Cricket is a bat and ball game played by two teams of eleven people, on a large oval field with the action focussed on the pitch in the centre. Speedy it is not: depending on the format, a game can last from 90 minutes to what feels like the rest of your life.
Cricket originated in England and suffuses its culture and language, even among those who never go near a game. "Have a good innings", "hit for six", "bowl a googly", "sticky wicket", "it's just not cricket", the list of cricket metaphors in the speech of playing nations is almost as long as that of nautical metaphors. Many English novels have scenes based around matches, or earnest debates about cricket: the comic Flashman's Lady describes the game as played in the 1840s. PG Wodehouse's character Jeeves, manservant to Bertie Wooster, was modeled on the elegant Warwickshire cricketer Percy Jeeves, lost at the Battle of the Somme. Go to a game anywhere, but especially in the land of its birth, for a fascinating and sometimes unsettling view into the psyche of the English-speaking world.
|“||It's a funny kind of month, October. For the really keen cricket fan, it's when you discover that your wife left you in May.||”|
—Dennis Norden, Engish writer
Cricket is played outdoors on a large circular or oval field of mown grass — artificial surfaces are not used. In the centre is a rectangular pitch, mown shorter. At either end of the pitch are wickets 22 yards (20 m) apart — three vertical wooden sticks with two small wooden bails placed on top. The bowler hurls the ball to hit the wicket; the batsman stands in front of the wicket and defends it — ideally by whacking the ball far enough away for him / her to scamper down to the other wicket, swapping positions with the non-striking batsman. This scores a run, and better still if the ball clears the boundary for automatic runs.
This means that cricket can only be played in reasonably dry warm conditions — summer or the equivalent dry season. The ball is hard, damned hard if it hits you, and slows up on a wet surface. Other than batsmen and bowler, the players in the field are mostly static, not keeping warm by hoofing around like a football match. The audience also appreciates not being cold and wet — stadium seating is seldom under cover.
The batsman tries to score runs, while the bowler tries to get the batsman out — dismissed — whereupon the next batsman (who has been sitting on the sidelines) comes out to face the action. There are 11 ways you can be out, but in practice the only common ways are:
- Bowled — the ball is bowled and hits the wicket hard enough to dislodge at least one of the bails off the top.
- "Hit wicket" or "chopped on" is a variant where the batsman's own stroke results in his bat or any part of his body hitting the wicket.
- Caught — the ball is caught on the fly by a fielder or the bowler.
- "Caught behind" or "caught at the wicket" is a catch by the wicket-keeper immediately behind the wicket — usually because of a little snick by a batsman unsure whether to hit or leave alone a ball.
- "Caught and bowled" is a catch by the bowler.
- Leg before wicket (LBW) — the ball hits the batsman when it would otherwise have hit the wicket.
- Run out — the batsman is out of ground attempting a run, and the ball is thrown in by a fielder to break the wicket.
- Stumped is similar, the wicket-keeper breaks the wicket with the ball when the batsman is out of ground, through advancing to play a shot and missing the ball, rather than attempting a run.
A bowler who takes three wickets — dismisses three batsmen — in three consecutive bowls by whatever mode, is said to take a "hat-trick". Since 1858 the audience no longer holds a collection to buy the bowler a hat with the proceeds, yet the term has been widely adopted in other sports and aspects of life. A "five-wicket haul", also known as a "five-for" or "fifer", refers to a bowler dismissing five batsmen in a single innings, while a "ten-wicket haul" refers to a bowler dismissing ten batsmen in a match.
The peculiarity is that the defeated batsman is not automatically dismissed, but the fielding side must ask the umpire "how's that?", meaning is that out or not out - it's a visceral cry of "OWZZZAT?!" No appeal, no dismissal. The umpire raises a finger to indicate out, otherwise remains impassive while the fielders mug expressions of disbelief. It might be "not out" if the bowler delivered a bad ball, the ball didn't snick the bat on its way into the keeper's gloves, it did snick the bat before an apparent LBW, and so on. Umpires in pro games are assisted by technology, teams may appeal decisions within limits, and stadium big screens show each incident in slow-mo.
