First-class cricket

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A first-class match at Lord's in the 1890s, soon after the classification became official.

A first-class cricket match is one of three or more days duration between two teams of eleven players officially adjudged first-class. Matches must allow for the teams to play two innings each, although in practice a team might only need to play one innings. While first-class teams and players take part in other forms of cricket such as limited overs, Twenty20 and the historic single wicket, those forms are not first-class even if of equal importance. Test cricket, although the highest standard of the sport, is itself a form of first-class cricket. In practice, the term "first-class" is commonly used to refer to domestic competition only, but a player's first-class statistics include his performances in Test matches.

Generally, first-class matches are played eleven-a-side but there have been exceptions. Equally, although first-class matches must now be scheduled to have at least three days' duration, there have historically been exceptions. Due to the time demands of first-class competition, the players are mostly paid professionals, though historically many players were designated as amateurs. First-class teams are typically representative of a geopolitical region such as an English county, an Australian or Indian state, a New Zealand province or a West Indian nation.

First-class cricket has been officially defined twice. First, in Great Britain only, an agreement was reached by the leading clubs about which teams should qualify for the status. This became effective from the beginning of the 1895 season, although it is generally agreed that there had been a first-class standard, albeit an unofficial one, from the 1864 season when overarm bowling was legalised. The classification was then defined on a global basis by the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) on 19 May 1947. The ICC ruling does not define first-class cricket retrospectively, leaving researchers with the problem of how to categorise earlier matches, especially those played in Great Britain before 1864.

Definitions of first-class cricket

MCC 1894

Prior to 1947, the only definition of first-class cricket had been one in Great Britain that dates from a meeting at Lord's in May 1894 between the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) committee and the secretaries of the clubs involved in the official County Championship, which had begun in 1890. As a result, those clubs became first-class from 1895 along with MCC, Cambridge University, Oxford University, senior cricket touring teams (i.e., Australia and South Africa at that time) and other teams or pairings designated as such by MCC (e.g., North v South, Gentlemen v Players and occasional "elevens" which consisted of recognised first-class players).[1] In October 1894, MCC issued a notice which outlined the classification of county clubs and this was printed by Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game.[2] Officially, the inaugural first-class match was the opening game of the 1895 season between MCC and Nottinghamshire at Lord's on 1 and 2 May, MCC winning by 37 runs.[3]

Until the 1894 meeting, "first-class" was a common adjective that had been applied to cricket matches in England since about 1864, when overarm bowling was legalised and there was a surge in county club creation. The term was used loosely to suggest that a match had a high standard; adjectives like "great", "important" and "major" were also in use, but there were differences of opinion about standards. In the inaugural issue of Cricket magazine on 10 May 1882, "first-class" is used twice on page 2 in reference to the recently completed tour of Australia and New Zealand by Alfred Shaw's XI. The report says it is "taking" the first-class matches to be one against Sydney (sic), two each against Victoria, the Combined team and the Australian Eleven, and another against South Australia.[4] In the fourth issue on 1 June 1882, James Lillywhite refers to first-class matches on the tour but gives a different list.[5]

Before 1863, there were only three formally constituted county clubs. Sussex, formed in 1839, is the oldest followed by Nottinghamshire (1841) and Surrey (1845). Then, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Middlesex were founded in 1863, Lancashire in 1864, and the rest over the next 25 years or so. Questions began to be raised in the sporting press about which should be categorised as first-class, but there was considerable disagreement in the answers. In 1880, the Cricket Reporting Agency was founded. It acquired influence through the decade especially by association with Wisden Cricketers' Almanack and the press came to generally rely on its information and opinions.[6]

ICC 1947

The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) on 19 May 1947 as a match of three or more days duration between two sides of eleven players officially adjudged first-class; the governing body in each country to decide the status of teams. Significantly, it was stated that the definition does not have retrospective effect. MCC was authorised to determine the status of matches played in Great Britain.[7]

For all intents and purposes, the 1947 ICC definition confirmed the 1895 MCC definition and gave it international recognition and usage. Hence, official judgment of status is the responsibility of the governing body in each country that is a full member of the ICC. The governing body grants first-class status to international teams and to domestic teams that are representative of the country's highest playing standard. It is possible for international teams from associate members of the ICC to achieve first-class status but it is dependent on the status of their opponents in a given match.[8]

According to the ICC definition, a match is first class if:[7][8]

  • it is of three or more days scheduled duration
  • each side playing the match has eleven players
  • each side may have two innings
  • the match is played on natural, and not artificial, turf
  • the match is played on an international standard ground
  • the match conforms to The Laws of Cricket, except for only minor amendments
  • the sport's governing body in the appropriate nation, or the ICC itself, recognises the match as first-class.

In November 2021, the ICC retrospectively applied first-class status to women's cricket, aligning it with the men's game.[9][10]

Recognised matches

The ICC's Classification of Official Cricket (current version: July 2020) states the criteria with which a match must comply to achieve a desired categorisation. Included are matches of recognised first-class teams against international touring teams; and the leading domestic championships such as the County Championship, Sheffield Shield, Ranji Trophy, etc.[11]

Test matches

A Test match is a first-class match played between two ICC full member countries subject to their current status at the ICC and the application of ICC conditions when the match is played.[12] Test cricket is the highest level of international competition and the first list of matches considered to be Tests was conceived and published by South Australian journalist Clarence P. Moody in his 1894 book, Australian Cricket and Cricketers, 1856 to 1893–94. His proposal was widely accepted after a list of 39 matches was reproduced in the 28 December 1894 issue of Cricket magazine. The list began with the first-ever Australia v England match, which was played 15–17 March 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG) and ended with a recent one played 14–20 December 1894 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (then known as the Association Ground).[13] All of Moody's matches, plus four additional ones involving South Africa, were retrospectively recognised as Test matches and also, thereby, as first-class matches. At the time, only Australia, England and South Africa held Test status.[14]


