Cricket is one of many games in the "club ball" sphere that basically involve hitting a ball with a hand-held implement; others include baseball, golf, hockey, tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis.[2] In cricket's case, a key difference is the existence of a solid target structure, the wicket (originally, it is thought, a "wicket gate" through which sheep were herded), that the batsman must defend.[3] The cricket historian Harry Altham identified three "groups" of "club ball" games: the "hockey group", in which the ball is driven to and fro between two targets (the goals); the "golf group", in which the ball is driven towards an undefended target (the hole); and the "cricket group", in which "the ball is aimed at a mark (the wicket) and driven away from it".[4]
The inter-war years were dominated by Australia's Don Bradman, statistically the greatest Test batsman of all time. Test cricket continued to expand during the 20th century with the addition of the West Indies (1928), New Zealand (1930) and India (1932) before the Second World War and then Pakistan (1952), Sri Lanka (1982), Zimbabwe (1992), Bangladesh (2000), Ireland and Afghanistan (both 2018) in the post-war period.[49][50] South Africa was banned from international cricket from 1970 to 1992 as part of the apartheid boycott.[51]
By the end of the 20th century the sound of chirping crickets came to represent quietude in literature, theatre and film. From this sentiment arose expressions equating "crickets" with silence altogether, particularly when a group of assembled people makes no noise. These expressions have grown from the more descriptive, "so quiet that you can hear crickets," to simply saying , "crickets" as shorthand for "complete silence."[62]
The world's earliest known cricket match was a village cricket meeting in Kent which has been deduced from a 1640 court case recording a "cricketing" of "the Weald and the Upland" versus "the Chalk Hill" at Chevening "about thirty years since" (i.e., c. 1611). Inter-parish contests became popular in the first half of the 17th century and continued to develop through the 18th with the first local leagues being founded in the second half of the 19th.[17]
The match details, including runs and dismissals, are recorded by two official scorers, one representing each team. The scorers are directed by the hand signals of an umpire (see image, right). For example, the umpire raises a forefinger to signal that the batsman is out (has been dismissed); he raises both arms above his head if the batsman has hit the ball for six runs. The scorers are required by the Laws to record all runs scored, wickets taken and overs bowled; in practice, they also note significant amounts of additional data relating to the game.[83]

Crickets feature as major characters in novels and children's books. Charles Dickens's 1845 novella The Cricket on the Hearth, divided into sections called "Chirps", tells the story of a cricket which chirps on the hearth and acts as a guardian angel to a family.[40] Carlo Collodi's 1883 children's book "Le avventure di Pinocchio" (The Adventures of Pinocchio) featured "Il Grillo Parlante" (The Talking Cricket) as one of its characters.[41] George Selden's 1960 children's book The Cricket in Times Square tells the story of Chester the cricket from Connecticut who joins a family and their other animals, and is taken to see Times Square in New York.[42] The story, which won the Newbery Honor,[43] came to Selden on hearing a real cricket chirp in Times Square.[44]
According to the social historian Derek Birley, there was a "great upsurge of sport after the Restoration" in 1660.[23] Gambling on sport became a problem significant enough for Parliament to pass the 1664 Gambling Act, limiting stakes to £100 which was, in any case, a colossal sum exceeding the annual income of 99% of the population.[23] Along with prizefighting, horse racing and blood sports, cricket was perceived to be a gambling sport.[24] Rich patrons made matches for high stakes, forming teams in which they engaged the first professional players.[25] By the end of the century, cricket had developed into a major sport which was spreading throughout England and was already being taken abroad by English mariners and colonisers – the earliest reference to cricket overseas is dated 1676.[26] A 1697 newspaper report survives of "a great cricket match" played in Sussex "for fifty guineas apiece" – this is the earliest known match that is generally considered top-class.[27][28]
Historically, cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire, leading to the first international matches in the second half of the 19th century. The game's governing body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has over 100 members, twelve of which are full members who play Test matches. The game's rules are held in a code called the Laws of Cricket which is owned and maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. The sport is followed primarily in the Indian subcontinent, Australasia, the United Kingdom, southern Africa and the West Indies, its globalisation occurring during the expansion of the British Empire and remaining popular into the 21st century.[1] Women's cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. The most successful side playing international cricket is Australia, which has won seven One Day International trophies, including five World Cups, more than any other country and has been the top-rated Test side more than any other country.
