The World of Cricket

The World of Cricket

First-class cricket

First-class cricket matches are those between international teams or the highest standard of domestic teams in which teams have two innings each. Technically, Test cricket is a form of first-class cricket but the term "first-class" usually refers to domestic competition only. Generally, matches are eleven players a side but there have been exceptions. Today all matches must be scheduled to have at least three days' duration; historically, matches were played to a finish with no pre-defined timespan.

Point of Origin

The point of origin of first-class cricket in England is controversial and the issue has never been satisfactorily resolved. Members of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) are striving to resolve the matter following certain resolutions taken at the society's 2006 Annual General Meeting (AGM). In particular, an Early Cricket Project has begun to identify and record matches played before 1850.

At one time, some cricket historians held that 1864 marked the origin of English first-class cricket because that was when overarm bowling was officially introduced. This date was rejected by other historians who argued that standards of play during the so-called "roundarm era" could not be termed "second-class". One prominent statistician then effectively challenged the 1864 date by producing a book of records that began in 1815, the year in which cricket began its recovery from the impact of the Napoleonic War.


The 1864 date has been further rejected by reference to other nations. Australia's first-class cricket began in February 1851. In New Zealand, the original first-class match took place in January 1864. In the West Indies, the first match was in February 1865. Cricket in the other Test nations began much later. The inaugural first-class match in South Africa was also the country's first Test match in March 1889. In the sub-continent, India was the first to stage first-class cricket in August 1892. In addition, first-class cricket in North America is deemed to have begun in October 1880, before being discontinued in 1913.

Although 1815 ensured that the whole of the roundarm era was included in the first-class records, roundarm did not begin in any real sense until 1827 and was not legalised until 1835; and even then the Laws had to be reinforced in 1845 by removing the benefit of the doubt from the bowler in the matter of his hand’s height when delivering the ball. For most of the period from 1815 to 1845, underarm bowling continued to prevail and so 1815 as the point of origin was resisted by champions of the "underarm era" which had existed from time immemorial.

As a result, some statisticians began to include games from the 18th Century in their first-class records. The main difficulty encountered by researchers before 1815 is the absence of match details and there are numerous matches in the 18th Century which are known about in name only, with no scores having survived. The ACS decided sometime since 1980 that the first-class records should include all Gentlemen v Players matches and these began in 1806 but for some unexplained reason, the ACS decided to "dump" the start date into the century convenient year of 1801 and then left it there "pending further research".

It was only in 2005 that the 1801 startpoint was seriously challenged. Scorecards for matches prior to 1801 have been loaded into the ACS-supported CricketArchive database and there classified as major or minor pending an overall accord with the ACS via the Early Cricket Project as mentioned above.

There is in English cricket a continuous though incomplete statistical record from 1772 and there are surviving scorecards from a few earlier games, including two in 1744. Some statisticians hold that the earlier games are too isolated for inclusion and that the first-class timespan for statistical purposes should commence in 1772.

The latest view that has been published by the ACS is that the point of origin for first-class cricket's historical record is 1660, or thereabouts. Historical evidence points to this date, in the aftermath of the Restoration as the time when teams of "county strength" were first assembled. It is argued that 1660 should be the startpoint for the history of first-class cricket in England so as to encompass all matches that ultimately come to light.

No doubt the issue will continue to be discussed for some time to come.

Conduct of a game of first-class cricket

The game is conducted similarly to Test cricket, though usually with maximum length three or four days rather than five. Due to the time demands of such a competition, first-class cricketers are mostly paid professionals. Around the world, teams are usually representative of political districts — for instance, Australia's domestic first-class competition is between state representative teams.

The follow-on rule

The follow-on minimum lead requirement in any two-innings cricket match is:

  • Five or more days — 200 runs
  • Three or four days — 150 runs
  • Two days — 100 runs
  • One day — 75 runs

If the whole first day of play is abandoned without a ball being bowled, then the number of days considered for the sake of calculating follow on are counted from the actual start of play. For example, if the first day of a four-day match is abandoned due to weather or other reasons, then the match is counted as a three-day one for the sake of determining follow on. (This would not make a difference if only one day is lost in a four-day match because the follow on requirement is the same for matches of four or three days.)

Definition of first-class cricket

As well as domestic competition, it is typical for international teams touring another country to play warm-up first-class matches against domestic teams. However, with the increasing schedule of international players and consequent more tightly-scheduled tours, the number of such one-off games is decreasing. According to the International Cricket Council, a match is first class if:

  • It is of three or more days scheduled duration
  • Each side playing the match has eleven players
  • 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 Board of cricket in the appropriate nation or the International Cricket Council recognizes the match as first-class.

A Test Match is a first class match played between two Full Member countries given the status of a Test match-playing nation by the International Cricket Council, following the Playing Conditions for Test Matches established by the International Cricket Council, and following various other regulations.

The following matches or competitions are also recognized as first-class by the appropriate Boards of Cricket, providing the above regulations are met:

  • United Kingdom and Ireland
    • County Championship matches
    • Marylebone Cricket Club versus a first class county
    • Oxford University versus Cambridge University
    • Cambridge, Durham, Oxford and Loughborough University Centres of Cricketing Excellence matches versus first class counties
    • Scotland versus Ireland
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • Australia
    • Pura Cup matches.
    • 'Australia A' versus Australian XI
    • 'Australia A' versus first class opponents, including State teams
    • Australian XI versus first class opponents, including State teams
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • South Africa
    • Super Sport Series matches (involving the pro 6 franchises)
    • SAA Provincial Challenge (16 provincial teams and Namibia)
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • West Indies
    • Red Stripe Cup matches
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • India
    • Ranji Trophy matches
    • Duleep Trophy matches
    • Irani Trophy matches
    • A State or regional associations versus another state or regional association, provided the associations are affiliated to the Board of Control for Cricket in India
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • New Zealand
    • State Championship matches
    • New Zealand 'A' versus a Cricket association, provided the association is affiliated to New Zealand Cricket
    • A cricket association versus another cricket association, provided that the associations are affiliated to New Zealand Cricket
    • New Zealand 'A' versus a first class opponent
    • A cricket association versus a first class opponent, provided the association is affiliated to New Zealand Cricket
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • Pakistan
    • Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches
    • Cricket Associations and Departments (corporate teams) versus each other, or other first class opponents, provided the associations or departments are affiliated to the Pakistan Cricket Board, and the match is organized by the Pakistan Cricket Board
    • Pakistan 'A' versus a touring Test team or Kenya
    • Pakistan versus a touring 'A' team from a Test country or Kenya
    • Pakistan 'A' versus a touring 'A' team from a Test country or Kenya
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • Sri Lanka
    • Premier League (Division I) Matches
    • Sri Lanka 'A' (or another team designated by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka) versus a touring 'A' team
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • Zimbabwe
    • Logan Cup Matches
    • A cricket association versus another cricket association, provided the associations are affiliated to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union
    • A first class team versus a touring first class team
  • Bangladesh
  • Kenya (Not a Test Team)
    • A first class team (including touring Test teams) versus Kenya
  • Other Non-Test Full Member Countries
    • Non-Test Full Member Country versus a first class touring team, with the consent of the touring team
    • Official Test Trial matches.
    • Special matches between teams adjudged first class by the Board(s) of cricket concerned, with the approval of the International Cricket Council
    • Games played for the ICC Intercontinental Cup. This competition involves teams from Canada, Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Kenya, Namibia and UAE.


  • 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

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