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First-class cricket refers to the class of cricket matches of three or more days scheduled duration, between two sides of eleven players and officially adjudged first-class by virtue of the standard of the competing teams. Matches must allow for the teams to play two innings each, although, in practice, a team might only play zero or one innings.

First-class cricket is an aspect of major cricket but is not major cricket per se, as is sometimes thought. Major cricket is an unofficial or, at best, quasi-official term that includes limited overs cricket, single wicket and other forms in which players and/or teams of high standard are playing. These forms are not first-class cricket.

Test cricket, although the highest standard of major 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.

Due to the time demands of first-class competition, the players are mostly paid professionals, though historically many players were designated amateur. First-class teams are usually representative of a geopolitical region such as an English county, an Australian state or a West Indian nation.

Definitions of first-class cricket

MCC 1895

Prior to 1947, the only definition of first-class cricket had been one in Great Britain that dated from a meeting at Lord'smarker 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, major cricket touring teams and other teams designated as such by MCC.

ICC 1947

The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) in May 1947 as a match of three or more days duration 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 rule. 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) in the third innings of the match. In first-class cricket, the follow-on minimum lead requirement depends on match duration. In a Test or other match with five or more days duration, the team batting second can be asked to follow on if 200 or more runs behind. If the match duration is three or four days, the minimum lead is 150 runs.

Matches played before the MCC and ICC definitions

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 matchlists. 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

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


External sources

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