is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard-long pitch with a target called the wicket (a set of three wooden stumps topped by two bails) at each end. Each phase of play is called an innings during which one team bats, attempting to score as many runs as possible, whilst their opponents field. Depending on the type of match, the teams have one or two innings apiece and, when the first innings ends, the teams swap roles for the next innings. Except in matches which result in a draw, the winning team is the one that scores the most runs, including any extras gained.
Before a match begins, the two team captains meet on the pitch for the toss (of a coin) to determine which team will bat first. Two batsmen and eleven fielders then enter the field and play begins when a member of the fielding team, known as the bowler, delivers (i.e., bowls) the ball from one end of the pitch towards the wicket at the other end, which is guarded by one of the batsmen, known as the striker. In addition to the bowler, the fielding team includes the wicket-keeper, a specialist who stands behind the striker's wicket. The nine other fielders are tactically deployed around the field by their captain, usually in consultation with the bowler. The striker "takes guard" on a crease drawn on the pitch four feet in front of the wicket. His role is to prevent the ball from hitting the stumps by using his bat and, simultaneously, to strike it well enough to score runs. The other batsman, known as the non-striker, waits at the opposite end of the pitch near the bowler. The bowler's objectives are to prevent the scoring of runs and to dismiss the batsman. A dismissed batsman, who is declared to be "out", must leave the field to be replaced by a teammate. An over is a set of six deliveries bowled by the same bowler. The next over is bowled from the other end of the pitch by a different bowler.
The most common forms of dismissal are bowled, when the bowler hits the stumps directly with the ball and dislodges the bails; leg before wicket (lbw), when the batsman prevents the ball from hitting the stumps with his body instead of his bat; and caught, when the batsman hits the ball into the air and it is intercepted by a fielder before touching the ground. Runs are scored by two main methods: either by hitting the ball hard enough for it to cross the boundary, or by the two batsmen swapping ends by each simultaneously running the length of the pitch in opposite directions whilst the fielders are retrieving the ball. If a fielder retrieves the ball quickly enough to put down the wicket with a batsman not having reached the crease at that end of the pitch, that batsman is dismissed (a run out occurs). Adjudication is performed on the field by two umpires; they communicate with two off-field scorers (one per team) who record all the match's statistical information including runs, dismissals, overs, etc.
Historically, cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire, leading to the first international matches in the second half of the 19th century. The game's governing body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has over 100 members, twelve of which are full members who play Test cricket. The sport is followed primarily in Australasia, Great Britain and Ireland, the Indian subcontinent, southern Africa and the West Indies. Women's cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. The game's rules are held in a code called the Laws of Cricket which is owned and maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. There are various formats ranging from Twenty20, played over a few hours with each team having a single innings of 20 overs (i.e. 120 deliveries), to Test matches played over five days with unlimited overs and the teams playing two innings apiece. Traditionally cricketers play in all-white kit, but in limited overs cricket they wear club or team colours. In addition to the basic kit, some players wear protective gear to prevent injury caused by the ball, which is a hard, solid spheroid made of compressed leather enclosing a cork core.