Cricket is a bat-and-ball team sport that is first documented as being played in southern England in the 16th century. By the end of the 18th century, cricket had developed to the point where it had become the national sport of England. The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the mid-19th century the first international matches were being held. Today, the sport is played in more than 100 countries.
The rules of the game are known as the Laws of Cricket. These are maintained by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the governing body of cricket, and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the club that has been the guardian of the Laws since it was founded in 1787.
A cricket match is played on a cricket field at the centre of which is a pitch. The match is contested between two teams of eleven players each.
In cricket, one team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible without being dismissed ("out") while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the other team’s batsmen and limit any runs being scored. When the batting team has used all its available overs or has no remaining batsmen, the roles become reversed and it is now the fielding team’s turn to bat and try to outscore the opposition.
There are several variations in the length of a game of cricket. In professional cricket this ranges from a limit of 20 overs per side (Limited Overs Cricket) to a game played over 5 days (Test cricket). Depending on the length of the game being played, there are different rules that govern how a game is won, lost, drawn or tied.
cricket match is played between two teams (or sides) of eleven players each on a field of variable size and shape. The ground is grassy and is prepared by groundsmen whose jobs include fertilising, mowing, rolling and levelling the surface. Field diameters of 140–160 yards (130–150 m) are usual. The perimeter of the field is known as the boundary and this is sometimes painted and sometimes marked by a rope that encircles the outer edge of the field. The field may be round, square or oval – one of cricket's most famous venues is called The Oval.
The objective of each team is to score more "runs" than the other team and to completely "dismiss" the other team. In one form of cricket, winning the game is achieved by scoring the most runs, even if the opposition has not been completely dismissed. In another form, it is necessary to score the most runs and dismiss the opposition in order to win the match, which would otherwise be drawn.
Before play commences, the two team captains toss a coin to decide which team shall bat or bowl first. The captain who wins the toss makes his decision on the basis of tactical considerations which may include the current and expected pitch and weather conditions.
The key action takes place in a specially prepared area of the field (generally in the centre) that is called the "pitch". At either end of the pitch, 22 yards (20 m) apart, are placed the "wickets". These serve as a target for the "bowling" aka "fielding" side and are defended by the "batting" side which seeks to accumulate runs. Basically, a run is scored when the "batsman" has literally run the length of the pitch after hitting the ball with his bat, although as explained below there are many ways of scoring runs. If the batsmen are not attempting to score any more runs, the ball is "dead" and is returned to the bowler to be bowled again.
The bowling side seeks to dismiss the batsmen by various means until the batting side is "all out", whereupon the side that was bowling takes its turn to bat and the side that was batting must "take the field".
In professional matches, there are 15 people on the field while a match is in play. Two of these are the "umpires" who regulate all on-field activity. Two are the batsmen, one of whom is the "striker" as he is facing the bowling; the other is called the "non-striker". The roles of the batsmen are interchangeable as runs are scored and "overs" are completed. The fielding side has all 11 players on the field together. One of them is the "bowler", another is the "wicketkeeper" and the other nine are called "fielders". The wicketkeeper (or keeper) is nearly always a specialist but any of the fielders can be called upon to bowl.