A peculiarity of the two-innings match is the follow-on rule. If the team that batted second is substantially behind on first innings total, they may be required to bat again (i.e., to immediately follow on from their first innings) in the third innings of the match. In first-class cricket, the follow-on minimum lead requirement depends on match duration. In a Test or other match with five or more days duration, the team batting second can be asked to follow on if 200 or more runs behind. If the match duration is three or four days, the limit is reduced to 150 runs.[15][16]

Matches played before the MCC and ICC definitions

The absence of any ICC ruling about matches played before 1947 (or before 1895 in Great Britain) is problematic for those cricket statisticians who wish to classify earlier matches in the same way. They have responded by compiling their own match lists and allocating a strictly unofficial status to the matches they consider to have been of a high standard. It is therefore a matter of opinion only with no official support. Inevitable differences have arisen and there are variations in published cricket statistics. The number of variations is minuscule in terms of the sport's overall statistics, but a few significant differences may be observed in the published career records of W. G. Grace, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe; also some minor differences in the records of other well-known players. At club level, there are differences in the perceived status of certain matches played by Gloucestershire before 1870 and by Somerset in 1879 and 1881.

Matches that probably met the official definitions, assuming they featured teams of the necessary high standard, have been recorded since the end of the 17th century. The earliest match known to have been accorded superior status in a contemporary report (i.e., termed "a great match" in this case) and to have been played for a large sum of money was one in Sussex between two unnamed eleven-a-side teams contesting "fifty guineas apiece" on or about Wednesday, 30 June 1697, a match of enormous historical significance but with no statistical data recorded.[17]

The development of scorecards to 1895

The problem of different statistical versions is as old as match scorecards themselves. The earliest known scorecards date from two matches in 1744 but, prior to 1772, only four have survived, the last from a minor match in 1769.[18][19] The cards for four 1772 matches have survived and scorecards became increasingly common thereafter.[20]

Notwithstanding the two top-class matches in 1744, it may be assumed that cricket's statistical record, as distinct from its historical record, began in 1772 when scorecards began to be kept on a routine basis. Even so, the record of matches before 1825 is mostly incomplete and there were numerous matches in the 18th century, and in the first quarter of the 19th, which are known by name only with no scores having survived.[21] That may be largely due to the catastrophic Lord's fire which occurred on the night of Thursday, 28 July 1825. The pavilion burned down and many invaluable and irreplaceable records were lost. It is believed that these included unique scorecards of early matches.[22] The point of origin for top-class cricket's historical record is uncertain. Teams of "county strength" were being assembled by the 1730s, but there are surviving references to what were termed "great matches" going back to the one in 1697.

The main source for scorecards from 1772 until the 1860s is Arthur Haygarth's Scores & Biographies, which was published in several volumes between 1862 and 1872. Haygarth used a number of sources for his scorecards including many that were created by the Hambledon Club and MCC. He frequently refers to earlier compilers such as Samuel Britcher, W. Epps and Henry Bentley.[23][24]

Haygarth often mentions in his match summaries that another version exists of the scorecard he has reproduced. Sometimes he outlines the differences which range from players' names to runs scored and even to apparent discrepancies in innings totals or match results. He first raises the difficulty of obtaining scorecards in his summary of the Hampshire v Surrey match at Broadhalfpenny Down on 26 August 1773:[25]

The Score of this match was obtained from the Hampshire Chronicle, and it was not inserted in the old printed book of Hambledon Scores from 1772 to 1784.

Then, in his summary of the Surrey v Hampshire match at Laleham Burway on 6–8 July 1775:[26]

The above is taken from the old printed score books; but in another account, in the first innings of Surrey, (Joseph) Miller is b (Thomas) Brett...&c.

He goes on to list a total of thirteen differences between his two versions, some re dismissal details and others re scores. He then makes a highly pertinent comment:[26]

It may here be remarked, that when there are two scores of the same match, they never agree. (The emphasis is Haygarth's own.)

In saying that, Haygarth has recognised the essence of the problem when there is no standard means of scoring and no centralised control over the system of capturing and storing the data. Scoring systems in the 18th century and much of the 19th century had nothing like the consistency of standard that was employed through the 20th century to the present. Many early cards gave no details of dismissal. Where dismissal was recorded, it was limited to the primary mode and so a fielder would be credited with a catch but the bowler would not be credited with the wicket unless he bowled out the batsman.

MCC finally responded to the problem in 1836 when they decided to include in their own scorecards (i.e., for matches played at Lord's) the addition of bowlers' names when the dismissal was caught, stumped, lbw or hit wicket. Haygarth comments that "this was a vast improvement in recording the game and but justice to the bowler".[27] As a result, scorecards became more detailed through the second half of the 19th century but reliability remained a problem and different versions continued to appear. It was some time before the MCC scorecard standard was adopted throughout the country and Haygarth adds that the inclusion of bowling analyses "was not introduced until several years afterwards".[27]

Commencement of statistical records

The key issue for statisticians is when first-class cricket for their purpose is deemed to have begun. Roy Webber published the Playfair Book of Cricket Records in 1951 and, in his introduction, expressed the view that first-class records should commence in 1864 when overarm bowling was legalised. He argued that the majority of matches prior to 1864 "cannot be regarded as first-class" and their records are used "for their historical associations".[28] This drew a line between what was important historically and what should form part of the statistical record. Webber's rationale was that cricket was "generally weak before 1864" because matches until then had been arranged on a largely ad hocbasis. Four new county clubs were established in 1863–64 and that inspired a greater and increasingly more organised effort to promote county cricket. Furthermore, match details before 1864 were largely incomplete, especially bowling analyses, which hindered the compilation of records.[28]

According to Webber's view, the inaugural first-class match was the opening game of the 1864 season between Cambridge University and MCC at Fenner's on 12 and 13 May, Cambridge winning by 6 wickets.[29]

