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China: National Cricket Fighting Championships

While the autumn heralds the start of the conker season in Britain, in China it means the age-old tradition of cricket fighting is about to get underway.

Enthusiasts in the Orient have been gathering to pit their prize insects against each other for about 1,000 years.

And this year more than 20 teams from across China competed in the two-day National Cricket Fighting Championships.

The reputations of the crickets' owners are on the line and plenty of betting takes place on the side meaning the matches are fraught with tension.

Man Zhiguo, a truck driver who has been involved in the sport for more than 40 years, said: 'I raise crickets as a hobby because I admire their positive spirit.

'They never admit defeat, they have a fighting spirit, so we all like them.'

Man, 54, has a diverse collection of at least 70 crickets from all over China, some of which are worth more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600).

Similar to cockfighting but without the blood, two crickets are sent into a ring the size of a shoebox to do battle.

They are goaded with small sticks or pieces of straw until they are 'hopping mad' and ready for a fight.

At the national championships, each team was allowed 35 crickets and each insect was weighed and labelled the day before the competition.

Fans packed into a small, smoky hall to watch the drama unfold from a big screen.

Championship organiser Zhao Boguang said: 'We must have crickets within the same weight category compete, just like what we do with wrestling, weight-lifting and boxing.'

Judges follow a set of strict guidelines, most dating back to the 13th century, to determine match points.

Results were tallied by gauging which cricket was able to overcome the other and then posted for viewing outside the match hall.

Winning teams moved through elimination rounds over the two days, with points deducted for failing to abide by rules such as delivering the crickets to the organisers six days before the competition.

As for Man, his crickets did not lose a single match, but his team only managed fourth place overall.


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