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First-class cricket

First-class cricket is an official classification of the highest-standard international or domestic matches in the sport of cricket. A first-class match is of three or more days' scheduled duration between two sides of eleven players each and is adjudged to be worthy of the status by virtue of the standard of the competing teams. Matches must allow for the teams to play two innings each although, in practice, a team might play only one innings or none at all. First-class cricket, along with historical single-wicket and the modern limited-overs forms of List A and Twenty20, is one of the highest-standard forms of cricket; the origin of the term "first-class cricket" is unknown but it was used loosely before it acquired an official status, effective in 1895, following a meeting of leading English clubs in May 1894. Subsequently, at a meeting of the Imperial Cricket Conference in May 1947, it was formally defined on a global basis. A significant omission of the ICC ruling was any attempt to define first-class cricket retrospectively.

This has left historians, statisticians, with the problem of how to categorise earlier matches those played before 1895 in Great Britain. The solution put forward by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians is to classify all pre-1895 matches of a high standard as important matches. Test cricket, the highest standard of cricket, is statistically a form of first-class cricket, though the term "first-class" is used to refer to domestic competition. A player's first-class statistics include. Before 1894 "first-class cricket" was a common term used loosely to suggest that a match had a high standard. There was at the time no concept of what became Test cricket and so an international match would be called a first-class one, as would any match involving two senior county clubs. At the beginning of the 1890s, there were only four formally constituted county clubs: Sussex is the oldest, formed in 1839, it had been followed by Kent and Surrey. In the early 1860s, several more clubs were founded and 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 by association with Wisden Cricketers' Almanack and the press came to rely on its information and opinions; the term acquired official status, though limited to matches in Great Britain, following a meeting at Lord's in May 1894 between the Marylebone Cricket Club 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 and other teams designated as such by MCC. Therefore, 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; the term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the Imperial Cricket Conference on 19 May 1947. It was made clear that the definition "will not have retrospective effect"; the definition is as follows: A match of three or more days' duration between two sides of eleven players adjudged first-class, shall be regarded as a first-class fixture.

Matches in which either team have more than eleven players or which are scheduled for less than three days shall not be regarded as first-class. The Governing body in each country shall decide the status of teams. For example, MCC was authorised to determine the status of matches played in Great Britain. For all intents and purposes, the 1947 ICC definition confirmed the 1894 MCC definition and gave it international recognition and usage. Hence, official judgment of status is the responsibility of the governing body in each country, a full member of the International Cricket Council; the governing body grants first-class status to international teams and to domestic teams that are representative of the country's highest playing standard. ICC rulings make it 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. According to the ICC definition, a match may be adjudged first-class if: 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, not artificial, turf the match is played at a venue which meets certain standard criteria regarding venues 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.

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. In 2010, the ICC published its Classification of Official Cricket which includes the criteria with which a match must comply to achieve a desired categorisation. In the section on first-class cricket, there is a list of the types of match, it is important to note, given the differences in opinion about what constitutes a first-class match, that the ICC stipulates that its match type list "is

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