Many researchers and writers have agreed with Webber. Playfair Cricket Annual, Webber's publisher, begins its first-class records in 1864.[30] In their award-winning Kent County Cricketers, A to Z (2020), authors Derek Carlaw and John Winnifrith begin by saying: "Part One (1806–1914) is confined to players who appeared for Kent in important matches from 1806 to 1863 and first-class matches from 1864 to 1914".[31] The emphasis placed on important reflects the purpose of A Guide to Important Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles, 1709–1863, published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (the ACS) in 1981. They also agreed with Webber that 1864 was the startpoint of first-class cricket. In their sister volume, A Guide to First-Class Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles (1982), the ACS said: "The line between first-class and other matches becomes more easily discernible about that date (i.e., 1864)".[32] The Important Matches Guide lists all the known matches until 1863 which the ACS considered to have historical importance. They did stipulate that they had taken "a more lenient view" of importance regarding matches played in the 18th century than they did of matches played in the 19th century. As they explained, surviving details of 18th century matches are typically incomplete while there is a fairly comprehensive store of data about 19th century matches, certainly since 1825.[21]

Of course, the issue with using any cut-off date as a startpoint is that it excludes everything before that date despite cricket's history making clear that there has been a continuous standard of top-class cricket in England since the 1720s, if not the late 17th century. Legendary cricketers like Richard Newland, John Small, David Harris, Billy Beldham, Fuller Pilch, Alfred Mynn, William Clarke, George Parr, John Wisden and William Caffyn may not have played in first-class matches per se but, in the contexts of cricket in the underarm and roundarm eras, they certainly were top-class players.

It is true that none of the cricketers with large career totals played before 1864 (Webber's main reason for adopting that date) and so his startpoint is not really an issue in that context, but it does impact some significant cricket records. For example, the lowest known team score in a top-class match occurred in 1810 match when England dismissed The Bs for a mere 6 runs. Besides the legalisation of overarm bowling and the increase in county clubs, 1864 was significant as the first year in which Wisden Cricketers' Almanack was published. This annual publication is seen as the key source for cricket records, although there are plenty of earlier sources. 1864 also marked the top-class debut of W. G. Grace, who is arguably the greatest cricketer of all time.

Wisden, however, sees 1815 as the startpoint and, when Bill Frindall published his Wisden Book of Cricket Records, he explained in his preface that he used 1815 as the starting point for "proper" first-class cricket, though he conceded that there is a reasonable case for several other years, particularly Webber's 1864. Frindall thus included the entire roundarm era but also a substantial part of the underarm era. The problem with 1815, if the intention is to include roundarm, is that roundarm did not begin in any real sense until 1827 and was not legalised until 1835; and even then The Laws of Cricket had to be reinforced in 1845 by removing the benefit of the doubt from the bowler in the matter of his hand's height when delivering the ball. Indeed, for most of the period from 1815 to 1845, underarm bowling continued to prevail. According to Frindall, the inaugural first-class match should have been the opening game of the 1815 season between MCC and Middlesex at Lord's on 31 May and 1 June, Middlesex winning by 16 runs.[33]

The status of early matches that left no scorecard, and for which only a brief announcement or report exists, must be based on other factors. Contemporary importance was often measured by the amount of money at stake and the fact that a match was deemed notable enough to be reported in the press. The 18th century matches in the ACS list were primarily compiled to assist historians.[21]

There are those, principally the CricketArchive database, who see the three scorecarded eleven-a-side matches in 1772 as the beginning of first-class cricket.[34] That is absurd because first-class is an official standard based on The Laws of Cricket (as amended in 1864 and subsequently).[7][31] There was arguably a first-class standard from 1845 while roundarm prevailed, but certainly not in the two-stump underarm era of the 18th century.[35] Having said that, it is quite true that matches like Hampshire v England in 1772 were top-class, but only within the context of 18th-century cricket. John Small and Lumpy Stevens were great players in the second half of the 18th century, as were W. G. Grace and Fred Spofforth in the second half of the 19th, but the cricket which they played was, to coin an idiom, a totally different ball game.

Rest of the World

In other countries or regions where first-class cricket is played, six have generally recognised startpoints before 1947:

  • South Africa (1889). South Africa v England at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth on 12–13 March 1889. England won by 8 wickets.[41] The inaugural first-class match was also South Africa's first Test match. A second Test was played at Newlands, Cape Town on 25–26 March and England won by an innings and 202 runs.[42] The English team, known as R. G. Warton's XI, played a total of 20 matches on the tour including many against provincial teams that were later first-class, but only the two Test matches were rated first-class at the time.[43]

Main first-class competitions

Test cricket is the highest level of first-class competition. A Test match is normally scheduled for five days and played between two international teams representing full member countries of the ICC. There are currently twelve Test teams: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Another type of first-class match is one in which a national team plays against a first-class team that is non-international. Typical examples are touring teams playing against English first-class county teams or against Australian first-class state teams.

Although there are other types of first-class team (e.g., MCC, Cambridge University, Oxford University and one-off or occasional teams that consist of first-class players), the majority of domestic first-class teams take part in their country's national championship. The major national championships include the Sheffield Shield (Australia), National Cricket League (Bangladesh), County Championship (England and Wales), Ranji Trophy (India), Plunket Shield (New Zealand), Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (Pakistan), CSA 4-Day Domestic Series (South Africa), Major League Tournament (Sri Lanka), the West Indies 4-Day Championship and the Logan Cup (Zimbabwe).

Sheffield Shield – Australia

The earliest record of cricket in Australia occurs in January 1804 when it was mentioned in the Sydney Gazette. There are records of matches being played in the 1830s and, from 1851, inter-colonial matches were played almost annually. Australia played its first Test match in 1877. The first official overseas tour by the Australian team was to England and North America in 1878.

Unlike England and Wales where first-class domestic competition involves teams representing formally constituted county clubs, cricket in Australia is organised on the basis of district cricket, state associations and the national board. The national board, now known as Cricket Australia, was formerly called the Australian Cricket Board. The state associations are not clubs and they select their players from the district cricket clubs (who play what is called "Grade cricket", the equivalent of "minor counties cricket" in England).

