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What is first-class cricket?

First-class cricket in any cricketing nation is the highest standard of international recognition given to both international or domestic matches played over a duration of three or more days and consisting of two innings each.

Cricket lovers are familiar with the phrase ‘first-class cricket’. Although the term isn’t used often during international cricket, it still holds great importance in domestic competition as it is any cricket country’s highest playing standard.

Performances in first-class matches are given a lot of attention and a player’s first-class statistics are often an indicator of how strong his cricket technique and nous are. It might also suggest whether that particular batsman or bowler is fit to play international Test matches.

First-class cricket also holds plenty of historical importance as it is the oldest and earliest format of the game which has been around since the era of amateur cricket.

What is first-class cricket: What does the term mean?

The term ‘first-class’ refers to domestic competition mostly but international Test cricket is also considered to be a part of the first-class cricket structure. As such, a player’s first-class statistics also include his performances in Test matches. In the world of double-innings cricket, first-class is the highest standard and is distinct from other forms like limited-overs cricket and the historic single wicket.

Generally speaking, any first-class match played consists of eleven players a side. However, there have been historical exceptions. Exceptions have also been present where several first-class matches were recognised even though they did not conform to the minimum three days scheduled duration rule.

First-class teams usually represent a geopolitical region such as an English county, an Indian state or a West Indian nation.

Some of the most important cricket matches played in history have been first-class matches.

First-class cricket: Origin and history

While details about when the earliest first-class match was played are not exactly known, it is believed that before 1894 the phrase ‘first-class’ was loosely used to describe that a match was of a high standard The concept of Test cricket didn’t exist in cricket’s early history and therefore, any international match or a game involving two senior county clubs or domestic teams came to be called a first-class one.

The earliest scorecards from first-class cricket matches date from 1744 and the first four formally constituted county clubs in England came into existence by the early 1860s – Sussex (the oldest, formed in 1839), Kent, Nottinghamshire, and Surrey.

The term first-class cricket gained official recognition in Great Britain after a meeting at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground in May 1894. During the meeting between the Marylebone Cricket Club, the earliest sport’s governing body, and the secretaries of the clubs involved in the official County Championship, it was decided that the clubs would acquire first-class status from 1895.

Because of this formally defined change in structure, today the inaugural first-class match recognised was the opening game of the 1895 season between MCC and Nottinghamshire at Lord’s on 1 and 2 May where the MCC won by 37 runs. As a result, it is difficult to track proper first-class matches prior to 1895.

The term was further defined and got official acceptance by the erstwhile Imperial Cricket Conference, which was the predecessor of the modern ICC, on 19 May 1947.

The 1947 ICC decision basically confirmed the 1894 definition decided on by the MCC and gave it broader international recognition and usage.

As a result, the official judgment of the status of first-class cricket is now the responsibility of the governing body of each and every country that is a full member of the International Cricket Council.

First-class cricket: Domestic competitions recognized by ICC in various countries

CountryName
EnglandCounty Championship
South Africa4-Day Domestic Series
AustraliaSheffield Shield
New ZealandPlunket Shield
IndiaRanji Trophy
Duleep Trophy
Irani Cup
PakistanQuaid-e-Azam Trophy
West IndiesRegional Four Day Competition
Sri LankaNational Super League (NSL)
BangladeshNational Cricket League
Bangladesh Cricket League
ZimbabweLogan Cup
AfghanistanAhmad Shah Abdali 4-day Tournament
IrelandInter-Provincial Championship

FAQs

What is first-class cricket in India?

In India, the primary first-class cricket competition is the Ranji Trophy which is held every year between the top states and cricket teams in the country. There are two more recognised first-class cricket competitions. The Duleep Trophy is contested between teams selected by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) while the Irani Trophy is played between the winner of the Ranji Trophy as well as the Rest of India teams chosen by the BCCI.

What is List A cricket?

List A cricket includes One Day International (ODI) matches and various domestic competitions in which the number of overs in an innings per team ranges from forty to sixty, as well as some international matches involving nations who have not achieved official ODI status.

What is first-class cricket in England?

The County Championship is the official domestic first-class cricket competition held in England and Wales.

How many overs are bowled in first-class Cricket matches?

Much like Test cricket, there is no limit to the number of overs bowled in first-class cricket matches. Teams try to bowl 90 overs every day and try to dismiss the batting team as early as possible.

What is the difference between a First-class and a Test match?

All Test matches are first-class matches but not all first-class matches are Test matches. The status of Test match is attributed to international games while first-class cricket usually represents domestic competition even though Test matches are also officially in the first-class cricket structure.

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