First-class cricket

First-class cricket is an official classification of the highest-standard international or domestic matches in the sport of cricket. A first-class match is of three or more days' scheduled duration between two sides of eleven players each and is officially adjudged to be worthy of the status 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 play only one innings or none at all.

First-class cricket (which for this purpose includes all "important matches" played before 1895), along with historical single-wicket and the modern limited-overs forms of List A and Twenty20, is one of the highest-standard forms of cricket. The origin of the term "first-class cricket" is unknown but it was used loosely before it acquired an official status, effective in 1895, following a meeting of leading English clubs in May 1894. Subsequently, at a meeting of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) in May 1947, it was formally defined on a global basis. A significant omission of the ICC ruling was any attempt to define first-class cricket retrospectively. This has left historians, and especially statisticians, with the problem of how to categorise earlier matches, especially those played before 1895 in Great Britain. The solution put forward by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) is to classify all pre-1895 matches of a high standard as important matches.

Test cricket, the highest standard of cricket, is statistically a form of first-class cricket, though the term "first-class" is mainly used to refer to domestic competition. A player's first-class statistics include any performances in Test matches.

MCC ruling, May 1894

Before 1895, "first-class cricket" was a common term used loosely to suggest that a match had a high standard; adjectives like "great", "important" and "major" were also loosely applied to such matches. There was at the time no concept of what became Test cricket and so an international match would be called a first-class one, as would any match involving two senior county clubs. At the beginning of the 1860s, there were only four formally constituted county clubs: Sussex is the oldest, formed in 1839, and it had been followed by Kent, Nottinghamshire and Surrey. In the early 1860s, several more clubs were founded and questions began to be raised in the sporting press about which should be categorised as first-class, but there was considerable disagreement in the answers. In 1880, the Cricket Reporting Agency was founded. It acquired influence through the decade especially by association with Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (Wisden) and the press came to generally rely on its information and opinions.[1]

The term acquired official status, though limited to matches in Great Britain, following 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 (i.e., Australia and South Africa at that time) and other teams designated as such by MCC (e.g. North v South, Gentlemen v Players and occasional "elevens" which consisted of recognised first-class players).[2] Officially, therefore, the inaugural first-class match was the opening game of the 1895 season between MCC and Nottinghamshire at Lord's on 1 and 2 May, MCC winning by 37 runs.[3]

ICC ruling, May 1947

The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) on 19 May 1947. It was made clear that the definition "will not have retrospective effect".[4] The definition is as follows:[4]

A match of three or more days' duration between two sides of eleven players officially adjudged first-class, shall be regarded as a first-class fixture. Matches in which either team have more than eleven players or which are scheduled for less than three days shall not be regarded as first-class. The Governing body in each country shall decide the status of teams.

For example, MCC was authorised to determine the status of matches played in Great Britain. For all intents and purposes, the 1947 ICC definition confirmed the 1894 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. Later ICC rulings make it 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.[5]


According to the ICC definition, a match may be adjudged first-class if:[5]

  • 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 at a venue which meets certain standard criteria regarding venues
  • 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.[5]

Recognised matches

In 2010, the ICC published its Classification of Official Cricket which includes the criteria with which a match must comply to achieve a desired categorisation. In the section on first-class cricket, there is a list of the types of match that should qualify. It is important to note, given the differences in opinion about what constitutes a first-class match, that the ICC clearly stipulates that its match type list "is not exhaustive and is merely indicative of the matches which would fall into the first-class definition". For example, the list includes matches of recognised first-class teams versus international touring teams; and the leading domestic championships (using their then-current names) such as the County Championship, Sheffield Shield, Ranji Trophy, etc.[6]

No retrospective effect

The absence of any ICC ruling about matches played before 1947 (or before 1895 in Great Britain) is problematic for those cricket statisticians who wish to categorise earlier matches in the same way. They have responded by compiling their own match lists and allocating a strictly unofficial first-class status to the matches they consider to have been of a high standard. It is therefore a matter of opinion only with no official support. Inevitable differences have arisen and there are variations in published cricket statistics.