The Sheffield Shield was inaugurated in 1892 by the 3rd Earl of Sheffield (18 January 1832 – 21 April 1909), an English Conservative politician who had promoted the 1891–92 England tour of Australia that was captained by W. G. Grace. Sheffield donated £150 to the New South Wales Cricket Association and asked them to donate a trophy to the champion team each season. The new tournament was launched in the 1892–93 season and won by Victoria. The competing teams are: New South Wales (state cricket association founded 1859); Queensland (1876); South Australia (1871); Tasmania (1906); Victoria (1875); and Western Australia (1885). The most successful team is New South Wales with 47 titles to 2022.

National Cricket League – Bangladesh

The origin of Bangladesh as a country is the Partition of India in 1947, when it was established as the eastern wing of Pakistan. It was formerly known as East Bengal (1947–1955) and then as East Pakistan (1955–1970). Bangladesh became independent in 1971 following the Liberation War. Cricket was already well-established there after two centuries of British influence. Bangladesh staged first-class and even Test cricket when it was part of Pakistan. The Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka was first used for Test cricket when Pakistan played India there in January 1955.

The Bangladesh Cricket Control Board was established in 1972 and local leagues began in Dhaka and Chittagong. In the 1976–77 season, an MCC team toured the country and played four matches. MCC made a favourable report to the ICC and, on 26 July 1977, Bangladesh became an associate member of the ICC.

First-class cricket in Bangladesh (i.e., since independence) began when the national team played England A at the M. A. Aziz Stadium in Chittagong on 25–27 October 1999. Having already had success in limited overs international cricket, Bangladesh became a full member of the ICC on 26 June 2000 and played its inaugural Test match v India at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on 10–13 November 2000.

The 2000–01 season saw the beginning of first-class domestic competition when the National Cricket League (NCL) was constituted. The country is administered by regional divisions and the teams competing in the NCL mostly reflect that structure: Barisal Division; Chittagong Division; Dhaka Division; Dhaka Metropolis; Khulna Division; Rajshahi Division; Rangpur Division; and Sylhet Division (cricket)|]]. The most successful team is Khulna Division with seven titles to 2023.

County Cricket Championship – England and Wales

Cricket is generally held to have originated as a children's game in south-east England during the medieval period. The first definite reference to the sport occurs at Guildford in the sixteenth century. During the seventeenth century, cricket became an adult game and soon reached the stage where wealthy patrons were organising "great matches" and employing professional players. Organisation continued through the eighteenth century with the first known issue of the Laws of Cricket in 1744 and then the foundation of MCC in 1787. Although inter-county matches have been definitely recorded since 1709, it was not until 1839 that the first modern county club, Sussex, was formally established. Before the clubs were formally constituted, county teams were assembled on an ad hoc basis by individual patrons or by loose associations, sometimes based on a prominent local organisation such as the Hambledon Club in Hampshire. All of the present first-class county clubs were founded in the nineteenth century. English teams began to undertake overseas tours in 1859 and England played its first Test match in 1877.

While the legalisation of overarm bowling in 1864 is generally recognised as the unofficial startpoint of first-class cricket in England, it remains a matter for debate. However, it is essentially a statistical argument that does not affect the historical importance of matches played before 1864 during the underarm and roundarm eras. There is evidence dating back to 1728 that the concept of a "champion county" (at least in the form of "bragging rights") had existed long before the constitution of the official County Championship in December 1889.[47][48] The new competition began in the 1890 season. An unofficial championship of sorts had existed beforehand with the champions being proclaimed by the newspapers, but this suffered from the problems of differing criteria and, hence, no universal recognition. Given that residence qualifications were introduced in 1873, there is a credible list of quasi-official champions from 1873 to 1889.

Eighteen English and Welsh counties have clubs that compete in the County Championship. The other counties have clubs which play second-class matches and mostly compete in the Minor Counties Championship. The first-class county clubs are: Derbyshire (founded 1870); Durham (1882); Essex (1876); Glamorgan (1888); Gloucestershire (1871); Hampshire (1863); Kent (1870); Lancashire (1864); Leicestershire (1879); Middlesex (1864); Northamptonshire (1878); Nottinghamshire (1841); Somerset (1875); Surrey (1845); Sussex (1839); Warwickshire (1882); Worcestershire (1865); and Yorkshire (1863). The most successful team is Yorkshire with 33 titles to 2022.

Ranji Trophy – India

Cricket was introduced to India in the seventeenth century by mariners and traders of the British East India Company. The earliest definite reference to the sport in India is a 1721 report of English sailors playing a game at Cambay, near Baroda. The Calcutta Cricket and Football Club was founded by 1792 and, in 1799, another club was formed at Seringapatam in south India after the successful British siege and the defeat of Tippoo Sultan.

A Madras versus Calcutta match in 1864 has been mooted as the start of first-class cricket in India but it is more generally agreed that it began in the 1892–93 season, as described above, from when the Bombay Quadrangular series became first-class. India played their first Test match in 1932.

The Ranji Trophy competition was launched in the 1934–35 season as "The Cricket Championship of India" following a meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in July 1934. The competition is named after Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji (known as "Ranji") and the trophy was donated by Bhupinder Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala. The competition is administered by the BCCI and there are currently 38 teams taking part, all representing the country's states and other regions. Among the most noted teams are Baroda; Bengal; Delhi; Hyderabad; Karnataka (formerly Mysore); Madhya Pradesh (formerly Holkar); Maharashtra; Mumbai (formerly Bombay); Rajasthan; Saurashtra; Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras); and Vidarbha. The most successful team is Mumbai/Bombay with 41 titles to 2023.

Plunket Shield – New Zealand

The earliest record of cricket in New Zealand is in the 1832 diary of a churchman called Archdeacon Williams. There are records of matches played in the 1840s and then the first known inter-provincial match took place in 1860. The earliest first-class match (classified retrospectively) was Otago v Canterbury at Dunedin on 27–29 January 1864.

The Plunket Shield competition was inaugurated in 1906 after the trophy was donated by the 5th Baron Plunket, the Governor-general of New Zealand. Until 1921, the holder of the shield had to be challenged in a similar fashion to that used in boxing. In the 1921–22 season, a league system was introduced and New Zealand is the only country to have established a national first-class championship competition before it began playing in Test cricket. New Zealand played their first Test match in the 1929–30 season. The six provincial teams are Auckland; Canterbury; Central Districts; Northern Districts; Otago; and Wellington. The most successful team is Auckland with 24 titles to 2023.

