County cricket is a domestic sports cricket game that has been held on the territory of England and Wales since the XVIII century. Currently, tournaments of various levels are held on this territory. The most popular are the County Championship, Royal London One-Day Cup and Twenty20 Cup (since 2018, Vitality Blast). In this article, we will recall the history of county cricket and briefly focus on some popular teams.
County cricket – general information
It is known that cricket tournaments are held both at the international level and the domestic level. County cricket is a popular championship in England and Wales among the home counties of these countries. Championships of this level were held back in 1709, although the first county cricket tournament was officially established only in 1890.
County cricket was also popular throughout the 18th century. At that time, the most recognizable teams were considered to be teams from Kent county, Hampshire County, Middlesex County, Surrey County and Sussex County. In addition, each county hosted its own local cricket tournaments. It was from local clubs that the county teams were formed. Although, there were some cities that did not unite into a common team but performed separately. For example, London Cricket Club. From 1722 to 1769, this was one of the strongest teams in England. There were other separate teams:
- Slindon Cricket Club (Sussex county);
- Dartford Cricket Club (Kent county);
- Hambledon Club (Hampshire county).
At the end of the XVIII century, the Berkshire cricket team was considered the best club in the county, which today does not have first-class status.
In modern times, 17 of England’s 48 county teams are first-class teams. One team representing Glamorgan County (Wales) joined them:
In addition to the names of counties, the words County Cricket Club (CCC) are attributed to the national teams. The first-class status means that the club is considered a full member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. It is the main governing body in the country responsible for cricket. ECB was formed in 1997.
The list of first-class teams also includes 6 English universities. The famous Marylebone Cricket Club sponsors them:
- Cambridge UCC;
- Oxford UCC;
- Durham UCC;
- Loughborough UCC;
- Cardiff UCC;
- Leeds/Bradford UCC.
There are mainly 3-day games between first-class county teams and university teams. They are held at the beginning of the English cricket season. In most cases, this is because the academic year at universities ends at this time, and these matches are also considered warm-up matches before the main championships.
County cricket – basic rules
In 1873, the rules concerning the qualification of players were invented. For the rules to come into force, it was necessary to hold three meetings, which were held at the stadium The Oval (Kia Oval). So, on June 9, 1873, the following norms were adopted:
- No cricketer, whether professional or amateur, should play for more than one county in a single season;
- If a player was born in one county and lives in another, then he has the right to choose which team to play for. Before the start of the season, he makes his choice and plays for the team for at least one season;
- The player must have the right to participate in competitions for the county in which he lives or has lived for two previous years;
- If there are any questions about the selection of the county – this is handled by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
MCC is a well-known team that originated in 1787. The club was the governing body for cricket in the world until 1909. It is it who owns the copyright to the Laws of Cricket, which were written in 1788. By the way, the 1st first-class game of the next county cricket season is traditionally held between the MCC and the current winner of the Champion County.
County cricket – Major championships
The main domestic national cricket championship is called the County Championship. The tournament was formed in 1890. Seventeen teams from English counties and one team from Wales participate in the championship (they were written about above). The County Championship is divided into two divisions, each of which has nine teams (due to COVID-19, almost all popular championships have changed their formats, you can find out more on the official website of the championship).
The Royal London One-Day Cup is another popular county cricket tournament. It has been held in a format with a limited number of overs (two innings of 50 overs are played) since 2014. The same 18 county teams participate in the competition. The teams are equally divided into two divisions.
The T20 Cup is the 3rd championship held at the highest level in England and Wales. Since 2018, the title sponsor of the tournament is the English insurance company VitalityHealth. Since then, the competition has been called Vitality Blast T20 (until 2022). At different times, the championship is held with 2 or 3 divisions.
Also, since 1895, tournaments among small counties have been organized in England and Wales. They are attended by teams that do not have first-class status. Currently, 20 teams from different counties participate in the Minor Counties Cricket Championship.
In addition, since 1997, the Women’s County Championship has been held in the country (since 2014, it has been known as the Royal London Women’s One-Day Cup). The women played limited-overs cricket for 50 overs. In 2019, women’s cricket was updated, and now in England and Wales, there are competitions in the One-Day format called the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (8 teams participate). Also, from 2016 to 2019, a tournament was held in the T20 format – Women’s Cricket Super League.