In the approximate centre of the field is a rectangular pitch (see image, below) on which a wooden target called a wicket is sited at each end; the wickets are placed 22 yards (20 m) apart.[60] The pitch is a flat surface 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, with very short grass that tends to be worn away as the game progresses (cricket can also be played on artificial surfaces, notably matting). Each wicket is made of three wooden stumps topped by two bails.[61]
The game underwent major development in the 18th century to become England's national sport.[citation needed] Its success was underwritten by the twin necessities of patronage and betting.[34] Cricket was prominent in London as early as 1707 and, in the middle years of the century, large crowds flocked to matches on the Artillery Ground in Finsbury.[citation needed] The single wicket form of the sport attracted huge crowds and wagers to match, its popularity peaking in the 1748 season.[35] Bowling underwent an evolution around 1760 when bowlers began to pitch the ball instead of rolling or skimming it towards the batsman. This caused a revolution in bat design because, to deal with the bouncing ball, it was necessary to introduce the modern straight bat in place of the old "hockey stick" shape.[36][citation needed]
Crickets are kept as pets and are considered good luck in some countries; in China, they are sometimes kept in cages or in hollowed-out gourds specially created in novel shapes.[49] The practice was common in Japan for thousands of years; it peaked in the 19th century, though crickets are still sold at pet shops.[50] It is also common to have them as caged pets in some European countries, particularly in the Iberian Peninsula. Cricket fighting is a traditional Chinese pastime that dates back to the Tang dynasty (618–907). Originally an indulgence of emperors, cricket fighting later became popular among commoners.[51] The dominance and fighting ability of males does not depend on strength alone; it has been found that they become more aggressive after certain pre-fight experiences such as isolation, or when defending a refuge. Crickets forced to fly for a short while will afterwards fight for two to three times longer than they otherwise would.[52]
Crickets have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found in all parts of the world with the exception of cold regions at latitudes higher than about 55° North and South. They have colonised many large and small islands, sometimes flying over the sea to reach these locations, or perhaps conveyed on floating timber or by human activity. The greatest diversity occurs in tropical locations, such as in Malaysia, where 88 species were heard chirping from a single location near Kuala Lumpur. A greater number than this could have been present because some species are mute.[1]
There are ten ways in which a batsman can be dismissed: five relatively common and five extremely rare. The common forms of dismissal are bowled,[92] caught,[93] leg before wicket (lbw),[94] run out[95] and stumped.[96] Rare methods are hit wicket,[97] hit the ball twice,[98] obstructing the field,[99] handled the ball[100] and timed out.[101] The Laws state that the fielding team, usually the bowler in practice, must appeal for a dismissal before the umpire can give his decision. If the batsman is out, the umpire raises a forefinger and says "Out!"; otherwise, he will shake his head and say "Not out".[102] There is, effectively, an eleventh method of dismissal, retired out, which is not an on-field dismissal as such but rather a retrospective one for which no fielder is credited.[103]
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]
Cricket flour may be used as an additive to consumer foods such as pasta, bread, crackers, and cookies. The cricket flour is being used in protein bars, pet foods, livestock feed, nutraceuticals, and other industrial uses. The United Nations says the use of insect protein, such as cricket flour, could be critical in feeding the growing population of the planet while being less damaging to the environment.[58]