First-class cricket is a class of cricket that consists of matches of three or more days' scheduled duration, that are between two sides of eleven players and are officially adjudged first-class 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 only play zero or one innings.
First-class cricket is an aspect of major cricket but is not major cricket per se, as is sometimes thought. Major cricket is an unofficial or, at best, quasi-official term that includes limited overs cricket, single wicket and other forms in which players and/or teams of high standard are playing. These forms are not first-class cricket.
Test cricket, although the highest standard of major cricket, is itself a form of first-class cricket, although the term "first-class" is commonly used to refer to domestic competition only. A player's first-class statistics include his performances in Test matches.
Generally, first-class matches are eleven players 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 amateur. First-class teams are usually representative of a geopolitical region such as an English county, an Australian state or a West Indian nation.
Definitions of first-class cricket
Prior to 1947, the only definition of first-class cricket had been one in Great Britain that dated 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, major cricket touring teams and other teams designated as such by MCC.
The term "first-class cricket" was formally defined by the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) in 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.
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