Completing a run brings the non-striker to the batting end, but they may immediately set off back for a second run if the fielders are still chasing the ball. Three or more runs (as runs, rather than "boundaries") are usually only possible through a fielding mistake, for instance if the ball is thrown in, misses all possible targets on the pitch, and wizzes out the other side. Striking the ball over the boundary earns four automatic runs, and six if it goes over on the fly. Extra runs may be awarded to the batting team for a no-ball (if the bowler delivers an illegal bowl), or a bye where it hurtles unstruck past everyone to the boundary. (Was Tai-chi introduced to China by colonial Hong Kong cricket umpires signalling these various transgressions and penalties?) A round of applause salutes the player who hits a "half-century" — 50 runs in a single innings — with even more kudos for a century. But by far the commonest outcome is that the batsman fends off the ball without scoring a run — a "dot ball" as that's how it's recorded in scorers' notepads. A good defensive player can do this all afternoon, while spectators yawn, and purists caw appreciation of the technique while secretly wondering if it's too early to broach the gin.
Once six balls have been bowled, that's an "over." The batsmen stay in position and another bowler comes on from the opposite end, so the non-striker is now the striker, and fielders shift position accordingly. (This rotation evens out quirks in the surface, sunlight and so on.) Once ten batsmen are out, the entire batting side is dismissed, as the 11th has no partner. That completes an "innings", with a run total that the other side then has to better. An innings may also conclude after a set number of overs, say 20 or 50 in short formats, or by "declaring" — terminating the batting because the total looks beyond reach. Bad weather or darkness don't end the innings if play can later resume, but on the final day of a match, that might not be possible. In first-class matches each side has two innings, other tiers and formats just have one. Team captains toss a coin at the outset to decide the order — often the winner elects to bat first, but in some conditions and considering the weather forecast it's better to bowl first.
Bowling is the most taxing position on the field, and each team needs to rotate through several bowlers, factoring in that they will by turns have to bat themselves and may be no great shakes at that. Their primary weapon is speed. A top-ranked "pace" bowler can deliver the ball at over 90 mph / 150 kph, so the batsman has 0.1 second to judge its flight and what shot to play, and all of 0.3 second to haul limbs and bat into the correct position. Moreover the ball bounces once as it travels, so any spin on it will cause it to jink, especially if it bounces in a rough spot. "Spin" bowlers are not particularly fast but have a fiendish ability to make the ball misbehave. Fielders are deployed according. Each fielding position has an arcane name, for instance "mid-on" is close to the bowler but "silly mid-on" is so much closer to the batsman that it's silly to stand there. (Damned hard, remember.)
If the match runs out of time or weather, it's called a "draw" even though inevitably one side is behind in the scoring. This is a common outcome and the all-time individual best score, 501 not out by Brian Lara for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994, was in a drawn match. A team wins by scoring more runs, simple as that, though the way that score is expressed needs explaining. A side part-way through its innings with 155 scored and seven batsmen dismissed is said to be "155 for 7". Say the tail-enders add another 30, they finish on "185 all out". The other side now bats and suppose they finish 160 all out, the first side has won by 25 runs. But say they overtake the target of 185, a single run suffices and they don't keep batting. They are said to win by, say, 3 wickets if four batsmen are undefeated or yet to bat, bearing in mind that the tenth dismissal or wicket ends the innings. A team may win "by an innings" if they pile on more runs in a single innings that the other can scrape in two, a humiliation. If the number of runs scored are level when the match is completed, it is a "tie", not a draw — this happens about one in a thousand games.
"Test matches" are the pinnacle of the game, full-length internationals between the top countries. These are scheduled for five days but often concluded in four, the last day is a spare in case of bad weather. (Conclusion in three indicates a drubbing.) Internationals with other countries or in shorter formats don't count as Tests, hence they attract fewer ranking points. A common short format is One Day Internationals (ODIs), where matches are limited to 50 overs per team and take about 9 hours. "First-class" matches are the premier full-length domestic games, for instance between English counties: these are over four days, often concluded in three. The commonest short format is Twenty20 (T20), with each team limited to 20 overs, and may be enlivened by "powerplays" that restrict fielding positions to encourage bold batting.
Going to the game
Test matches may sell out; you're unlikely to have difficulty getting tickets for other games, and at midweek lower-tier games your arrival may boost attendance into double figures. The big problem is in guessing when a First Class match will reach a climax — TV broadcasters and sponsors find this maddening. Day 5 of a Test may be a non-event because play concluded on Day 4, it may be a thrilling nail-biter, a forgone conclusion to wrap up the last stragglers of a lost cause, a steady downpour, or attrition to grind out a draw.