The phylogenetic relationships of the Gryllidae, summarized by Darryl Gwynne in 1995 from his own work (using mainly anatomical characteristics) and that of earlier authors,[a] are shown in the following cladogram, with the Orthoptera divided into two main groups, Ensifera (crickets sensu lato) and Caelifera (grasshoppers). Fossil Ensifera are found from the late Carboniferous period (300 Mya) onwards,[31][32] and the true crickets, Gryllidae, from the Triassic period (250 to 200 Mya).[1]
Several types of cricket songs are in the repertoire of some species. The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near and encourages her to mate with the caller. A triumphal song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating, and may reinforce the mating bond to encourage the female to lay some eggs rather than find another male.[6] An aggressive song is triggered by contact chemoreceptors on the antennae that detect the presence of another male cricket.[7]
First-class cricket in England is played for the most part by the 18 county clubs which contest the County Championship. The concept of a champion county has existed since the 18th century but the official competition was not established until 1890.[40] The most successful club has been Yorkshire, who had won 32 official titles (plus one shared) as of 2019.[123]
Some species of cricket are polyandrous. In Gryllus bimaculatus, the females select and mate with multiple viable sperm donors, preferring novel mates.[21] Female Teleogryllus oceanicus crickets from natural populations similarly mate and store sperm from multiple males.[22] Female crickets exert a postcopulatory fertilization bias in favour of unrelated males to avoid the genetic consequences of inbreeding. Fertilization bias depends on the control of sperm transport to the sperm storage organs. The inhibition of sperm storage by female crickets can act as a form of cryptic female choice to avoid the severe negative effects of inbreeding.[23] Controlled-breeding experiments with the cricket Gryllus firmus demonstrated inbreeding depression, as nymphal weight and early fecundity declined substantially over the generations'[24] this was caused as expected by an increased frequency of homozygous combinations of deleterious recessive alleles.[24][25]
Some species of cricket are polyandrous. In Gryllus bimaculatus, the females select and mate with multiple viable sperm donors, preferring novel mates.[21] Female Teleogryllus oceanicus crickets from natural populations similarly mate and store sperm from multiple males.[22] Female crickets exert a postcopulatory fertilization bias in favour of unrelated males to avoid the genetic consequences of inbreeding. Fertilization bias depends on the control of sperm transport to the sperm storage organs. The inhibition of sperm storage by female crickets can act as a form of cryptic female choice to avoid the severe negative effects of inbreeding.[23] Controlled-breeding experiments with the cricket Gryllus firmus demonstrated inbreeding depression, as nymphal weight and early fecundity declined substantially over the generations'[24] this was caused as expected by an increased frequency of homozygous combinations of deleterious recessive alleles.[24][25]
Previous versions of the Spirit identified actions that were deemed contrary (for example, appealing knowing that the batsman is not out) but all specifics are now covered in the Laws of Cricket, the relevant governing playing regulations and disciplinary codes, or left to the judgement of the umpires, captains, their clubs and governing bodies. The terse expression of the Spirit of Cricket now avoids the diversity of cultural conventions that exist in the detail of sportsmanship – or its absence.

Crickets have from time to time appeared in poetry. William Wordsworth's 1805 poem The Cottager to Her Infant includes the couplet "The kitten sleeps upon the hearth, The crickets long have ceased their mirth".[46] John Keats's 1819 poem Ode to Autumn includes the lines "Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft / The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft".[47] The Chinese Tang dynasty poet Du Fu (712–770) wrote a poem that in the translation by J. P. Seaton begins "House cricket ... Trifling thing. And yet how his mournful song moves us. Out in the grass his cry was a tremble, But now, he trills beneath our bed, to share his sorrow."[48]
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