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England invented many ball sports, including soccer, rugby and, of course, cricket, which dates back to the 16th Century. It was England's national sport by the end of the 18th century, and the game was expanded to the colonies. England is also responsible for introducing over arm bowling and one-day cricket - however inadvertently, and credit must also be shared with Australia. It also came up with the idea of professional Twenty20 matches - introduced to the counties in 2003 - which went on to take the world by storm.
For the founder of cricket - and the country that subsequently spread it across the globe - it seems anomalous that the England's men side was yet to win a world event until its first victory in a major ICC tournament when it claimed the ICC World Twenty20 2010 title in the West Indies. It came close to winning a second major ICC tournament when it reached the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, in which it was narrowly defeated by India. In that respect, England's international success has been previously limited to Test series. In recent times, its greatest success has been winning the Ashes series at home in 2005, 2009 and 2013. However, the women's side has an outstanding recent record, winning the ICC Women's World Cup, the ICC World Twenty20 and the Ashes in 2009.
There are 18 first-class counties in the English game. They are split into two divisions of nine for the County Championship, a four-day competition founded in 1889. There have been many different versions of one-day competitions - and many changes of name - but currently there are two tournaments, the two-division Pro40 League, and the 50-over four-group competition, the Friends Provident Trophy, which is also open to Ireland and Scotland. There is also a Twenty20 Cup, based on regions, which is open to the 18 first-class counties.
It's hard to go past Ian Botham when looking for the England great. Grace could bat; Trueman could bowl but Botham had it all - fast bowling, destructive batting, useful fielding and an electric personality. All those ingredients produced a potent - and memorable - recipe which will forever be encapsulated in the words Headingley '81. Having been dropped from the captaincy, Botham flashed back to take England from almost certain defeat in the Third Ashes Test. Hair flowing, bat too, he produced an outrageously cavalier innings to seal the win from odds of 500-1. His Test record stands at 14 centuries and 383 wickets. Off the field, he became a tireless fundraiser, marching at great pace to generate money for leukaemia charities. He was knighted in 2007 for his services to cricket and charity. There were other greats like Jack Hobbs who scored 197 first class centuries. Sydney Barnes who picked up 189 wickets in 27 Test matches at 16.43, Wally Hammond and of course Jim Laker who took a record 19 for 90 against Australia in 1956.
Women's cricket began in England. The first recorded match was in 1745, contested between "eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambleton". It was another century before the first club, White Heather, was founded in 1887. The first national organisation, the Women's Cricket Association (WCA) appeared in 1926, and county cricket included territories such as East Anglia until 1997, when the competition began to look more like the men's as the WCA merged with the ECB. Under the board, the England team also changed almost beyond recognition, thanks to better funding and access to specialist trainers. England, who introduced the Women's World Cup in 1973 through captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, has won the coveted trophy three times and the ICC Women's WT20 title once in 2009 at home. It also reached the finals of the ICC World Twenty20 the last two times - in 2012 and 2014, but could not get past Australia on both occasions.