Rival fans mingle amiably inside and outside the stadium, and applaud good play even by the opponents. Dress for comfort and bear in mind that it's a long day out there with changeable weather. Use sun protection even on dull days, a lot of UV gets through the clouds. Both cricket teams wear white and team colours are only worn for short formats, so the fans seldom wear these. A conspicuous minority adopt fancy dress, so you might see a dozen lads all got up as Spiderman or as crocodiles or whatever. The most distinctive tribe is the MCC membership at Lords in their garish "egg & bacon" blazers and similar complexions.
"Feed the snake:" cricket stadiums serve beer in disposable pint mugs. It's consumed in copious amounts and the etiquette with your empties is to stack them neatly along with those of your neighbours, and their neighbours and so on. As play draws to a close the Beer Snake of empties acquires a life of its own, wriggling and writhing across the stands. It's truly the noble progeny of the Hindu Nāga, the Rainbow Snake of Aboriginal Dreaming, and serpentine cricket-watching deities throughout the cosmos.
Unlike baseball, if you catch a ball hit into the stands, you do not get to keep the ball, and you're required to return it to the players promptly. And you don't dismiss the batsman, so frankly you're better dodging it. (Damned hard, remember.)
Major playing countries
Cricket originated in medieval times in the southeast of England, where the grass was cropped short by sheep-grazing. The ball was thrown at the wicket-gate of the sheep pen, and defended by a shepherd's crook. Many shepherds around Kent, Sussex and Surrey were Flemish immigrants, so they would say they hit the ball met de krikke ketsen. So along with golf, this is another game that the Dutch let slip through their grasp, and it was in England (not all of Britain) that it grew, became organised and was exported worldwide. That export was obviously to countries with strong colonial links, where settlers would round up teams, challenge the local army barracks to a match, and instruct the stable lad to field at silly mid on. So these countries are the leading cricketing nations today.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), founded in 1787 and based at Lord's ground in London, was the first international governing body and it retains considerable influence. However since 1909 the lead has passed to the International Cricket Council (ICC), headquartered in Dubai since 2005. It organises the top tournaments, appoints top umpires, and promotes a code of conduct; one of its major concerns is corruption. It has twelve full member nations, and only those matches count as Tests. The premier international tournament is the Cricket World Cup, yet this is a one-day format. It's held every four years, with the 2023 event hosted by India and the 2027 jointly by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. It's telling that the full-length game isn't played in a major tournament, and most internationals are arranged ad hoc bilaterally. There isn't a "league" system but the leading countries play all the others over a two year cycle for ranking points.
The twelve full members are Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England & Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe. 96 other nations are associate members.
Cricket was first played by British troops in 1839, but the Afghanistan Cricket Board was only formed in 1995. This country has suffered centuries of warfare and internal strife, so its cricket has done poorly along with other little things like health, education and housing. What has kept it afloat is players based in the domestic leagues of India and Pakistan, and it gained its Test status in 2017.
Cricket is the most popular summer sport, played Sept-April when Australian rules football and rugby league are in their off-season — often using the same stadiums. The first recorded match was in Sydney in 1803, and an Australian national team played its first match in 1877. They rapidly advanced, and a famous victory came at the Oval in London in 1882, their first Test win in England. "The Sporting Times" printed a mock obituary of English cricket, stating "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". For the return fixture in Australia, the English captain vowed to "regain those ashes" and when he clinched victory was presented with a little urn containing ashes of a cricket bail. The Ashes is now the name of the Test series between these sides, and the winners hold a ceremonial replica urn — the original is frail and permanently kept on display at Lords. In the event of a drawn series, the trophy is retained by the side that most recently won it. Since 1993, the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Melbourne Cricket Club have always played each other in a one-day match the day after the match at Lord's when England hosts the series, and the day after the match at the MCG when Australia hosts the series.
In 1977 cricket was rocked globally, and especially in Australia, when the media tycoon Kerry Packer (1937-2005) launched a breakaway world tournament. He argued that the cricket authorities were failing to capitalise on the game, and top players were earning a fraction of what they could. After two years a compromise (or sell-out?) was agreed and the rival enterprise folded, but many features of the modern game are a legacy of Packer's salutary shock. Floodlit evening matches that working people can get to, why did nobody else think of that? Today, Cricket Australia is the governing body, and first-class matches are known as "grade cricket". The six States play each other for the Sheffield Shield in four-day matches, and for the Marsh Cup in one-day matches. Eight cities compete in the 20-over Big Bash League.