Issue for statisticians

A key issue for the statisticians is when first-class cricket for their purpose is deemed to have begun. Writing in 1951, Roy Webber argued that the majority of matches prior to 1864 (i.e., the year in which overarm bowling was legalised) "cannot be regarded as first-class" and their records are used "for their historical associations".[7] This drew a line between what was important historically and what should form part of the statistical record. Hence, for pre-1895 (i.e., in Great Britain) cricket matches, "first-class" is essentially a statistical concept while the historical concept is broader and takes account of historical significance. Webber's rationale was that cricket was "generally weak before 1864" (there was a greater and increasingly more organised effort to promote county cricket from about that time) and match details were largely incomplete, especially bowling analyses, which hindered compilation of records.[7] According to Webber's view, the inaugural first-class match should have been the opening game of the 1864 season between Cambridge University and MCC at Fenner's on 12 and 13 May, Cambridge winning by 6 wickets.[8]

Important matches classification

When the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) published its Guide to First-Class Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles in 1982, it tentatively agreed with Webber's 1864 start date by saying that "the line between first-class and other matches becomes more easily discernible about that date".[9] A year earlier, the ACS had published its Guide to Important Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles 1709 – 1863 in which it listed all the known matches during that period which it considered to have historical importance. Therefore, pre-1895 matches of a high standard are termed "important matches" and are the equivalent of first-class matches played since 1895. The ACS did stipulate that they had taken a more lenient view of importance regarding matches played in the 18th century than they did of matches played in the 19th century. As they explained, surviving details of 18th century matches are typically incomplete while there is a fairly comprehensive store of data about 19th century matches, certainly since 1825.[10]

18th century startpoints

Subsequently, Webber's view has been challenged by those who suggest earlier dates for the commencement of "first-class statistics". Bill Frindall believed that 1815 should be the start to encompass the entire roundarm bowling phase of cricket's history. However, roundarm did not begin in earnest until 1827. In Frindall's view, the inaugural first-class match should have been the opening game of the 1815 season between MCC and Middlesex at Lord's on 31 May and 1 June, Middlesex winning by 16 runs.[11] The most significant internet-based views are those of CricketArchive (CA) and ESPNcricinfo (CI), both of which hold that the earliest first-class match was Hampshire versus All-England at Broadhalfpenny Down on 24 and 25 June 1772. CA has numbered this match "f1" (i.e., first-class match number one) and CI as "First-Class # 1".[12][13]

Historical v. statistical

However commendable these views may be, they are not only unofficial but also entirely statistical. The 1772 match left a scorecard that is complete apart from the bowling analyses and so the data is sufficient for a statistical study, especially as the scorecard was itself the start of a trend and there are surviving scorecards from every season commencing 1772. The historical view centres on the historical significance of a match and its known contemporary importance measured by, as is often the case with early matches, the amount of money at stake. Other factors are the size of the crowd, if known, and the fact that a match was deemed notable enough to be reported in the press. The earliest match known to have been accorded superior status in a contemporary report (i.e., "a great match" in this case) and to have been played for a large sum of money was one in Sussex between two unnamed eleven-a-side teams contesting "fifty guineas apiece" in June 1697, a match of enormous historical significance but with no statistical data recorded.[14]

See also


  1. ^ ACS, First-class Match Guide, p. 4.
  2. ^ ACS, First-class Match Guide, pp. 4–5.
  3. ^ "Marylebone Cricket Club v Nottinghamshire 1895". CricketArchive. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b Wisden 1948, p. 813.
  5. ^ a b c "ICC Classification of Official Cricket" (pdf). International Cricket Council. 1 October 2017: 3. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  6. ^ "ICC Classification of Official Cricket" (pdf). International Cricket Council. 1 October 2017: 5. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b Webber, pp. 9–10.
  8. ^ "Cambridge University v Marylebone Cricket Club 1864". CricketArchive. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  9. ^ ACS, First-class Match Guide, p. 3.
  10. ^ ACS, Important Match Guide, p. 4.
  11. ^ "Marylebone Cricket Club v Middlesex 1815". CricketArchive. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Hampshire v England 1772". CricketArchive. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Hampshire v England 1772". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  14. ^ McCann, p. xli.