Quaid-e-Azam Trophy – Pakistan

The state of Pakistan was established by the Partition of India in 1947. By that time, cricket was already well-established after some 200 years of British influence in the area. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was established on 1 May 1949 but games from 1947 to 1953 were arranged on an ad hoc basis. Nevertheless, Pakistan was admitted to full membership of the ICC and Pakistan played their first Test match in October 1952.

The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy was established as the national first-class championship in 1953 and first contested in the 1953–54 season. The trophy is named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is generally recognised as the founder of Pakistan and is officially known in the country as Quaid-e-Azam. The format has changed considerably over the years. Regional associations, especially in Karachi and Lahore, entered multiple teams and the names of these tended to change every few years. The best known Karachi teams were the Blues (nine titles) and the Whites (four). Other teams represented companies and government institutions such as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA; seven titles), National Bank, United Bank, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), and Habib Bank.

Starting in 2019–20, the competition has been reorganised on a regional basis with five teams involved: Baluchistan; Central Punjab; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Northern; Sindh; and Southern Punjab. Central Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have won two titles each to 2023.

CSA 4-Day Domestic Series – South Africa

The earliest record of cricket in South Africa is in reference to a match between two teams of British officers on 5 January 1808. First-class cricket in the country began with South Africa's first Test match in March 1889. The Currie Cup for provincial teams was inaugurated in the 1889–90 season but was not at first a national competition and was not contested annually until the 1960s. It was replaced in the 1996–97 season by the SuperSport Series which retained the provincial format until a franchise-based format superseded it in 2004–05. Following a change of sponsorship in 2012–13, the competition was called the Sunfoil Series until 2018 when it became the 4-Day Franchise Series. In March 2021, Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced the disestablishment of the franchises and, ahead of the 2021–22 season, created a new provincial competition called the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series in which fifteen first-class teams play in two divisions with promotion and relegation.

The most successful provincial teams to 2004 were Transvaal/Gauteng (29 titles); Natal/KwaZulu-Natal (24); and Western Province (21). Other teams were Boland, Border, Eastern Province, Easterns, Griqualand West, Northerns, Orange Free State and Western Transvaal/North West. In addition, Rhodesia took part in 22 competitions.

From 2004 to 2021, the six franchises (with constituent provincial teams in brackets) were: Cape Cobras (Boland, Western Province); Dolphins (KwaZulu-Natal); Highveld Lions (Gauteng, North West); Knights (Griqualand West, Orange Free State); Titans (Easterns, Northerns); and Warriors (Border, Eastern Province). Titans were the most successful with six titles, ahead of Cape Cobras with four.

Some teams in the new CSA 4-Day Domestic Series have retained the franchise brands while others have restored their provincial team names: Boland, Border, Eastern Cape Warriors, Easterns, Gauteng Lions, Gauteng Titans, KwaZulu-Natal, KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West Dragons, Northern Cape, Orange Free State Knights, South Western Districts, and Western Province. Gauteng Titans won the inaugural tournament in 2021–22 and KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins won in 2022–23; the runners-up in both seasons were Eastern Cape Warriors.

Major League Tournament – Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) became a British colony in 1802. The earliest record of cricket is a report in the Colombo Journal dated 5 September 1832 which called for the formation of a cricket club. The Colombo Cricket Club was formed soon afterwards and matches began in November 1832. First-class cricket in Ceylon was restricted to games between the national team and visiting touring teams. In 1982, Sri Lanka became a full member of the ICC and played its first Test match.

The Premier Trophy was inaugurated in 1938 but was not recognised as a first-class competition until the 1988–89 season. It has been rebranded and restructured a number of times. In 2015–16, it became the Premier League Tournament and was split into Tiers A and B the following season. The 2020–21 tournament was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a limited scope temporary tournament was staged in 2021–22. Ahead of the 2022–23 season, Sri Lanka Cricket relaunched the competition as the Major League Tournament with 26 teams playing in Groups A and B, the group winners meeting in the MLT final.

Some of the better-known teams in the MLT are Ace Capital, Bloomfield, Chilaw Marians, Colombo, Colts, Moors, Nondescripts, Saracens, Sinhalese Sports Club, and Tamil Union. Teams representing each of Sri Lanka's Air Force, Army and Navy are also involved. The most successful team is Sinhalese SC with 32 titles to 2022. The inaugural MLT was won by Colombo.

West Indies 4-Day Championship

The earliest record of cricket in the West Indies is an announcement in the Barbados Mercury on 10 May 1806 that a meeting of St Anne's Cricket Club would be held two days later. The difficulties of travel in the nineteenth century meant that few inter-colonial matches were played. In the 1891–92 season, the first inter-colonial tournament was held in Barbados between Barbados, British Guiana, and Trinidad & Tobago. Although some of the earlier ad hoc matches lay claim to first-class status, the 1891–92 tournament marks the effective beginning of first-class cricket in the Caribbean. The 1894–95 season featured the first tour of the West Indies by an English team.

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was founded in the early 1920s as a federation of the Caribbean islands and joined the ICC in 1926. In 1928, West Indies played their first Test match.

The inter-colonial tournament was not contested annually and it was not until 1965–66 that a true domestic championship was established when Shell Oil donated and sponsored the Shell Shield, which has subsequently evolved into the 4-Day Championship under the administration of the WICB. The teams taking part are Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, and Windward Islands. The most successful team is Barbados with 24 titles to 2023.

Logan Cup – Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe was formerly Rhodesia and its national team competed, intermittently for many years, in South Africa's Currie Cup from 1905 to 1979. A team called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia took part in the 1979–80 tournament and then withdrew. Zimbabwe were promoted to ICC full membership in 1992 and played their first Test match against India in October at the Harare Sports Club ground. The Logan Cup became a first-class competition in the 1993–94 season, when the teams were provincial. Mashonaland (9) won the most titles to 2009.

