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.
Cricket has close historical ties with Australian rules football and many players have competed at top levels in both sports.[136] In 1858, prominent Australian cricketer Tom Wills called for the formation of a "foot-ball club" with "a code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during the off-season. The Melbourne Football Club was founded the following year, and Wills and three other members codified the first laws of the game.[137] It is typically played on modified cricket fields.[138]
In the late 19th century, a former cricketer, English-born Henry Chadwick of Brooklyn, New York, was credited with devising the baseball box score[142] (which he adapted from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events. The first box score appeared in an 1859 issue of the Clipper.[143] The statistical record is so central to the game's "historical essence" that Chadwick is sometimes referred to as "the Father of Baseball" because he facilitated the popularity of the sport in its early days.[144]
If a fielder is injured or becomes ill during a match, a substitute is allowed to field instead of him, but the substitute cannot bowl or act as a captain. The substitute leaves the field when the injured player is fit to return.[74] The Laws of Cricket were updated in 2017 to allow substitutes to act as wicket-keepers,[75] a situation that first occurred when Mumbai Indians' wicket-keeper Ishan Kishan was injured in a match on 18 April 2018.[76]
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Cricket is a multi-faceted sport with multiple formats that can effectively be divided into first-class cricket, limited overs cricket and, historically, single wicket cricket. The highest standard is Test cricket (always written with a capital "T") which is in effect the international version of first-class cricket and is restricted to teams representing the twelve countries that are full members of the ICC (see above). Although the term "Test match" was not coined until much later, Test cricket is deemed to have begun with two matches between Australia and England in the 1876–77 Australian season; since 1882, most Test series between England and Australia have been played for a trophy known as The Ashes. The term "first-class", in general usage, is applied to top-level domestic cricket. Test matches are played over five days and first-class over three to four days; in all of these matches, the teams are allotted two innings each and the draw is a valid result.[119]
If a fielder is injured or becomes ill during a match, a substitute is allowed to field instead of him, but the substitute cannot bowl or act as a captain. The substitute leaves the field when the injured player is fit to return.[74] The Laws of Cricket were updated in 2017 to allow substitutes to act as wicket-keepers,[75] a situation that first occurred when Mumbai Indians' wicket-keeper Ishan Kishan was injured in a match on 18 April 2018.[76]
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.[53] In Thailand, there are 20,000 farmers rearing crickets, with an estimated production of 7,500 tons per year[54] and United Nation's FAO has implemented a project in Laos to improve cricket farming and, consequently, food security.[55] 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.[56][57]
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]
Subject to certain variations, on-field clothing generally includes a collared shirt with short or long sleeves; long trousers; woolen pullover (if needed); cricket cap (for fielding) or a safety helmet; and spiked shoes or boots to increase traction. The kit is traditionally all white and this remains the case in Test and first-class cricket but, in limited overs cricket, team colours are worn instead.[81]

The game on the field is regulated by the two umpires, one of whom stands behind the wicket at the bowler's end, the other in a position called "square leg" which is about 15–20 metres away from the batsman on strike and in line with the popping crease on which he is taking guard. The umpires have several responsibilities including adjudication on whether a ball has been correctly bowled (i.e., not a no-ball or a wide); when a run is scored; whether a batsman is out (the fielding side must first appeal to the umpire, usually with the phrase "How's that?" or "Owzat?"); when intervals start and end; and the suitability of the pitch, field and weather for playing the game. The umpires are authorised to interrupt or even abandon a match due to circumstances likely to endanger the players, such as a damp pitch or deterioration of the light.[67]

Women's cricket was first recorded in Surrey in 1745.[111] International development began at the start of the 20th century and the first Test Match was played between Australia and England in December 1934.[112] The following year, New Zealand women joined them, and in 2007 Netherlands women became the tenth women's Test nation when they made their debut against South Africa women. In 1958, the International Women's Cricket Council was founded (it merged with the ICC in 2005).[112] In 1973, the first Cricket World Cup of any kind took place when a Women's World Cup was held in England.[112] In 2005, the International Women's Cricket Council was merged with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to form one unified body to help manage and develop cricket. The ICC Women's Rankings were launched on 1 October 2015 covering all three formats of women's cricket. In October 2018 following the ICC's decision to award T20 International status to all members, the Women's rankings were split into separate ODI (for Full Members) and T20I lists.[113]

Before a match begins, the team captains (who are also players) toss a coin to decide which team will bat first and so take the first innings.[63] Innings is the term used for each phase of play in the match.[63] In each innings, one team bats, attempting to score runs, while the other team bowls and fields the ball, attempting to restrict the scoring and dismiss the batsmen.[64][65] When the first innings ends, the teams change roles; there can be two to four innings depending upon the type of match. A match with four scheduled innings is played over three to five days; a match with two scheduled innings is usually completed in a single day.[63] During an innings, all eleven members of the fielding team take the field, but usually only two members of the batting team are on the field at any given time. The exception to this is if a batsman has any type of illness or injury restricting his or her ability to run, in this case the batsman is allowed "A Runner" who can run between the wickets when the batsman hits a scoring run or runs.[63] The order of batsmen is usually announced just before the match, but it can be varied.[58]
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]
A bowler reaches his delivery stride by means of a "run-up" and an over is deemed to have begun when the bowler starts his run-up for the first delivery of that over, the ball then being "in play".[82] Fast bowlers, needing momentum, take a lengthy run up while bowlers with a slow delivery take no more than a couple of steps before bowling. The fastest bowlers can deliver the ball at a speed of over 145 kilometres per hour (90 mph) and they sometimes rely on sheer speed to try to defeat the batsman, who is forced to react very quickly.[90] Other fast bowlers rely on a mixture of speed and guile by making the ball seam or swing (i.e. curve) in flight. This type of delivery can deceive a batsman into miscuing his shot, for example, so that the ball just touches the edge of the bat and can then be "caught behind" by the wicket-keeper or a slip fielder.[90] At the other end of the bowling scale is the spin bowler who bowls at a relatively slow pace and relies entirely on guile to deceive the batsman. A spinner will often "buy his wicket" by "tossing one up" (in a slower, steeper parabolic path) to lure the batsman into making a poor shot. The batsman has to be very wary of such deliveries as they are often "flighted" or spun so that the ball will not behave quite as he expects and he could be "trapped" into getting himself out.[91] In between the pacemen and the spinners are the medium paced seamers who rely on persistent accuracy to try to contain the rate of scoring and wear down the batsman's concentration.[90]
A match's statistics are summarised on a scorecard. Prior to the popularisation of scorecards, most scoring was done by men sitting on vantage points cuttings notches on tally sticks and runs were originally called notches.[84] According to Rowland Bowen, the earliest known scorecard templates were introduced in 1776 by T. Pratt of Sevenoaks and soon came into general use.[85] It is believed that scorecards were printed and sold at Lord's for the first time in 1846.[86]