.[140] Sheffield United's Bramall Lane ground was, from 1854, the home of the Sheffield Cricket Club, and then of Yorkshire; it was not used for football until 1862 and was shared by Yorkshire and Sheffield United from 1889 to 1973.[141]
Although the main object of the game has always been to score the most runs, the early form of cricket differed from the modern game in certain key technical aspects. The ball was bowled underarm by the bowler and all along the ground towards a batsman armed with a bat that, in shape, resembled a hockey stick; the batsman defended a low, two-stump wicket; and runs were called "notches" because the scorers recorded them by notching tally sticks.[13][14][15]
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the governing body for the Indian cricket team and first-class cricket in India. The Board has been operating since 1929 and represents India at the International Cricket Council. It is amongst the richest sporting organisations in the world. It sold media rights for India's matches from 2006–2010 for US$612,000,000.[42] It manages the Indian team's sponsorships, its future tours and team selection.
Since 2000, the Indian team underwent major improvements under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly and guidance of John Wright, India's first ever foreign coach. India maintained their unbeaten home record against Australia in Test series after defeating them in 2001. The series was famous for the Kolkata Test match, in which India became only the third team in the history of Test cricket to win a Test match after following on. Australian captain Steve Waugh labelled India as the "Final Frontier" as a result of his side's inability to win a Test series in India.[25] Victory in 2001 against the Australians marked the beginning of a dream run for India under their captain Ganguly, winning Test matches in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and England. The England series is also known for India's highest ODI run-chase of 325 runs at Lord's which came in the Natwest ODI Series final against England. In the same year, India were joint-winners of the ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka and then went to the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa where they reached the final, only to be beaten by Australia. The 2003–04 season also saw India play out a Test series in Australia where they drew 1–1 with the world champions, and then win a Test and ODI series in Pakistan.
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Cricket is the most popular sport in India by far,[4] and is played almost everywhere.[5] The Indian national cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. The 2023 Cricket World Cup will be hosted by India.
Fan rivalry and cross-border tension has created a strong rivalry between the Indian and the Pakistani cricket teams. In tours between these two nations, cricket visas are often employed to accommodate for the tens of thousands of fans wishing to cross the border to watch cricket. This intense fan dedication is one of the major causes of the BCCI's financial success.[130]
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played on a cricket field (see image, right) between two teams of eleven players each.[58] The field is usually circular or oval in shape and the edge of the playing area is marked by a boundary, which may be a fence, part of the stands, a rope, a painted line or a combination of these; the boundary must if possible be marked along its entire length.[59]

In the late 19th century, a former cricketer, English-born Henry Chadwick of Brooklyn, New York, was credited with devising the baseball box score[142] (which he adapted from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events. The first box score appeared in an 1859 issue of the Clipper.[143] The statistical record is so central to the game's "historical essence" that Chadwick is sometimes referred to as "the Father of Baseball" because he facilitated the popularity of the sport in its early days.[144]


Before a match begins, the team captains (who are also players) toss a coin to decide which team will bat first and so take the first innings.[63] Innings is the term used for each phase of play in the match.[63] In each innings, one team bats, attempting to score runs, while the other team bowls and fields the ball, attempting to restrict the scoring and dismiss the batsmen.[64][65] When the first innings ends, the teams change roles; there can be two to four innings depending upon the type of match. A match with four scheduled innings is played over three to five days; a match with two scheduled innings is usually completed in a single day.[63] During an innings, all eleven members of the fielding team take the field, but usually only two members of the batting team are on the field at any given time. The exception to this is if a batsman has any type of illness or injury restricting his or her ability to run, in this case the batsman is allowed "A Runner" who can run between the wickets when the batsman hits a scoring run or runs.[63] The order of batsmen is usually announced just before the match, but it can be varied.[58]
Single wicket was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and its matches were generally considered top-class. In this form, although each team may have from one to six players, there is only one batsman in 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. Matches tended to have two innings per team like a full first-class one and they could end in a draw.[122]
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