First-class cricket

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First-class cricket is a class of the game of cricket comprising matches of three or more days' scheduled duration between two sides of eleven players each, officially adjudged to be first-class by virtue of the standard of the competing teams.[1] Matches must allow for the teams to play two innings each, although, in practice, a team might only play one innings or none at all.

Test cricket, although the highest standard of cricket, is itself a form of first-class cricket, although the term "first-class" is commonly used to refer to domestic competition only. A player's first-class statistics include his performances in Test matches.

Generally, first-class matches are eleven players a side but there have been exceptions. Equally, although first-class matches must now be scheduled to have at least three days' duration, there have historically been exceptions.

Definitions of first-class cricket[edit]

GHK 1895[edit]

Prior to 1947, the only definition of first-class cricket had been one in Great Britain that dated from 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 and other teams designated as such by MCC.

ICC 1947[edit]

The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) in May 1947 as a match scheduled for three or more days play, between two sides of eleven players officially adjudged first-class; the governing body in each country to decide the status of teams. Significantly, it was stated that the definition does not have retrospective effect. MCC was authorised to determine the status of matches played in Great Britain.

For all intents and purposes, the 1947 ICC definition confirmed the 1895 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. It is 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 is first-class if:

  • it is of three or more days scheduled duration
  • each side playing the match has eleven players
  • each side may have two innings
  • the match is played on natural, and not artificial, turf
  • the match is played on an international standard ground
  • the match conforms to the Laws of Cricket, except for only minor amendments
  • the sport’s governing body in the appropriate nation, or the ICC itself, recognises the match as first-class.

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.

A peculiarity of the two-innings match is the follow-on law. If the team that batted second is substantially behind on first innings total, it may be required to bat again (i.e., to immediately "follow on" from its first innings rather than innings alternating as them normally would) in the third innings of the match.

Matches played before the MCC and ICC definitions[edit]

The absence of any ruling about matches played before 1947 (or before 1895 in Great Britain) has caused problems for cricket historians and especially statisticians who have been forced to compile their own match lists. Inevitable differences have arisen and there are variations in published first-class statistics.

For a description of the statistical differences, see: Variations in first-class cricket statistics

Recognised matches[edit]

The following matches or competitions are recognised as first-class by the appropriate governing bodies, providing the conditions of the ICC definition are met:


  • A first-class opponent is a team recognized as first-class in its home country, and includes foreign touring Test teams (some first-class teams are not entitled to play first-class matches in other countries; such determinations are made by the local Board of cricket)
  • The 'A' Team and the 'XI' Team are the representatives of a nation subordinate to the Test team, and are not always adjudged first-class

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]