Australia is the most successful country in the Cricket World Cup, having won the trophy a record 6 times.
- Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or "The G" is in Yarra Park in the Richmond district of Melbourne, and arguably the second most important cricket ground in the world after Lord's in London. It's multi-use, with a capacity just over 100,000 so it was the world's largest until surpassed by Ahmedabad in 2021. It hosts the Victoria State team and the Melbourne Stars Big Bash team; in winter it hosts AFL football. The Boxing Day Test, a match between Australia and a visiting side, is held here from 26th-30th December every year. The MCG is also home to the Australian Sports Museum, which houses the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, as well as a section about the history of the Melbourne Cricket Club, the MCG's owners.
- Docklands or Marvel Stadium is another multi-use venue, hosting Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash.
- Sydney Cricket Ground is in Moore Park in City East just outside the centre. It hosts the national team, New South Wales State team, and Sydney Sixers in Big Bash, plus AFL.
- Sydney Showground or Giants Arena in the Olympic Park hosts Sydney Thunder in Big Bash, plus AFL.
- Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame is in Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
- Adelaide Oval, capacity 53,500, is in the parklands just north of city centre. It hosts the South Australia State team and Adelaide Strikers in Big Bash, plus AFL.
- The Gabba is the name of Brisbane Cricket Ground, as it's in Woolloongabba district south of the river from downtown. With a capacity of 36,000, it hosts the Queensland State team, Brisbane Bulls in Big Bash, and AFL.
- Perth Stadium, capacity 60,000, is on the peninsula of Burswood just south of the river from downtown Perth. It hosts the Western Australian State team, Perth Scorchers in Big Bash, and AFL.
- WACA the traditional stadium in city centre is closed for redevelopment until 2024. It's expected thereafter to host cricket and AFL.
- Bellerive Oval or Blundstone Arena is in the Bellerive district of Hobart on the east bank of the Derwent River. With a capacity of 19,500, it hosts the Tasmania State team and Hobart Hurricanes in Big Bash.
- Manuka Oval is in Griffith just south of central Canberra ACT. It occasionally hosts games including internationals but doesn't have a resident team.
Bangladesh played its first international match in 1979, eight years after independence, and its first Test match in 2000. The national stadium is Sher-e-Bangla (meaning "Tiger of Bangladesh") in Mirpur an eastern district of the capital Dhaka. With a capacity of 25,000, it also hosts Dhaka Dominators who play in the Bangladesh Premier League, a T20 tournament. The rainy season is June-Oct but play is often still possible.
England & Wales
- The English are not a very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity. - George Bernard Shaw
England and Wales have a combined cricket organisation and national team, while Scotland has its own team, and Northern Ireland is part of the all-Ireland organisation and team; the playing season is April to September. Cricket has been played in England at least since 1550: the first internationals were planned as a tour of France in 1789, but abandoned due to the French revolution. The first overseas tour by an England team was in 1859 to the USA and Canada.
Test matches — internationals — are played around the country, usually at Lord's in London, The Oval in London, Rose Bowl in Southampton, Edgbaston in Birmingham, Headingley in Leeds, Old Trafford in Manchester and Trent Bridge in Nottingham. Out of season the England team plays abroad, followed by its raucous fans the "Barmy Army".
The County Championship is the premier domestic tournament, with matches played over four days (often completed in three, with a day spare for rain). There are 18 "First Class" sides in the Championship, with ten in Division One and eight in Division Two. Their usual home grounds may also be venues for Test matches, but they occasionally play elsewhere within their county. There's promotion / relegation between Divisions but the 18 are otherwise a closed tournament, comprising Surrey (The Oval, in Lambeth, London), Somerset (County Ground, Taunton), Essex (County Ground, Chelmsford), Yorkshire (Headingley in North West Leeds), Hampshire (Ageas or Rose Bowl, Southampton), Nottinghamshire (Trent Bridge, Nottingham), Warwickshire (Edgbaston, Birmingham), Kent (St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury), Lancashire (Old Trafford, Manchester Quays), Worcestershire (New Road, Worcester), Sussex (County Ground, Brighton), Middlesex (Lords, in the Paddington-Maida Vale area of London), Gloucestershire (County Ground, Bristol), Leicestershire (Grace Road, Leicester), Derbyshire (County Ground, Derby), Durham (Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street north of Durham), Northamptonshire (County Ground, Northampton) and Glamorgan (Sophia Gardens, Cardiff). These stadiums are single-use, for instance Old Trafford cricket ground is half-a-mile south of Manchester United's Old Trafford.
