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The World of Cricket

While we naturally celebrate any success the England team enjoys, cricket is an international sport. The top league of teams are to be found in the Commonwealth, where England exported the game during the colonial era, but some surprising new countries are now getting in on the act.

Match De Cricket Poster
Poster promoting Match De Cricket, at Paris Olympics 1900
© Topham Picturepoint TopFoto.co.uk
Cricket first went international when Canada played the United States in 1844. The first overseas outing for an England team occurred when one toured the US and Canada in 1859. Despite these early manifestations though, the game has had no lasting impact in the United States,  which decided long ago that it much preferred baseball. That said, the US is still an associate member of the International Cricket Conference (ICC).

The first-ever international Test match was played against the old enemy, Australia, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1877. Guess what? They won, by 45 runs. Revenge was to come three years later when England beat Australia by five wickets at the Oval, at the first Test match to be played on these shores. When, in 1882, England were beaten for the first time on home soil by Australia, a mock obituary notice announcing the death of English cricket appeared in the Sporting Times, creating the tradition of the Ashes series between the two countries.

Gradually, a handful of those countries then still under British colonial rule made their way on to the international cricket scene. South Africa played its first Test match in 1889, the West Indies in 1928, New Zealand in 1930, and India in 1932. By contrast, Sri Lanka, now firmly established in the upper echelons of the game, only made its Test debut as recently as 1982, proving that the development of cricket has continued among the Commonwealth countries long after the curtain was rung down on the British Empire.

International cricket

As at March 2006, the top ten national cricket sides in the world, based on the number of victories they have achieved as a percentage of matches played, are Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England, Bangladesh, the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

These ten are the Test-playing nations. They also qualify for automatic inclusion in the World Cup tournaments, played every four years since 1975, when the West Indies beat Australia in the first World Cup final.

Since 1965, the ICC has had three tiers of membership. The Test-playing nations are Full members. Below them come Associate members, and then Affiliates. Among the more unexpected Associate members to be admitted during the 1960s and 1970s were Denmark, Argentina and Israel.

The Olympics and World Cup 2007

The next cricket World Cup will be held in the West Indies in 2007. In addition to the Test teams, it will also include Scotland, the Netherlands, Bermuda, Kenya, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.

Cricket has not been an Olympic sport since the very early days of the modern Olympic movement. It only made one appearance, at the Paris Games of 1900. Just four teams were scheduled to compete, but when the Netherlands and Belgium pulled out, a straight two-day final was held between Great Britain and France. The British won it by a mile, and are therefore still the reigning Olympic champions!

In 2000, a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, once again confirmed that there were no plans to reintroduce cricket to the Games. Reasons given were: that it was too hard to understand; that the matches took too long to play; that it wasn’t played in enough countries (er, hello!); but also, most damagingly, that there isn’t one international governing body for both the men’s and women’s versions of the game.