Since 2009–10, the Logan Cup has been contested by five franchise teams: Mashonaland Eagles, Matabeleland Tuskers, Mid West Rhinos, Mountaineers, and Southern Rocks. The most successful of these is Matabeleland Tuskers with five titles to 2023.

First-class records

Beginning with Roy Webber's Playfair Book of Cricket Records, published in 1951, there are several books devoted to all manner of statistical records derived from the scorecards of first-class matches. This section, by no means exhaustive, discusses the most significant records.

Team totals

The two highest innings totals were both achieved by Victoria in Sheffield Shield matches at the MCG in the 1920s. First, playing against Tasmania on 2–6 February 1923, they scored 1,059 in response to Tasmania's 217. Bill Ponsford scored a world record 429, beating the previous record of 424 by Archie MacLaren in 1895. Tasmania were all out for 176 in their second innings so Victoria won by an innings and 666 runs. On 24–29 December 1926, Victoria scored 1,107 against New South Wales. Ponsford scored 352 and Jack Ryder 295. NSW were dismissed for 221 and 230 for Victoria to win by an innings and 656 runs.[49] The highest match aggregate is 2,376 in a Ranji Trophy match between Maharashtra and Bombay, played 5–11 March 1949 at Poona. Bombay scored 651 and 714/8 declared. Maharashtra scored 407 and 604. Bombay won by 354 runs.[50]

The record for the lowest innings total is subject to when first-class cricket is deemed to have begun. In what was undeniably a top-class match played 12–14 June 1810 during the underarm era, The Bs were dismissed for six by England at Lord's Old Ground.[51] The Bs had batted first and scored 137, a respectable score for the time. England replied with 100 to leave The Bs with a useful first innings lead. In the second innings, however, The Bs were bowled out for 6 and England scored 44/4 to win by six wickets. As their name suggests, The Bs were an occasional team whose surnames all began with the letter B. They could call on several outstanding players including Billy Beldham, Lord Frederick Beauclerk and E. H. Budd. For this match, they were two players short and needed given men. One was John Wells, who had been due to play for England; the other was their sponsor James Lawrell, who was not a cricketer and only took part to make up the numbers. In the record innings, Wells scored 4 (a boundary shot) and Lawrell 1. The only "B" who scored was Samuel Bridger with 1.[52]

The lowest innings total since 1863 is 12 by Oxford University against MCC at the Magdalen Ground, Oxford in 1877; and by Northamptonshire against Gloucestershire at the Spa Ground, Gloucester in 1907. The lowest total since the Second World War is 14 by Surrey against Essex at the County Ground, Chelmsford in 1983.[51]

The lowest match aggregate of 105 was achieved in one of the most famous matches in the history of cricket: MCC v Australians at Lord's on 27 May 1878. This was the first Australian tour of Great Britain and the match against MCC created a sensation. MCC selected a strong team, featuring W. G. Grace and including Fred Morley, Alfred Shaw and A. N. Hornby. The match was played on what is known as a "sticky wicket", a wet pitch that is drying out in sunshine. As always in such conditions, deliveries were unpredictable and batting was very difficult. MCC batted first and were all out for 33 (Fred Spofforth 6/4, including a hat-trick). The Australian batsmen found things no easier and were bowled out by Morley and Shaw for 41, their last wicket falling in the final over before the lunch interval. In the afternoon, Spofforth bowled Grace for 0 with the second ball of the session and the whole innings lasted just 50 minutes. MCC were all out for 19, meaning the Australians needed 12 to win. In the conditions, that was no certainty but they achieved it to win by nine wickets.[53]

Quetta v Rawalpindi at the Marghzar Cricket Ground, Islamabad, in the 2008–09 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is sometimes listed as the lowest scoring match with an aggregate of 85 but the teams played only one innings each. They both forfeited their first innings due to bad weather and then Quetta were dismissed for 41 in their second innings. Rawalpindi scored 44/1 to win by 9 wickets.[54]

Largest victory margins

The largest win by an innings was in an Ayub Trophy match at the Lahore Stadium on 2–4 December 1964 when Pakistan Railways, the home team, defeated Dera Ismail Khan by an innings and 851 runs. Railways won the toss and chose to bat first. They amassed a total of 910/6 declared which included an innings of 337* by Pervez Akhtar. Railways batted all through the first two days and made their declaration on the final morning. Dera were bowled out for 32 (Afaq Ali Khan 7/14) and had to follow on. In their second innings, they were dismissed for 27 (Abdul Ahad Khan 9/7).

The largest win by runs only was in a Ranji Trophy match played 6–9 June 2022 at the KSCA Cricket Ground in Alur when Mumbai defeated Uttarakhand by 725 runs. Mumbai batted first and scored 647/8 declared (Suved Parkar 252). Uttarakhand were all out for 114 (Shams Mulani 5/39). Mumbai chose to bat again and scored 261/3 declared before bowling Uttarakhand out for 69.

Highest individual innings

The earliest top-class match in which individual scores were recorded was London v Surrey & Sussex at the Artillery Ground on 2 June 1744. A scorecard has survived, having been retained by the 2nd Duke of Richmond at Goodwood House. The card lists the scores by each batsman and the team totals. The combined team won by 55 runs after scoring 102 all out and 102/6 declared against 79 and 70 by London. The top score in the match was 47 by John Harris, one of the best-known players of the 1740s. A year later, the great Slindon all-rounder Richard Newland scored 88 for England against Kent at the Artillery Ground. It is not 100% certain that he achieved this in one innings as the wording of the newspaper report is slightly ambiguous: "R. Newland made eighty-eight for England". Even if it was his match total, it was a considerable feat to score that many runs on an unprepared pitch which would have been little better than a rough track. These were the highest known scores prior to the introduction of pitched delivery bowling in the early 1760s.

