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.[60] 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.[61]
Meanwhile, the British Empire had been instrumental in spreading the game overseas and by the middle of the 19th century it had become well established in Australia, the Caribbean, India, New Zealand, North America and South Africa.[42] In 1844, the first-ever international match took place between the United States and Canada.[43] In 1859, a team of English players went to North America on the first overseas tour.[44]
First-class cricket in England is played for the most part by the 18 county clubs which contest the County Championship. The concept of a champion county has existed since the 18th century but the official competition was not established until 1890.[40] The most successful club has been Yorkshire, who had won 32 official titles (plus one shared) as of 2019.[123]
The patrons, and other players from the social class known as the "gentry", began to classify themselves as "amateurs"[fn 1] to establish a clear distinction vis-à-vis the professionals, who were invariably members of the working class, even to the point of having separate changing and dining facilities.[29] The gentry, including such high-ranking nobles as the Dukes of Richmond, exerted their honour code of noblesse oblige to claim rights of leadership in any sporting contests they took part in, especially as it was necessary for them to play alongside their "social inferiors" if they were to win their bets.[30] In time, a perception took hold that the typical amateur who played in first-class cricket, until 1962 when amateurism was abolished, was someone with a public school education who had then gone to one of Cambridge or Oxford University – society insisted that such people were "officers and gentlemen" whose destiny was to provide leadership.[31] In a purely financial sense, the cricketing amateur would theoretically claim expenses for playing while his professional counterpart played under contract and was paid a wage or match fee; in practice, many amateurs claimed somewhat more than actual expenditure and the derisive term "shamateur" was coined to describe the syndrome.[32][33]

Traditionally much stronger at home than abroad, the Indian team has improved its overseas form, especially in limited-overs cricket, since the start of the 21st century, winning Test matches in Australia, England and South Africa. It has won the Cricket World Cup twice – in 1983 under the captaincy of Kapil Dev and in 2011 under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After winning the 2011 World Cup, India became only the third team after West Indies and Australia to have won the World Cup more than once,[10] and the first cricket team to win the World Cup at home. It also won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, under the captaincy of MS Dhoni. It was also the joint champions of 2002 ICC Champions Trophy, along with Sri Lanka.

It is generally believed that cricket originated as a children's game in the south-eastern counties of England, sometime during the medieval period.[3] 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:[5][6][7]

The decision to attempt a run is ideally made by the batsman who has the better view of the ball's progress, and this is communicated by calling: usually "yes", "no" or "wait". More than one run can be scored from a single hit: hits worth one to three runs are common, but the size of the field is such that it is usually difficult to run four or more.[106] To compensate for this, hits that reach the boundary of the field are automatically awarded four runs if the ball touches the ground en route to the boundary or six runs if the ball clears the boundary without touching the ground within the boundary. In these cases the batsmen do not need to run.[107] Hits for five are unusual and generally rely on the help of "overthrows" by a fielder returning the ball. If an odd number of runs is scored by the striker, the two batsmen have changed ends, and the one who was non-striker is now the striker. Only the striker can score individual runs, but all runs are added to the team's total.[106]
In 1876–77, an England team took part in what was retrospectively recognised as the first-ever Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia.[47] The rivalry between England and Australia gave birth to The Ashes in 1882, and this has remained Test cricket's most famous contest.[48] Test cricket began to expand in 1888–89 when South Africa played England.[citation needed]
Inter-State T20 Championship – After India became another member of the ICC Twenty20 and played its first international T20 against South Africa, the BCCI launched its own state structure in 2006–07 season, with 27 Ranji teams divided in 5 Zones. The final was played between Punjab and Tamil Nadu, which the latter won by 2 wickets and 2 balls remaining, thereby becoming the only ever winner of this series. In this series, Rohit Sharma also became the only ever Indian to register a T20 century for Mumbai against Gujarat. The competition was later replaced by the franchise-based IPL.
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.[62]
Eden Gardens in Kolkata has hosted the most Tests, and also has the second-largest seating capacity of any cricket stadium in the world, being capable of holding more than 66,000 spectators. Founded in 1864, it is one of the most historical stadiums in India, having hosted numerous historical and controversial matches.[67] Other major stadiums in India include the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, which was established in 1883 and hosted memorable matches including Anil Kumble's ten wickets in an innings haul against Pakistan. For the last two years, the ground has been undergoing renovation.[68]