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.
At the end of the 2004 season, India suffered from lack of form and fitness from its older players. A defeat in a following home Test series against Australia was followed by an ODI home series defeat against Pakistan followed by a Test series levelled 1–1. Greg Chappell took over from John Wright as the coach of the Indian cricket team following the series, and his methods proved to be controversial during the beginning of his tenure. The tension resulted in a fallout between Chappell and Ganguly, resulting in Rahul Dravid being made captain. This triggered a revival in the team's fortunes, following the emergence of players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and the coming of age of players like Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh. A thumping home series victory over Sri Lanka in 2005 and a drawn series with South Africa put India at second place in the ICC ODI rankings. Dravid, Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were selected to play for the ICC World XI in the 2005 "SuperTest" against Australia. A convincing ODI series win in Pakistan in early 2006, following a loss in the Test series, gave India the world record of 17 successive ODI victories while batting second. Towards the middle of 2006, however, a 4–1 series loss in the West Indies gave rise to a slump in India's ODI form, while they achieved a 1–0 victory in the Test series that followed, giving them their first Test series victory in the Caribbean since 1971. India's ODI form slumped further with a disappointing performance in the 2006 Champions Trophy and a drubbing in the ODI series in South Africa. This was followed yet again by an initial good performance in the Tests, giving India its first Test match win in South Africa, although they went on to lose the series 2–1. This Test series was marked by Ganguly's comeback to the Indian team.
In December 2006, India played and won its first ever Twenty20 international in South Africa, becoming the most recent Test team to play Twenty20 cricket. The beginning of 2007 had seen a revival in the Indian team's ODI fortunes before the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Series victories against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, marked by the comeback of Ganguly, and strong form by Tendulkar, and the emergence of young players like Robin Uthappa saw many pundits to tip India as a real contender to win the 2007 Cricket World Cup. However, defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka saw India fail to reach the second round.
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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 other ICC full members have national championship trophies called the Ahmad Shah Abdali 4-day Tournament (Afghanistan); the National Cricket League (Bangladesh); the Ranji Trophy (India); the Inter-Provincial Championship (Ireland); the Plunket Shield (New Zealand); the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (Pakistan); the Currie Cup (South Africa); the Premier Trophy (Sri Lanka); the Shell Shield (West Indies); and the Logan Cup (Zimbabwe).
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.
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. Innings is the term used for each phase of play in the match. 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. 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. 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. The order of batsmen is usually announced just before the match, but it can be varied.
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.
As illustrated above, the pitch is marked at each end with four white painted lines: a bowling crease, a popping crease and two return creases. The three stumps are aligned centrally on the bowling crease, which is eight feet eight inches long. The popping crease is drawn four feet in front of the bowling crease and parallel to it; although it is drawn as a twelve-foot line (six feet either side of the wicket), it is, in fact, unlimited in length. The return creases are drawn at right angles to the popping crease so that they intersect the ends of the bowling crease; each return crease is drawn as an eight-foot line, so that it extends four feet behind the bowling crease, but is also, in fact, unlimited in length.