When bowlers began pitching the ball instead of rolling or skimming or trundling it, the old style "hockey bats" immediately became obsolete and the modern straight bat was introduced. Bowling continued to be exclusively underarm in style but completely new batting techniques were necessary to deal with a ball being pitched. In 1767, two Hampshire batsmen made a first wicket partnership of 192 in a match against Surrey. It is the earliest known century partnership and it is virtually certain that at least one of the two players scored a personal century. Their names were not recorded but a newspaper report says their stand was "the greatest thing ever known".

The greatest batsman of the 1760s and 1770s was John Small of Hampshire. He almost certainly played in the 1767 match and may well have been one of the two in the partnership. He was definitely playing against Kent on Broadhalfpenny Down in September 1768 because he "fetched above seven score notches off his own bat". As with Newland in 1745, however, it might have been his match total, though he could still have scored a century in either innings. The first undeniably recorded century was scored by John Minshull at Sevenoaks Vine in 1769 but the match could have been a minor one. Minshull was playing for the 3rd Duke of Dorset's XI who were arguably a top-class team, but their opponents from the village of Wrotham were probably just a parish XI. Even so, a partially completed scorecard has survived and it confirms beyond doubt that Minshull scored 107.

Match scorecards started to become standard in 1772, although the number of surviving examples remained in the minority until the 1820s. Whether or not Small created a "world record" of 140-plus in 1768, he certainly scored 136 for Hampshire against Surrey at Broadhalfpenny Down in 1775 and his colleague Richard Nyren scored 98 in the same innings. In 1777, James Aylward scored 167 for Hampshire against England at Sevenoaks Vine and this is the known record for the whole of the 18th century. Aylward's score was unsurpassed until 1806 when the notorious Lord Frederick Beauclerk made 170 for Homerton against Montpelier at Aram's New Ground. Some statisticians have questioned the status of that match but its inclusion in Scores & Biographies is significant. There are, too, some doubts about the status of the Norfolk county team which played MCC at Lord's in an 1820 match that is also included in Scores & Biographies. William Ward made the earliest known double-century and extended the record to 278.

By the time Ward's record was seriously challenged, overarm bowling had been introduced and unofficial first-class matches were being played by MCC, the leading county clubs and certain other teams. One of the latter was the Gentlemen of MCC team which played Kent at the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury in 1876. W. G. Grace scored the first-ever triple century with an innings of 344. Since then, the individual record has been extended six times by Archie MacLaren (424), Bill Ponsford twice (429 and 437), Don Bradman (452*), Hanif Mohammad (499) and Brian Lara (501*). Lara has held the first-class record since 1994 and he also holds the record for the highest innings in Test cricket with 400*.


The world record for the highest partnership in both Test and first-class cricket is 624 by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka v South Africa at the Colombo Cricket Club Ground in 2006. South Africa had been dismissed for 169. Sangakkara and Jayawardene came together for the third wicket when Sri Lanka were struggling at 14/2. Jayawardene scored 374 and Sangakkara 287, enabling Sri Lanka to total 756/5 declared. South Africa replied with 434 and Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs.

There have been partnerships of over 400 for all the first eight wickets. The highest for the ninth wicket is 283 by Arnold Warren and John Chapman for Derbyshire v Warwickshire at the Blackwell Miners Welfare Ground, Bolsover, in 1910; for the tenth wicket, the highest is 307 by Alan Kippax and Hal Hooker for New South Wales v Victoria at the MCG in 1928–29.

Most runs in a career

The record for the most runs in a first-class career is largely dependent on the number of matches played but, even so, there can be no doubt that Jack Hobbs was one of the greatest-ever batsmen. Playing for Surrey and England from 1905 to 1934, he scored 61,760 career runs in 834 matches at an average of 50.70. Six others who surpassed 50,000 were Frank Woolley (58,959 in 978 matches at 40.77); Patsy Hendren (57,611 in 833 at 50.80); Phil Mead (55,061 in 814 at 47.67); W. G. Grace (54,211 in 870 at 39.45); Herbert Sutcliffe (50,670 in 754 at 52.02); and Wally Hammond (50,551 in 634 at 56.10).

The number of matches he played (only 234) is without doubt the reason why the incomparable Don Bradman did not score 50,000 runs. Playing from 1927–28 to 1948–49, he scored 28,067 runs at the colossal average of 95.14. His Test career average was even higher at 99.94. Among major players, Vijay Merchant (71.64 in 150 matches) is the only other batsman with a career average of 70-plus. The third best is George Headley (69.86 in 103 matches).

Most career centuries

Jack Hobbs scored 199 centuries (834 matches) in his first-class career, followed by Patsy Hendren (170 in 833 matches) and Wally Hammond (167 in 634 matches). Don Bradman scored 117 in 234 matches, a ratio of exactly one per two matches. Bradman (37), Hammond (36) and Hendren (22) scored the most double-centuries. Bradman scored six triple-centuries, followed by Hammond and Bill Ponsford with four each. Six batsmen including Grace and Brian Lara scored three.

Bowling records

It was not until the 1830s that scorecards began to fully credit bowlers with dismissals. Scorers had long listed the primary mode of dismissal only, so the typical scorecard would show who held a catch or completed a stumping but would only name the bowler if the batsman was bowled out. In eleven-a-side matches, the maximum number of wickets that a bowler can take is ten in an innings (one batsman is always not out) and twenty in a match.

The earliest known instances of a bowler taking all ten in an innings were by Edmund Hinkly for Kent v England at Lord's in 1848, and by John Wisden for North v South at Lord's in 1850. Wisden clean bowled all ten South batsmen. In both matches, the number of runs conceded by the bowler was not recorded. The record for the best known return by a bowler is held by Hedley Verity, who took 10/10 for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire at Headingley in 1932.

The record for most wickets in a match is held by Jim Laker who took nineteen for England v Australia at Old Trafford in 1956 (the other wicket was taken by Tony Lock). Laker's figures were 9/37 and 10/53 for a match analysis of 19/90. No one else has taken eighteen in an eleven-a-side match and there have been 23 instances of seventeen in a match, the best return being 17/48 by Colin Blythe for Kent v Northamptonshire at the County Ground, Northampton in 1907.

