What is First Class Cricket: Origin and History

The history of cricket is extraordinarily long and rich, particularly in terms of test cricket! There have been thousand of players from all corners of the world that have graced the sport. The runs they scored, the wickets they take have all brought joy to the countless fans of cricket. Test in an international format, which is one of the oldest and the longest form of the sport, played between two nations. Test cricket is just the tip of the iceberg in this regard, cricket has had so much history even before tests. First class cricket, is an even older format. You must have heard of it or seen it when commentators look at or compare the stats of players in a test match. When judging the performance of a player, first class matches are a barometer. They help us gauge how skilled and technically sound a player is. 

Brian Lara plays a cover drive in a first class game

Credit: Wikimedia Images

But what is first class cricket? This is what we are learning in this chapter by ZAP. 

What is First Class Cricket?

To keep it simple, first class is the highest level of cricket competition played in any country that lasts for 3 or more days and consists of 2 innings each. A first-class match is a red ball match, that lasts three days or more and features two teams of eleven players each.  Although the term "first-class" is typically used to refer to domestic competition, test cricket, the highest quality of cricket, is a type of first-class cricket. Any performances in Test matches are included in a player's first-class statistics. So, for example, in India, The Ranji Trophy is one of the biggest domestic cricket tournament, but unlike a test match, it is only 4 days long. So every Ranji game can be considered to be a first class game. 

History of First Class Cricket:

The exact date of the first match is unknown, but the earliest scorecards from first-class cricket matches date from 1744. The first official county clubs in England, Sussex (the oldest, founded in 1839), Kent, Nottinghamshire, and Surrey, were established by the early 1860s.

Brian lara runs to complete his 100th run for his 100th century in first class cricket

Credit: Its Only Cricket

Prior to 1894, people used the phrase "first-class" to denote really good matches. Official Test cricket matches weren't held back then. As a result, any contest involving notable teams or clubs, whether they were from the same country or another, was referred to as a first-class match. It was a way to say that the match was of the highest quality.

The term "first-class cricket" received official acceptance in Great Britain following a conference held at the Lord's Cricket Ground in May 1894. At a meeting between the secretaries of the clubs competing in the official County Championship and the Marylebone Cricket Club, the first sport's regulatory body, it was decided that the clubs would begin to receive first-class status in 1895.

What is the difference between first class cricket and test cricket?

First class matches refer to games that last 3 to 5 days. Since test games last 5 days, they are considered a type of first class games. So every test match is a first class game, but not every first class is a test game. 

A match typically needs to meet all of the criteria below in order to be considered first class, using the definition laid down by the ICC:

  • It has a three-day minimum planned duration.
  • There are eleven players on each team in the game.
  • There may be two innings per side.
  • The game is played on real turf, not synthetic.
  • The game is held at a location that satisfies specific standards for venues.
  • The game follows the Laws of Cricket, with a few minor exceptions.
  • The game is recognised as first-class by the applicable country's governing body for the sport or by the ICC.

First Class competitions in different nations around the world:

The Karnataka State Cricket Team with the Ranji Trophy in 2014/15 season

Credit: ESPN Cricinfo


First-Class Tournament(s)


County Championship

South Africa

4-Day Domestic Series


Sheffield Shield

New Zealand

Plunket Shield


Ranji Trophy

Duleep Trophy

Irani Cup


Quaid-e-Azam Trophy

West Indies

Regional Four Day Competition

Sri Lanka

National Super League (NSL)


National Cricket League

Bangladesh Cricket League


Logan Cup


Ahmad Shah Abdali 4-day Tournament


Inter-Provincial Championship

What is the difference between List A Cricket and First Class Cricket?

The Tamil Nadu State Cricket Team players waiting for a decision in a huddle

Credit: Sportsadda

As you already know, first class matches last more than 3 days. In the same way, the limited-overs (one-day) version of cricket, with matches lasting up to eight hours, is referred to as List-A-Cricket. List A matches consists of One Day International (ODI) matches, different domestic championships, certain international matches featuring nations without official ODI status, and innings that last between forty and sixty overs per team. List A is one of the three major formats of cricket sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC), along with first-class and Twenty20 cricket.


Q-What is first-class cricket tournaments in India?

India's primary first-class cricket competition is the Ranji Trophy, held annually between top states and teams. Two other recognized competitions are the Duleep Trophy and the Irani Trophy, both contested by BCCI.

Q-What is List A cricket?

List A Cricket includes One Day International (ODI) games, domestic contests in which teams play innings of 40 to 60 runs each, and a few international games featuring countries with official ODI status.

Now that you have read and know everything about First class cricket, here are some articles we recommend reading:

How to play cricket | Ashes | Women's Cricket | Powerplay | Fielding Positions

Leave a comment