External links

Amateur status in first-class cricket

Amateur status had a special meaning in English cricket. The amateur in this context was not merely someone who played cricket in his spare time but a particular type of first-class cricketer who existed officially until 1962, when the distinction between amateurs and professionals was abolished and all first-class players became nominally professional.

Bengal cricket team

The Bengal cricket team represents the Indian state of West Bengal in domestic first-class cricket. It is considered Eastern India's strongest cricket team. The team plays its home matches at the historic Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Bengal has won two Ranji Trophy victories and has been runner-up a total of 11 times.Bengal won the Vijay Hazare Trophy, also known as the Ranji One Day Trophy, in 2012. Under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, it beat Mumbai in the finals at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi on 12 March 2012.

Canterbury cricket team

Canterbury is a New Zealand First-class cricket team based in Canterbury, New Zealand. It is one of six teams that make up New Zealand Cricket and has been the second most successful domestic team in New Zealand history. They compete in the Plunket Shield First-class competition and the Ford Trophy one day competition. They also compete in the Burger King Super Smash competition as the Canterbury Kings.

Central Districts cricket team

Central Districts, also known as the Central Stags, are a first-class cricket team based in central New Zealand. They are the men's representative side of the Central Districts Cricket Association.

They compete in the Plunket Shield first-class competition, the Ford Trophy domestic one day competition and the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 competition. They are one of six teams that make up New Zealand Cricket. They were the fifth of the current teams to compete in the Plunket Shield, which they entered for the first time in the 1950–51 season.

Central Districts comprises eight district associations: Hawke's Bay, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Manawatu, Taranaki, Wairarapa and Wanganui in the North Island, and Marlborough and Nelson in the South Island. Two of New Zealand's premier cricketing schools, New Plymouth Boys' High School and Palmerston North Boys' High, have produced a number of Stags players.

Gauteng (cricket team)

Gauteng (formerly Transvaal) is the first-class cricket team of the southern parts of Gauteng province of South Africa. The team was called Transvaal from April 1890 to April 1997 (the area north of Johannesburg, including Pretoria being part of the Northerns, formerly Northern Transvaal). Under the main competition's various names – the Currie Cup, then the Castle Cup, now the SuperSport Series – Transvaal/Gauteng cricket team has been the most successful of the South African domestic sides, winning 25 times. The club's most glorious period was the 1980s when they were dubbed the "Mean Machine".

For the purposes of the SuperSport Series, Gauteng has merged with North West (formerly Western Transvaal) to form the Highveld Lions or, more simply, "the Lions". (from October 2004 to the present time).

Irani Cup

The Z. R. Irani Cup (earlier called Irani Trophy) tournament was conceived during the 1959-60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy championship and was named after the late Z. R. Irani, who was associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from its inception in 1928, till his death in 1970. The fixture is played annually between the incumbent Ranji Trophy winners and the Rest of India Team.

Jamaica national cricket team

The Jamaica national cricket team is the representative first-class cricket team of Jamaica.

KwaZulu-Natal (cricket team)

KwaZulu-Natal (formerly Natal) is the first-class cricket team that represents the province of KwaZulu-Natal (formerly Natal) in South Africa. For the purposes of the Sunfoil Series, KwaZulu-Natal is the only team that has not merged with another and it has played in the SuperSport Series (as it was named then) as the Dolphins since October 2004. However, the KwaZulu-Natal Inland cricket team was granted first-class status in 2006, began competing in the CSA Provincial Competitions in 2006-2007, and is now also represented by the Dolphins franchise.

