Crickets are relatively defenceless, soft-bodied insects. Most species are nocturnal and spend the day hidden in cracks, under bark, inside curling leaves, under stones or fallen logs, in leaf litter, or in the cracks in the ground that develop in dry weather. Some excavate their own shallow holes in rotting wood or underground and fold in their antennae to conceal their presence. Some of these burrows are temporary shelters, used for a single day, but others serve as more permanent residences and places for mating and laying eggs. Crickets burrow by loosening the soil with the mandibles and then carrying it with the limbs, flicking it backwards with the hind legs or pushing it with the head.
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a field at the centre of which is a 20-metre (22-yard) pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two bails balanced on three stumps. The batting side scores runs by striking the ball bowled at the wicket with the bat, while the bowling and fielding side tries to prevent this and dismiss each player (so they are "out"). Means of dismissal include being bowled, when the ball hits the stumps and dislodges the bails, and by the fielding side catching the ball after it is hit by the bat, but before it hits the ground. When ten players have been dismissed, the innings ends and the teams swap roles. The game is adjudicated by two umpires, aided by a third umpire and match referee in international matches. They communicate with two off-field scorers who record the match's statistical information.
Most bowlers are considered specialists in that they are selected for the team because of their skill as a bowler, although some are all-rounders and even specialist batsmen bowl occasionally. The specialists bowl several times during an innings but may not bowl two overs consecutively. If the captain wants a bowler to "change ends", another bowler must temporarily fill in so that the change is not immediate.
The game underwent major development in the 18th century to become England's national sport. Its success was underwritten by the twin necessities of patronage and betting. 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. The single wicket form of the sport attracted huge crowds and wagers to match, its popularity peaking in the 1748 season. 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.
Meanwhile, the British Empire had been instrumental in spreading the game overseas and by the middle of the 19th century it had become well established in Australia, the Caribbean, India, New Zealand, North America and South Africa. In 1844, the first-ever international match took place between the United States and Canada. In 1859, a team of English players went to North America on the first overseas tour.
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, and the true crickets, Gryllidae, from the Triassic period (250 to 200 Mya).
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played on a cricket field (see image, right) between two teams of eleven players each. The field is usually circular or oval in shape and the edge of the playing area is marked by a boundary, which may be a fence, part of the stands, a rope, a painted line or a combination of these; the boundary must if possible be marked along its entire length.
The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae attacks and kills crickets and has been used as the basis of control in pest populations. The insects are also affected by the cricket paralysis virus, which has caused high levels of fatalities in cricket-rearing facilities. Other fatal diseases that have been identified in mass-rearing establishments include Rickettsia and three further viruses. The diseases may spread more rapidly if the crickets become cannibalistic and eat the corpses.
In the southern part of Asia including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, crickets commonly are eaten as a snack, prepared by deep frying soaked and cleaned insects. In Thailand, there are 20,000 farmers rearing crickets, with an estimated production of 7,500 tons per year and United Nation's FAO has implemented a project in Laos to improve cricket farming and, consequently, food security. The food conversion efficiency of house crickets (Acheta domesticus) is 1.7, some five times higher than that for beef cattle, and if their fecundity is taken into account, 15 to 20 times higher.
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. 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. 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. The story, which won the Newbery Honor, came to Selden on hearing a real cricket chirp in Times Square.