The club's own teams are essentially ad hoc because they have never taken part in any formal competition. MCC teams held important match status from 1787 to 1894; and first-class status from 1895. To mark the beginning of each English season in April, MCC hosts the reigning County Champions.
In 1788, the MCC took responsibility for the Laws of Cricket, issuing a revised version that year. Although changes to the Laws are now determined by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the copyright is still owned by MCC. The club was formerly the governing body of cricket in England and Wales and, as the sport's legislator, held considerable global influence.
For much of the 20th century, commencing with the 1903–04 tour of Australia and ending with the 1976–77 tour of India, MCC organised international tours in which the England cricket team played Test matches. On these tours, the England team was called MCC in non-international matches. In 1993, its administrative and governance functions were transferred to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB).
The origin of MCC was as a gentlemen's club that had flourished through most of the 18th century, including, at least in part, an existence as the original London Cricket Club, which had played at the Artillery Ground through the middle years of the century. Many of its members became involved with the Hambledon Club through the 1770s and then, in the early 1780s, had returned to the London area where the White Conduit Club had begun in Islington. It is not known for certain when the White Conduit was founded but it seems to have been after 1780 and certainly by 1785. According to Pelham Warner, it was formed in 1782 as an offshoot from a West End convivial club called the Je-ne-sais-quoi, some of whose members frequented the White Conduit House in Islington and played matches on the neighbouring White Conduit Fields, which had been a prominent venue for cricket in the 1720s. Arthur Haygarth said in Scores and Biographies that "the Marylebone Club was founded in 1787 from the White Conduit's members" but the date of the formation of the White Conduit "could not be found".
This gentlemen's club, which was multi-purpose, had a social meeting place at the Star and Garter on Pall Mall. It was the same club that was responsible for drafting the Laws of Cricket at various times, most notably in 1744 and 1774, and this lawgiving responsibility was soon to be vested in the MCC as the final repose of these cricketing gentlemen. When the White Conduit began, its leading lights were George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (1752–1826) and the Hon. Colonel Charles Lennox (1764–1819), who later became the 4th Duke of Richmond. White Conduit was nominally an exclusive club that only "gentlemen" might play for, but the club did employ professionals and one of these was the bowler Thomas Lord, a man who was recognised for his business acumen (he became a successful wine and provisions merchant) as well as his bowling ability.