It is generally believed that cricket originated as a children's game in the south-eastern counties of England, sometime during the medieval period. Although there are claims for prior dates, the earliest definite reference to cricket being played comes from evidence given at a court case in Guildford on Monday, 17 January 1597 (Julian calendar; equating to 30 January 1598 in the Gregorian calendar). The case concerned ownership of a certain plot of land and the court heard the testimony of a 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick, who gave witness that:
The main objective of each team is to score more runs than their opponents but, in some forms of cricket, it is also necessary to dismiss all of the opposition batsmen in their final innings in order to win the match, which would otherwise be drawn. If the team batting last is all out having scored fewer runs than their opponents, they are said to have "lost by n runs" (where n is the difference between the aggregate 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 example, a team that passes its opponents' total having lost six wickets (i.e., six of their batsmen have been dismissed) have won the match "by four wickets".
The Bombay Gymkhana hosted the first ever Test match in India which is the only Test it has hosted to date. Wankhede Stadium, established in 1974, has a capacity to hold 33,000 spectators and is currently the most popular venue in the city. It has hosted 24 Test matches. It was the unofficial successor of the Brabourne Stadium, which is also located in Mumbai. Mumbai is often considered the cricketing capital of India because of its fans and the talent it produces (see Mumbai cricket team) and thus the stadium regularly hosts major Test matches. The M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk is also considered to be an important historical Indian cricket ground, established in the early 1900s it was the site of India's first Test victory.
Cricket remained a low-key local pursuit for much of the century. It is known, through numerous references found in the records of ecclesiastical court cases, to have been proscribed at times by the Puritans before and during the Commonwealth. The problem was nearly always the issue of Sunday play as the Puritans considered cricket to be "profane" if played on the Sabbath, especially if large crowds and/or gambling were involved.
As of 25 June 2019, India is ranked first in Tests, second in ODIs and fifth in T20Is by the ICC. Virat Kohli is the current captain of the team across all formats, while the head coach is Ravi Shastri. The Indian cricket team has rivalries with other Test-playing nations, most notably with Pakistan, the political arch-rival of India. However, in recent times, rivalries with nations like Australia, South Africa and England have also gained prominence.
The key to India's bowling in the 1970s were the Indian spin quartet – Bishen Bedi, E.A.S. Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. This period also saw the emergence of two of India's best ever batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath. Indian pitches have had the tendency to support spin and the spin quartet exploited this to create collapses in opposing batting line-ups. These players were responsible for the back-to-back series wins in 1971 in the West Indies and in England, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar. Gavaskar scored 774 runs in the West Indian series while Dilip Sardesai's 112 played a big part in their one Test win.
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In the approximate centre of the field is a rectangular pitch (see image, below) on which a wooden target called a wicket is sited at each end; the wickets are placed 22 yards (20 m) apart. The pitch is a flat surface 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, with very short grass that tends to be worn away as the game progresses (cricket can also be played on artificial surfaces, notably matting). Each wicket is made of three wooden stumps topped by two bails.
2015 saw the beginning of India's dominance at home in Test matches under new captain Virat Kohli when they comprehensively beat South Africa. This series was the beginning of an unbeaten streak of 19 Test matches for India which was brought to an end by Australia in early 2017. This series also saw the emergence of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as two of the best spinners and all-rounders. They spun webs around touring batsmen, much like the spinning quartet of the 1970s. This was followed by limited overs victories over Australia and Sri Lanka away from home. India was knocked out of the 2015 World Cup in the semi-final stage, to eventual winners Australia. India began 2016 by winning the 2016 Asia Cup, remaining unbeaten throughout the tournament, beating Pakistan along the way. India were favourites to win the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 which was being held at home, but they lost in the semi-final to eventual champions West Indies. Virat Kohli was again named the man of the series.
The wicket-keeper (sometimes called simply the "keeper") is a specialist fielder subject to various rules within the Laws about his equipment and demeanour. He is the only member of the fielding side who can effect a stumping and is the only one permitted to wear gloves and external leg guards. Depending on their primary skills, the other ten players in the team tend to be classified as specialist batsmen or specialist bowlers. Generally, a team will include five or six specialist batsmen and four or five specialist bowlers, plus the wicket-keeper.
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 with only 62 happening in first-class matches from the earliest known instance in 1741 until January 2017. 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.
The game on the field is regulated by the two umpires, one of whom stands behind the wicket at the bowler's end, the other in a position called "square leg" which is about 15–20 metres away from the batsman on strike and in line with the popping crease on which he is taking guard. The umpires have several responsibilities including adjudication on whether a ball has been correctly bowled (i.e., not a no-ball or a wide); when a run is scored; whether a batsman is out (the fielding side must first appeal to the umpire, usually with the phrase "How's that?" or "Owzat?"); when intervals start and end; and the suitability of the pitch, field and weather for playing the game. The umpires are authorised to interrupt or even abandon a match due to circumstances likely to endanger the players, such as a damp pitch or deterioration of the light.
Previous versions of the Spirit identified actions that were deemed contrary (for example, appealing knowing that the batsman is not out) but all specifics are now covered in the Laws of Cricket, the relevant governing playing regulations and disciplinary codes, or left to the judgement of the umpires, captains, their clubs and governing bodies. The terse expression of the Spirit of Cricket now avoids the diversity of cultural conventions that exist in the detail of sportsmanship – or its absence.
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.