19 other counties compete in a lower tier, the National Counties Championship. These were called "the Minor Counties" but geographically some are extensive, so the name was changed.
County cricket is long on tradition but short on entertainment and audiences, and its demise has long been predicted. Various shorter, livelier formats have been devised, studying the example of the Indian Premier League, and this is an experiment still in progress. Whatever format replaces the Championship needs to be popular, entertaining and profitable, yet skillful and forming part of a development pathway for players from amateur to professional to international level.
The Hundred has since 2021 been the chief alternative: teams play twenty overs of five balls. The tournament is organised into eight cities, with men's and women's games back-to-back and your ticket admits you to both. The eight are Birmingham Phoenix, London Spirit (at Lords), Manchester Originals, Northern Superchargers (at Leeds Headingly), Oval Invincibles (at the Oval), Southern Brave (at Southampton), Trent Rockets (at Nottingham) and Welsh Fire (Tân Cymreig) at Cardiff.
T20 is the other twenty-over format, played against international sides and as "T20 Blast" between the 18 First Class counties.
Women play cricket at all levels in England & Wales, but are typically paid about 20% of what the men get. From Aug 2023 the international fees are equal, so this sets the bar for other payments.
MCC Cricket Museum is within Lord's in London. It holds the original Ashes urn and other memorabilia.
Cricket arrived with the British in the early 1700s, with first-class cricket played from 1864. Britain not only exported cricket, it exported Indians in great numbers to be the clerks and engineers of its many colonies, so they are part of the reason for the success of cricket in other nations, including in England. Today it's the most popular and lucrative sport in India, and the climate makes play possible any time of year. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the governing body. The principal tournaments are the Ranji Trophy between the 28 states and others, the Duleep Trophy between six geographical zones, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) a 20-overs contest between ten cities played April-May. The IPL is the richest domestic cricket tournament in the world, and has revolutionised the cricket world by turning the sport into a multi-billion-dollar industry. India hosted the Cricket World Cup in Oct 2023.
- Ahmedabad: Narendra Modi Stadium is in Motera district. Opened in 2021, it is by some distance the world's largest cricket ground, with a capacity of 134,000. It hosts the Gujarat team plus Gujarat Titans in the IPL.
- Bangalore: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, capacity 40,000, is in Cubbon Park district. It hosts the Karnataka team plus Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
- Chandigarh: Maharaja Yadavindra Singh Stadium, completed in 2021, is in Mullanpur district to the north and has a capacity of 40,000.
- IS Bindra Stadium in nearby Mohali was the home of Punjab Kings in the IPL, but they plan to move to the new stadium.
- Chennai: MA Chidambaram Stadium, capacity 50,000, is in Chepauk district by Marina Beach (and not remotely close to Chidambaram city away south). It hosts the Tamil Nadu team and Chennai Super Kings in IPL.
- Delhi: Arun Jaitley Stadium is in city centre. Formerly known as Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, it has a capacity of 41,800 and hosts the Delhi team plus Delhi Capitals in the IPL.
- Dharamsala: the HPCA Stadium is known for its scenic location against the backdrop of the Himalayas. It hosts the Himachal Pradesh team, as well as some international matches.
- Gwalior: a new stadium (capacity 50,000) is under construction in Shankapur village in the west of the city, and might open in 2023. Meanwhile matches are played at Captain Roop Singh Stadium.
- Hyderabad: Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, capacity 50,000, is in Uppal district. It hosts the Hyderabad team and Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL.
- Jaipur: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, capacity 30,000, hosts the Rajasthan team plus Rajasthan Royals in IPL.
- Kolkata: Eden Gardens are in the Maidan district on the east river bank. It has a capacity of 68,000 and is home to the Bengal team plus Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.
