Cricket is a team sport for two teams of eleven players each. A formal game of cricket can last anything from an afternoon to several days.
Although the game play and rules are very different, the basic concept of cricket is similar to that of baseball. Teams bat in successive innings and attempt to score runs, while the opposing team fields and attempts to bring an end to the batting team’s innings. After each team has batted an equal number of innings (either one or two, depending on conditions chosen before the game), the team with the most runs wins.
(Note: In cricket-speak, the word “innings” is used for both the plural and the singular. “Inning” is a term used only in baseball.)
- Cricket Ball
Hard, cork and string ball, covered with leather. A bit like a baseball (in size and hardness), but the leather covering is thicker and joined in two hemispheres, not in a tennis ball pattern. The seam is thus like an equator, and the stitching is raised slightly. The circumference is between 224 and 229 millimetres (8.81 to 9.00 inches), and the ball weighs between 156 and 163 grams (5.5 to 5.75 ounces). Traditionally the ball is dyed red, with the stitching left white. Nowadays white balls are also used, for visibility in games played at night under artificial lighting.
- Cricket Bat
Blade made of willow, flat on one side, humped on the other for strength, attached to a sturdy cane handle. The blade has a maximum width of 108 millimetres (4.25 inches) and the whole bat has a maximum length of 965 millimetres (38 inches).
There are two wickets – wooden structures made up of a set of three stumps topped by a pair of bails. These are described below.
Three wooden posts, 25 millimetres (1 inch) in diameter and 813 millimetres (32 inches) high. They have have spikes extending from their bottom end and are hammered into the ground in an evenly spaced row, with the outside edges of the outermost stumps 228 millimetres (9 inches) apart. This means they are just close enough together that a cricket ball cannot pass between them.
Two wooden crosspieces which sit in grooves atop the adjacent pairs of stumps.
- Protective Gear
Pads, gloves, helmet, etc for batsmen to wear to prevent injury when struck by the ball.
Leather, usually with spiked soles for grip on the grass.
Long pants, shirt (long or short sleeved depending on the weather), possibly a sleeveless or long-sleeved woolen pullover in cold weather. For games played with a red ball, the clothing must be white or cream. With a white ball, players usually wear uniforms in solid team colors. Add a hat or cap to keep the sun off. There are no regulations regarding identifying marks or numbers on clothing.
A cricket field is a roughly elliptical field of flat grass, ranging in size from about 90 to 150 meters (100-160 yards) across, bounded by an obvious fence or other marker. There is no fixed size or shape for the field, although large deviations from a low-eccentricity ellipse are discouraged. In the centre of the field, and usually aligned along the long axis of the ellipse, is the pitch , a carefully prepared rectangle of closely mown and rolled grass over hard packed earth. It is marked with white lines, called creases, like this:
The dimensions are in centimetres (divide by 2.54 for inches).
The order in which the teams bat is determined by a coin toss. The captain of the side winning the toss may elect to bat or field first.
All eleven players of the fielding team go out to field, two players of the batting team go out to bat. The remainder of the batting team wait off the field for their turn to bat. Each batsman wears protective gear and carries a cricket bat.
The game progresses by the bowling of balls. The sequence of events which constitutes a ball follows:
The fielding team disperses around the field, to positions designed to stop runs being scored or to get batsmen out. One fielder is the bowler. He takes the ball and stands some distance behind one of the wickets (i.e., away from the pitch). Another fielder is the wicket-keeper, who wears a pair of webbed gloves designed for catching the ball and protective pads covering the shins. He squats behind the opposite wicket. The rest of the fielders have no special equipment – gloves to assist catching the ball are not allowed to anyone but the wicket-keeper.
One batsman stands behind each popping crease, near a wicket. The batsman farthest from the bowler is the striker, the other is the non-striker. The striker stands before his wicket, on or near the popping crease, in the batting stance.
The batsman stands with his bat held down in front of the wicket, ready to hit the ball, which will be bowled from the other end of the pitch. The batsman usually rests the lower end of the bat on the pitch and then taps the bat on the pitch a few times as “warm-up” backswings.
