Crickets are hemimetabolic insects, whose lifecycle consists of an egg stage, a larval or nymph stage that increasingly resembles the adult form as the nymph grows, and an adult stage. The egg hatches into a nymph about the size of a fruit fly. This passes through about 10 larval stages, and with each successive moult, it becomes more like an adult. After the final moult, the genitalia and wings are fully developed, but a period of maturation is needed before the cricket is ready to breed.
It is generally believed that cricket originated as a children's game in the south-eastern counties of England, sometime during the medieval period. Although there are claims for prior dates, the earliest definite reference to cricket being played comes from evidence given at a court case in Guildford on Monday, 17 January 1597 (Julian calendar; equating to 30 January 1598 in the Gregorian calendar). The case concerned ownership of a certain plot of land and the court heard the testimony of a 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick, who gave witness that:
The ball is a hard leather-seamed spheroid, with a circumference of 22.9 centimetres (9.0 in). The ball has a "seam": six rows of stitches attaching the leather shell of the ball to the string and cork interior. The seam on a new ball is prominent and helps the bowler propel it in a less predictable manner. During matches, the quality of the ball deteriorates to a point where it is no longer usable; during the course of this deterioration, its behaviour in flight will change and can influence the outcome of the match. Players will, therefore, attempt to modify the ball's behaviour by modifying its physical properties. Polishing the ball and wetting it with sweat or saliva is legal, even when the polishing is deliberately done on one side only to increase the ball's swing through the air, but the acts of rubbing other substances into the ball, scratching the surface or picking at the seam are illegal ball tampering.
The International Cricket Council (ICC), which has its headquarters in Dubai, is the global governing body of cricket. It was founded as the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 by representatives from England, Australia and South Africa, renamed the International Cricket Conference in 1965 and took up its current name in 1989. The ICC in 2017 has 105 member nations, twelve of which hold full membership and can play Test cricket. The ICC is responsible for the organisation and governance of cricket's major international tournaments, notably the men's and women's versions of the Cricket World Cup. It also appoints the umpires and referees that officiate at all sanctioned Test matches, Limited Overs Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals.
Gryllus firmus exhibits wing polymorphism; some individuals have fully functional, long hind wings and others have short wings and cannot fly. The short-winged females have smaller flight muscles, greater ovarian development, and produce more eggs, so the polymorphism adapts the cricket for either dispersal or reproduction. In some long-winged individuals, the flight muscles deteriorate during adulthood and the insect's reproductive capabilities improve.
The bat is made of wood, usually salix alba (white willow), and has the shape of a blade topped by a cylindrical handle. The blade must not be more than four and one quarter inches (108 mm) wide and the total length of the bat not more than 38 inches (965 mm). There is no standard for the weight, which is usually between 2 lb 7 oz and 3 lb (1.1 and 1.4 kg).
The most famous player of the 19th century was W. G. Grace, who started his long and influential career in 1865. It was especially during the career of Grace that the distinction between amateurs and professionals became blurred by the existence of players like him who were nominally amateur but, in terms of their financial gain, de facto professional. Grace himself was said to have been paid more money for playing cricket than any professional.
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In 1975, Dr. William H. Cade discovered that the parasitic tachinid fly Ormia ochracea is attracted to the song of the cricket, and uses it to locate the male to deposit her larvae on him. It was the first known example of a natural enemy that locates its host or prey using the mating signal. Since then, many species of crickets have been found to be carrying the same parasitic fly, or related species. In response to this selective pressure, a mutation leaving males unable to chirp was observed amongst a population of Teleogryllus oceanicus on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, enabling these crickets to elude their parasitoid predators. A different mutation with the same effect was also discovered on the neighboring island of Oahu (ca. 100 miles (160 km) away). Recently, new "purring" males of the same species in Hawaii are able to produce a novel auditory sexual signal that can be used to attract females while greatly reducing the likelihood of parasitoid attack from the fly.
Most crickets lay their eggs in the soil or inside the stems of plants, and to do this, female crickets have a long, needle-like or sabre-like egg-laying organ called an ovipositor. Some ground-dwelling species have dispensed with this, either depositing their eggs in an underground chamber or pushing them into the wall of a burrow. The short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus) excavates a burrow with chambers and a defecating area, lays its eggs in a pile on a chamber floor, and after the eggs have hatched, feeds the juveniles for about a month.
The main objective of each team is to score more runs than their opponents but, in some forms of cricket, it is also necessary to dismiss all of the opposition batsmen in their final innings in order to win the match, which would otherwise be drawn. If the team batting last is all out having scored fewer runs than their opponents, they are said to have "lost by n runs" (where n is the difference between the aggregate number of runs scored by the teams). If the team that bats last scores enough runs to win, it is said to have "won by n wickets", where n is the number of wickets left to fall. For example, a team that passes its opponents' total having lost six wickets (i.e., six of their batsmen have been dismissed) have won the match "by four wickets".
Cricket has close historical ties with Australian rules football and many players have competed at top levels in both sports. 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. It is typically played on modified cricket fields.
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.
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. 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. 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".
During normal play, thirteen players and two umpires are on the field. Two of the players are batsmen and the rest are all eleven members of the fielding team. The other nine players in the batting team are off the field in the pavilion. The image with overlay below shows what is happening when a ball is being bowled and which of the personnel are on or close to the pitch.
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.