- Lucknow: Ekana Stadium, capacity 50,000, hosts the Uttar Pradesh team and Lucknow Super Giants in IPL.
- Mumbai: Wankhede Stadium, capacity 32,000, is in Churchgate district. It's the headquarters of BCCI the national governing body and of the IPL, and hosts the Mumbai team plus Mumbai Indians in IPL.
- Nagpur: New VCA Stadium is in Jamtha district. With a capacity of 45,000, it hosts Vidarbha CC but doesn't have a state or IPL team.
- Pune: MCA stadium is not fully complete, but they need to jaldi jaldi as it's scheduled to host matches at the World Cup. It's 25 miles north of the city along the highway to Mumbai.
- Blades of Glory is a cricket museum in Pune city.
As in rugby union, a single team represents the whole island of Ireland. Cricket arrived here in the early 19th century, and the national team's first match was in 1855. It was granted Test status in 2017. Cricket is little played in the Republic and many were unaware that they even had a team, though they woke up to that fact with a start in 2011 when Ireland beat England. Ireland play international matches at Malahide at the north edge of Dublin.
- "Several young men redeemed by the missionaries from slavery were employed on the farm. In the evening I saw a party of them at cricket."
- - Charles Darwin's account of the Voyage of the Beagle, 1835
- "Several young men redeemed by the missionaries from slavery were employed on the farm. In the evening I saw a party of them at cricket."
It seems likely that one of the first acts of British settlers around 1800 was to find a level patch of ground and play cricket. The first record of the game is from 1832, and the first game by a New Zealand team (against New South Wales) was in 1894. The first Test match was played in 1930. Cricket is the country's second most popular sport after rugby union, and is played in the austral summer Oct-March. The premier domestic tournament is the Plunket Shield, four-day matches between six regional sides. The Ford Trophy is 50-over one-day matches between the same six, and Hallyburton Johnstone Shield is the women's equivalent. Super Smash is men's and women's T20 cricket.
- Auckland: Eden Park in Central Auckland is the national stadium, hosting cricket (capacity 42,000) and both rugby union and league. Playing here are Auckland (4-day and 50-over), Auckland Aces (men's T20) and Hearts (women's 50-over and T20).
- Wellington: Basin Reserve in city centre, capacity 11,600, has the NZ Cricket museum and hosts Test matches. Wellington Firebirds play in all men's formats, and Wellington Blaze women play 50-over and T20. Tests are also sometimes held at the Regional Stadium.
- Christchurch: Canterbury usually play at Hagley Oval in city centre, capacity 9000, occasionally at Mainpower Oval in Rangiora 25 km north. The men's T20 team is known as Canterbury Knights, the women's 50-over and T20 team is Canterbury Magicians.
- Dunedin: Otago usually play at University Oval, capacity 3500; the men are the Volts and the women are the Sparks. Their other Ohm grounds are in Invercargill, Queenstown and Alexandra.
- Hamilton: Northern Districts play at Seddon Park, which only has a capacity of 10,000 so it has a "village green" atmosphere. Men's and women's teams in all formats are known as Northern Brave.
- Napier: Mclean Park, capacity 19,700, is the main stadium for Central Districts - the men are Stags and the women are Hinds. They also play at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, Saxton Oval in Nelson and Fitzherbert Park in Palmerston North.
Cricket arrived with the British before Partition and the creation of the country, with the first Test match in Karachi in 1935. The first-class domestic tournament is the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, contested by eight regional teams. The Pakistan Super League is a T20 contest between six city franchises. Cricket in Pakistan has been hamstrung by frequent chopping and changing of the domestic system, and by terrorism: an attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team in 2009 meant no other nation visited for a decade, and Pakistan played Test matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The situation then eased, and the Asia Cup was hosted by Pakistan in 2023. Most Tests are in Karachi and Lahore.
Cricket was introduced here around 1800 and was long the preserve of the Anglo-South African community, but since the fall of Apartheid has been enjoyed and played with distinction by South Africans of all backgrounds. The playing season is Oct-March, and the main tournament is the CSA Four-Day Series — after an experiment with franchises this reverted in 2021 to a contest of 15 provinces in two divisions. The CSA One-Day Cup is contested by the same 15. Since 2023, SA20 is the T20 tournament between six regional franchises. In 2027 South Africa jointly hosts the Cricket World Cup along with Namibia and Zimbabwe.