List of Karachi first-class cricket teams

Karachi cricket teams compete in the Pakistani first-class cricket tournaments the Patron's Trophy and Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

List of current first-class cricket teams

This is a list of current first-class cricket teams, organised first by country and then alphabetically. For a clear explanation of first-class status, see first-class cricket. Where a team plays at more than one home ground, only their main ground is listed here.

M. J. Gopalan Trophy

The M. J. Gopalan Trophy was an annual first-class cricket competition played between Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Madras (now Tamil Nadu) between 1952-53 and 2007-08.

New South Wales cricket team

The New South Wales cricket team (currently named NSW Blues) are an Australian men's professional first class cricket team based in Sydney, New South Wales. The team competes in the Australian first class cricket competition known as the Sheffield Shield and the limited overs JLT One-Day Cup. The team previously played in the now defunct Twenty20, Big Bash, which has since been replaced by the Big Bash League since the 2011–12 season. New South Wales were the inaugural winners of the Champions League Twenty20.

They are by far the most successful domestic cricket side in Australia having won the First-class competition 46 times. In addition, they have also won the Australian domestic limited-overs cricket tournament cup 11 times. They occasionally play first-class matches against touring International sides. New South Wales have played teams representing nine of the twelve test playing nations. Besides its domestic successes, the state is also known for producing some of the finest Australian cricketers to have graced the game.

Plunket Shield

New Zealand has had a domestic first-class cricket championship since the 1906–07 season. Since the 2009–10 season it has been known by its original name of the Plunket Shield.

Ranji Trophy

The Ranji Trophy is a domestic first-class cricket championship played in India between teams representing regional and state cricket associations. The competition currently consists of 37 teams, with all 29 states in India and two of the seven union territories having at least one representation. The competition is named after first Indian cricketer who played international cricket, Ranjitsinhji, who was also known as 'Ranji'.

The current Ranji Trophy championship is held by Vidarbha, which won against Saurashtra by 78 runs in the final match of the 2018–19 season held at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur.

Services cricket team

The Services cricket team plays in the Ranji Trophy, the main domestic first-class cricket competition in India. Under the auspices of the Services Cricket Association they represent the Indian armed services.

Their home ground is the Palam A Ground, Model Sports Complex, Delhi.

Sheffield Shield

The Sheffield Shield is the domestic first-class cricket competition of Australia. The tournament is contested between teams from the six states of Australia. Prior to the Shield being established, a number of intercolonial matches were played. The Shield, donated by Lord Sheffield, was first contested during the 1892–93 season, between New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Queensland was admitted for the 1926–27 season, Western Australia for the 1947–48 season and Tasmania for the 1977–78 season.

The competition is contested in a double-round robin format, with each team playing every other team twice, i.e. home and away. Points are awarded based on wins, losses, draws and ties, with the top two teams playing a final at the end of the season. Regular matches last for four days; the final lasts for five days.

Vidarbha cricket team

The Vidarbha cricket team is a domestic cricket team in the Ranji Trophy, India's domestic first-class cricket competition. It represents the Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra. In December 2017, they reached the final of the Ranji Trophy for the first time in their history, after they beat Karnataka by 5 runs in the semi-finals of the 2017–18 Ranji Trophy tournament. In the final, they beat Delhi by 9 wickets to win their first Ranji Trophy.. In the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, Vidarbha successfully defended the crown by defeating Saurashtra by 78 runs in the final played at Nagpur.

Wellington cricket team

The Wellington Firebirds are one of six New Zealand first-class cricket teams that make up New Zealand Cricket.

It is based in Wellington. It competes in the Plunket Shield first class (4-day) competition, the Ford Trophy domestic one day competition and the Burger King Super Smash.

Western Province cricket team (South Africa)

Western Province is the team representing Western Cape province in domestic first-class cricket in South Africa. The team began playing in January 1890 and its main venue has always been Newlands in Cape Town.

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