The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport event that takes place every four years (usually in between the Olympics), this time involving athletes from 72 nations and territories, many of which were at one time British colonies. The first edition, called the British Empire Games, was held in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930.
Similar to the Olympics, some sports can come and go from the Commonwealth Games and increasingly that list - determined by the host city with agreement from the governing body - is ever evolving in addition to "core sports" that are always featured, like athletics and swimming.
Africa was due to stage the Games for the first time when the South African city of Durban was awarded hosting rights in September 2015. But the Commonwealth Games Federation removed those rights in March 2017 after it emerged that financial constraints brought on by South Africa's flagging economy would prevent the city from fulfilling some of the promises made when it bid for the event. Birmingham was announced as Durban's replacement to host the Games in December 2017. The opening ceremony will be held on July 27 and the Games close on August 8.
Men's cricket featured at the 1998 Commonwealth Games as a 50-over tournament involving 16 teams in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where South Africa won the gold medal after defeating Australia by four wickets in the final. New Zealand won the bronze-medal match against Sri Lanka, while India did not make it out of their group.
Women's cricket will be played in the 2022 Games after the ICC and ECB lobbied successfully for its inclusion. In announcing Birmingham's proposal for women's cricket, the Commonwealth Games Federation said that the sport's addition was "likely to be popular not only with spectators locally in Birmingham, but also for fans across competing nations, with 90% of the sport's one billion fans worldwide thought to reside in the Commonwealth".
Supporters of the ICC's push to have cricket included in the Olympics from 2028 in Los Angeles (LA) and beyond will no doubt have a keen eye on this event as a test case, particularly given that the sport failed to make the provisional list for LA with a final decision looming next year. No pressure, then!
Who's playing cricket at the Games?
The women's cricket competition will be played in the T20 format featuring eight teams split into two groups. Group A comprises Australia, India, Pakistan and Barbados, while Group B is England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka, who were the winners of a qualifying tournament - which also involved Bangladesh, Scotland, Malaysia and Kenya - to determine the eighth team. All the matches in the Games will be classified as T20 internationals.
Each team plays the other teams in its group once with the top two in each group advancing to the semi-finals. The top team in Group A will play the second-placed team in Group B in the semis, and the Group B leaders will play the second-placed team in Group A for a spot in the final. The runners-up from each semi-final will go into the bronze-medal playoff.
The women's cricket event begins with Australia playing India on July 29, while India play Pakistan on July 31.
In late 2020, the ICC announced a qualification process for the Commonwealth Games: England automatically made it as hosts, along with the six highest-ranked sides as of April 1, 2021, with the eighth and final place going to the winner of a qualifying tournament - Sri Lanka.
West Indies were direct qualifiers under that rankings criteria and so a tournament within the region - involving Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and two composite teams representing Leeward Islands and Windward Islands - was planned to determine which Caribbean country would compete in the Games. That competition was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Barbados were selected to participate in the Games because they were the champions of the West Indies' regional competition - the Twenty20 Blaze.
For all you statsgurus out there, Barbados' matches at the Games count at T20Is, so player and team stats will count as international stats. Some familiar names in the Barbados squad include Hayley Matthews, their captain and recently appointed West Indies skipper, star allrounder Deandra Dottin, twin sisters Kycia and Kyshona Knight, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell and Aaliyah Alleyne, all of whom are experienced players for West Indies.
Who are the favourites?
Australia. It has to be Australia. Their dominance in recent years has been there for all to see and they would love to add the inaugural Commonwealth Games title in women's cricket to the T20 World Cup they won at the MCG in 2020, and the ODI World Cup they claimed in emphatic fashion in New Zealand this year.