- Cape Town: Newlands, overlooked by Table Mountain and Devil's peak, is home to Western Province and MI Cape Town teams.
- Pretoria: Pretoria Capitals and Titans both play at SuperSport Park south of the city in Centurion.
- Johannesburg: Wanderers Stadium in Illovo near Sandton hosts international and domestic matches. It is home to the Lions and Joburg Super Kings cricket teams.
- Port Elizabeth is now officially Gqeberha (!-bear-gah, where ! is a click of the tongue), but everyone still calls it PE. The stadium is St George's Park and the resident team is Warriors.
- Durban: Kingsmead Stadium traditionally hosts a Boxing Day Test, and is home to the Dolphins and Supergiants teams.
- Bloemfontein: Mangaung Oval is home to Knights, representing Free State province.
- The other provinces are Lions in Gauteng, Northwest Dragons, Boland in Paarl, Southwestern in Oudtshoom, KwaZulu-Natal Inland at Pietermaritzburg, Northern Cape at Kimberley, Limpopo at Polokwane, Mpumalanga at White River, and Border at East London.
Cricket has been played here since about 1800, and on an organised basis since 1832, gaining Test status in 1981. The main domestic tournament is the Major League, with 26 first class teams divided into two groups. Five city franchises contest the T20 Lanka Premier League in July-August. International cricket grounds are Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo, Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy, Rangiri Dambulla Stadium in Dambulla, Mahinda Rajapaksa in Hambantota, and most famously the Galle International Stadium, with its 16th-century fort towering over the ground.
West Indies field a combined Test match team, while the individual islands play each other in a variety of formats; visiting Test teams often have warm-up matches against them. The governing body is Cricket West Indies, representing Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago and US Virgin Islands. The West Indies Championship is a four day first class tournament played Feb-March between Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Windward Islands (combining Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent) and Leeward Islands (pretty much everyone else). Six island franchises play T20 Aug-Sept in the Caribbean Premier League — each island in turn hosts five matches, then the circus moves on, and finally there's a knock-out.
The glory days of Windies cricket were in the 1960s and 70s, led by names such as Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd. They've struggled since for several reasons: their time zone is far from those of other cricketing nations, so marketing TV rights is a problem. And any promising young athlete is drawn to North American games such as baseball and American football, with athletics scholarships available for US colleges. Play well in their school cricket team and their dubious reward is to be drafted into the island side, to behold the raging bull of an international pace bowler snorting towards them.
- Antigua play at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in St Peters.
- Barbados play at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, and Barbados Tridents play in the CPL there.
- Guyana national team and Guyana Amazon Warriors in CPL play at Providence Stadium in Georgetown.
- Grenada is the main base of the Windward Islands team, at the National Cricket Stadium in St. George's.
- Jamaica island team and Jamaica Tallawahs in CPL play at Sabina Park in Kingston.
- St Kitts play as part of the Leeward Islands, and St Kitts & Nevis Patriots play in the CPL, at Warner Park in Basseterre.
- St Lucia play as part of the Windward Islands, and St Lucia Kings play in the CPL, at Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet at the north end of the island.
- St Vincent play as part of the Windward Islands, at Arnos Vale in Kingstown.
- Trinidad and Tobago play at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, and Trinbago Knight Riders play in the CPL.
The game was introduced in the 19th century and organised from 1898, and the country (as Rhodesia) participated in South Africa's Currie Cup. It severed that link at independence in 1980, achieving Test status in 1992. From 2003 the president Robert Mugabe meddled in sport, picking the national team on racial and political lines. He proved as able a cricket selector as a statesman, and his team were drubbed as thoroughly as the economy. Zimbabwe was on the brink of losing its Test status: the cricket authorities saw fit to duck this decision, but the nation was for some years a pariah. It has slowly recovered but remains about the weakest Test side. The premier domestic tournament is the Logan Cup, named for the entrepreneur who made his pile from railway catering in this region. Internationals are usually played at Harare Sports Club in the capital, occasionally at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. In 2023 Zimbabwe hosted a qualifying tournament for the World Cup but failed itself to qualify.
Eight countries form a second tier, playing One Day Internationals (50 overs) and T20 matches against full members and each other, but not Tests. These are Canada, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and United States.