The non-striker simply stands behind the other popping crease, waiting to run if necessary. The bowler takes a run-up from behind the non-striker’s wicket. He passes to one side of the wicket, and when he reaches the non-striker’s popping crease he bowls the ball towards the striker, usually bouncing the ball once on the pitch before it reaches the striker. (The bowling action will be described in detail later.)
The striker may then attempt to hit the ball with his bat. If he misses it, the wicket-keeper will catch it and the ball is completed. If he hits it, the two batsmen may score runs (described later). When the runs are completed, the ball is also considered completed. The ball is considered to be in play from the moment the bowler begins his run-up. It remains in play until any of several conditions occur (two common ones were just described), after which it is called dead. The ball is also dead if it lodges in the striker’s clothing or equipment. Once the ball is dead, it is returned to the bowler for the next delivery (another name for the bowling of a ball). Between deliveries, the batsmen may leave their creases and confer with each other.
When one bowler has completed six balls, that constitutes an over. A different member of the fielding team is given the ball and bowls the next over – from the opposite end of the pitch. The batsmen do not change ends, so the roles of striker and non-striker swap after each over. Any member of the fielding team may bowl, so long as no bowler delivers two consecutive overs. Once a bowler begins an over, he must complete it, unless injured or suspended during the over.
Another possibility during a ball is that a batsman may get out. There are ten different methods of being out – these will be described in detail later. If a batsman gets out, the ball is dead immediately, so it is impossible to get the other batsman out during the same ball. The out batsman leaves the field, and the next batsman in the team comes in to bat. The not out batsman remains on the field. The order in which batsmen come in to bat in an innings is not fixed. The batting order may be changed by the team captain at any time, and the order does not have to be the same in each innings.
When ten batsmen are out, no new batsmen remain to come in, and the innings is completed with one batsman remaining not out. The roles of the teams then swap, and the team which fielded first gets to bat through an innings. When both teams have completed the agreed number of innings, the team which has scored the most runs wins.
Whenever a batsman hits the ball during a delivery, he may score runs. A run is scored by the batsmen running between the popping creases, crossing over midway between them. When they both reach the opposite crease, one run is scored, and they may return for another run immediately. The fielding side attempts to prevent runs being scored by threatening to run out one of the batsmen.
If the batsmen are attempting to take runs, and a fielder gathers the ball and hits a wicket with it, dislodging one or both bails, while no batsman is behind that wicket’s popping crease, then the nearest batsman is run out. Specifically, the batsman must have some part of his body or his bat (provided he is holding it) grounded behind (not on) the crease.
The batsmen carry their bats as they run, and turning for another run is accomplished by touching the ground beyond the crease with an outstretched bat. The batsmen do not have to run at any time they think it is unsafe – it is common to hit the ball and elect not to run.
If the batsmen run one or three (or five! rare, but possible), then they have swapped ends and their striker/non-striker roles are reversed for the next ball (unless the ball just completed is the end of an over).
In addition to scoring runs like this, if a batsman hits the ball so that it reaches the boundary fence, he scores four runs, without needing to actually run them. If a batsman hits the ball over the boundary on the full, he scores six runs. If a four or six is scored, the ball is completed and the batsmen cannot be run out. If a spectator encroaches on to the field and touches the ball, it is considered to have reached the boundary. If a fielder gathers the ball, but then steps outside or touches the boundary while still holding the ball, four runs are scored. If a fielder catches the ball on the full and, either during or immediately after the catch, steps outside or touches the boundary, six runs are scored.
The batsmen usually stop taking runs when a fielder is throwing the ball back towards the pitch area. If no fielder near the pitch gathers the ball and it continues into the outfield again, the batsmen may take more runs. Such runs are called overthrows. If the ball reaches the boundary on an overthrow, four runs are scored in addition to the runs taken before the overthrow occurred.
Runs scored by a batsman, including all overthrows, are credited to him by the scorer. The number of runs scored by each batsman is an important statistic.
If, while running multiple runs, a batsman does not touch the ground beyond the popping crease before he returns for the next run, then the umpire at that end will signal one short, and the number of runs scored is reduced by one.
Learn more about the fundamentals of Cricket in Part II !