As with most career runs, the number of matches played is the key factor in most career wickets. Wilfred Rhodes holds the record with 4,204 wickets at the exceptional average of 16.72. He played in a world record 1,110 matches for Yorkshire and England from 1898 to 1930. Rhodes was an all-rounder and so not a specialist bowler. Three other bowlers took over 3,000 wickets: Tich Freeman (3,776), Charlie Parker (3,278 wickets), and Jack Hearne (3,061). Tom Goddard, whose career straddled World War II, took 2,979.

A career bowling average of twenty or less runs per wicket is outstanding. Of bowlers who took 2,000 wickets, the lowest average is 12.12 by Alfred Shaw who took 2,027 in 404 matches for Nottinghamshire and England from 1864 to 1897. Two of the greatest all-time bowlers were Hedley Verity and Fred Spofforth who averaged 14.90 and 14.95 respectively. Verity, who died in World War II, took 1,956 wickets; Spofforth, the legendary "Demon Bowler", took 853 in only 155 matches.

The feats of taking five wickets in an innings (5wI) or ten in a match (10wM) are noteworthy. In the days of incomplete scorecards, the earliest known instances were by England's William Bullen who bowled five Hampshire batsmen at Sevenoaks Vine in 1774, and Hampshire's Thomas Brett, who took eleven in the match against Surrey at Laleham Burway in 1775. Brett bowled seven in the first innings and four in the second but, despite his efforts, Surrey still won the match by 69 runs. Tich Freeman holds both career records with 386 5wI and 140 10wM. Another notable bowling feat is the hat-trick, taking three wickets with three consecutive deliveries. Doug Wright holds the career record with seven; Tom Goddard and Charlie Parker both took six.

All-round records

Frank Woolley (970 matches) and W. G. Grace (870), who both had exceptionally long careers, are the only all-rounders to have scored 50,000 career runs and taken 2,000 wickets. Cricket's greatest all-rounder is Gary Sobers who played in 383 matches, scoring 28,314 runs with 86 centuries and taking 1,043 wickets. Among batting wicket-keepers, Jim Parks and Les Ames have scored over 30,000 runs and dismissed more than 1,000 batsmen.

The feat of taking ten wickets and scoring 100 runs in the same match (a match double) is an especially outstanding performance and has been recorded 285 times. The earliest known instance was by Jem Broadbridge for Sussex v Hampshire at Petworth Park in 1825. He scored 63 and 92 for a match total of 155 and took eleven wickets, five in the first innings and six in the second. The most match doubles is seventeen by W. G. Grace between 1868 and 1886. Jack Hearne and Frank Woolley both achieved six.

Eight double-centuries have been scored by players performing the match double including two apiece by George Giffen and W. G. Grace. Statistically, Giffen's figures for South Australia v Victoria at the Adelaide Oval in 1891–92 are the greatest ever by an all-rounder. He scored 271 in his only innings and had returns of 9/96 and 7/70 for a match analysis of 16/166. South Australia won by an innings and 164 runs.

There have been three instances of a player scoring two centuries in a match when achieving the double. B. J. T. Bosanquet scored 103 and 100* for Middlesex v Sussex at Lord's in 1905, also taking 3/75 and 8/53. In 1906, George Hirst scored 111 and 117*, plus 6/70 and 5/45, for Yorkshire v Somerset at the Bath Recreation Ground. In 1988, Franklyn Stephenson curiously made the same two scores as Hirst (111 and 117), as well as taking 4/105 and 7/117 for Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire at Trent Bridge.

Five players have taken ten wickets in an innings as part of a match double: V. E. Walker (10/74, 4/17, 20* and 108) for England v Surrey at The Oval in 1859; E. M. Grace (5/77, 10/69 and 192*) for Gentlemen of MCC v Gentlemen of Kent at Canterbury in 1862; W. G. Grace (2/60, 10/49 and 104) for MCC v Oxford University at The Parks, Oxford in 1886; Frank Tarrant (10/90, 1/22, 182* and 8*) for the Maharaja of Cooch-Behar's XI v Lord Willingdon's XI at the Deccan Gymkhana Ground in Poona in 1918–19; and Sean Whitehead (5/64, 10/36, 66 and 45) for South Western Districts v Easterns at the Recreation Ground, Oudtshoorn in 2021–22.

Wicket-keeping and fielding records

Five fielders have held more than 800 career catches: Frank Woolley (1,018), W. G. Grace (876), Tony Lock (831), Wally Hammond (820), and Brian Close (813). Hammond held the most catches in a season with 79 in 1928, including the record for the most catches in a match when he held ten playing for Gloucestershire against Surrey at the College Ground in Cheltenham. The record for most catches in an innings is seven, held jointly by Micky Stewart for Surrey against Northamptonshire at Northampton in 1957; Tony Brown for Gloucestershire against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1966; and Rikki Clarke for Warwickshire against Lancashire at Aigburth Cricket Ground, Liverpool in 2011.

Bob Taylor holds the career record for dismissals by a wicket-keeper with 1,649 in 639 matches from 1960 to 1988. He took 1,473 catches and completed 176 stumpings. John Murray dismissed 1,527 batsmen in 635 matches with 1,270 catches and 257 stumpings. Taylor's 1,473 catches is also a world record. The record for most stumpings completed is 418 by Les Ames, including a season total of 64 in 1932. Ames dismissed 128 batsmen in 1929, the most in an English season.

The world record for dismissals in a match is fourteen (seven in each innings) by Ibrahim Khaleel for Hyderabad v Assam at the Nehru Stadium, Guwahati, in 2011–12. Khaleel held 11 catches and completed three stumpings. The record for dismissals in an innings is nine, held jointly by Tahir Rasheed and Wayne James. Tahir caught eight and stumped one for Habib Bank v Pakistan Automobiles Corporation at the Jinnah Stadium, Gujranwala in 1992–93. James caught seven and stumped two for Matabeleland against Mashonaland Country Districts at Bulawayo Athletic Club Ground in the 1995–96 Logan Cup Final (James also scored 99 and 99* and is the only player to have scored 99 twice in the same match).[55]


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