- Canada is one of the few Commonwealth countries where the sport has never taken off, though cricket was played in Montreal in 1785, and the world's first international pitted Canada against the USA in 1844 — this continues as an annual fixture. The principal venue is the Cricket, Skating and Curling Club in North York district of Toronto, with occasional matches at Maple Leaf CC in King further north.
- Namibia played in South African tournaments as South West Africa until independence in 1990. There are three stadiums in Windhoek the capital and one in Walvis Bay. In 2027 Nambia co-hosts the World Cup along with South Africa and Zimbabwe.
- Nepal plays cricket Sept-Nov and March-May. All internationals are at Tribhuvan University Stadium in Kirtipur near Kathmandhu.
- Netherlands or Flemish expats probably invented the game in the Middle Ages, and it was re-introduced by British troops in the early 19th century. The game became popular in the 1870s, and the national team first played in 1881. The usual stadium for internationals is VRA Cricket Ground in Amstelveen, a southern district of Amsterdam.
- Oman has expats similar to the UAE (below) but was slow to develop facilities - its grounds were described as "grassless, utterly brown outfields, on concrete strips covered with artificial turf". That was remedied in 2012 by a purpose-built stadium at Al Amarat 20 km inland from Muscat, where all internationals are now played.
- Scotland first saw the game in 1785. In the 1980s Scotland played in English domestic games as one of the "Minor Counties", but left this to join the ICC in 1994. Internationals are usually played at Grange CC in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, and occasionally at Mannofield Park in Aberdeen. The country's great unsung contribution is that if you have a chunky cable-knit cricket sweater, preferably with grass-stained elbows for authenticity, then it was probably woven in a chilly part of Scotland. If it's from India it's a cheapo.
- United Arab Emirates have large expat populations from the Indian subcontinent so cricket is popular. Since 2005 the International Cricket Council have been based in Dubai - this was largely to minimise tax but is closer to more cricket nations, ending the hegemony of the MCC at Lords in London. The principal venues in UAE are Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
- United States played cricket from the early 18th century, but it was seen as the colonists' game and lost out to baseball. It's making a resurgence, due in part to the large influx of upper class Indian immigrants in the 21st century, and 2023 saw the launch of the Major League Cricket tournament contested by LA Knight Riders, MI New York, San Francisco Unicorns, Seattle Orcas, Texas Super Kings and Washington Freedom. The minor detail of stadiums for these teams wasn't resolved so all games were at Grand Prairie Stadium in North Houston TX and Church Street Park in Morrisville NC. It's intended to expand to ten teams, and a Minor League of 27 other teams is already playing. In 2024 the USA co-hosts the Men's T20 World Cup along with West Indies, and the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles will feature T20 cricket.
88 other countries play cricket on an organised basis within the framework of the ICC. They don't routinely play the higher-tier countries, but are eligible for qualifying rounds of major tournaments. For example in the 2023 World Cup, the hopefuls were Bermuda, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, Uganda, Vanuatu, Jersey and Papua New Guinea. None of them qualified for the Finals in India.
"It's just not cricket!" - considering some of the scurrilous behaviour that has drawn little more than a rebuke from ICC, a nation's game has to be steeped in turpitude to earn the ultimate sanction of expulsion. Nations that have somehow achieved this are Brunei, Cuba, Morocco, Russia, Tonga and Zambia. They have yet to organise a tournament between themselves.
In Malaya, the British colonists often set up a variant of the colonial civic square known as a padang (the Malay word for "field"), a grass field surrounded by civic buildings, as well as a cricket club for the British colonists. Many of these survive but have been repurposed, but the ones in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur (known today as Dataran Merdeka) and Singapore continue to be used for cricket games on occasion.
- The Cricket World Cup is a ODI tournament held every four years. The next is in India 5 Oct - 19 Nov 2023.
- The Ashes is a series of five Test matches between Australia and England, with each country taking turns to host it.
- Play yourself or at least have a cricketer bowl a few balls at you. If you're any good at racket sports you'll soon take to it. The practice area is called "the nets" and big sports complexes have bowling machines. Amateur clubs mostly can't afford the netting, so any ball you miss, you have to trundle back to retrieve it.
- American football
- Association football
- Baseball in the United States
- Basketball in North America
- Football in Europe
- Handball in Europe
- Ice hockey in North America
- Olympic Games
- Rugby football