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A Beginner's Guide to Cricket

James has been an online writer for over seven years. His articles often focus on wildlife, but he is also a diehard Scottish football fan.

A classic Cricket scene displayed here in the form of a Test Match between England and South Africa.

A classic Cricket scene displayed here in the form of a Test Match between England and South Africa.

The Basics

Cricket is a bat and ball sport played between two teams of 11 players. The bat itself is wooden, long and rectangular. The ball is usually red and made of leather, cork and string.

The game is played on a large oval field, with a smaller inner oval used as a guide for placement of the fielders, and a 22-yard pitch in the centre. At each end of the pitch are a set of wickets—three long, wooden stumps set into the ground with two wooden bails resting on top.

The game is broken up into separate events known as balls, or deliveries of the ball by a bowler to the batsman. Six balls/deliveries constitute a single over, and each team’s innings is limited to a number of overs, depending on which form the game is being played. The T20 version is limited to just 20 overs, the One Day version is limited 50 overs and the Test or First Class version (the original version) is time limited to a certain number of days, usually five.

Two batsmen must be on the field in order for the innings to continue whilst at the same time all 11 players of the bowling team field at various parts of the ground, with the exception of the bowler and wicketkeeper.

Overseeing the game are two on-field umpires. They make all of the decisions on the field in regards to the rules of the game. There is also a Third or TV umpire, who has the final say on any decision referred to him by either of the on-field umpires.

A diagram of the typical layout of a Cricket pitch.

A diagram of the typical layout of a Cricket pitch.

A diagram of the fielding positions on a Cricket field, as would be seen by a right handed batsman.

A diagram of the fielding positions on a Cricket field, as would be seen by a right handed batsman.

Scoring and Winning the Game

A run is scored each time the two on-field batsmen run between the white creases at either end of the pitch. Runs can be scored whenever the ball is in play, in other words, the time between when the ball leaves the bowler and when it is returned to either the bowler or wicketkeeper.

For the batsman, the objective is to hit the ball as far away from any fielders as possible, in order to score more runs. The best shots are the ones that reach the field boundary—if the ball bounces before reaching the boundary, then it counts as four runs, and if it doesn’t, then it counts as six.

A team wins the game by scoring more runs than the other team. If a batsman is given out or dismissed, it is known as a “wicket.” Matches can be tied if both teams finish with the same amount of runs, but this is very rare indeed. Drawn matches are far more common, and these occur when all of the expected innings are incomplete, usually through running out of time in Test or First Class matches or through the weather.

The Master Blaster

India's Sachin Tendulkar is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in history, amassing 15.921 runs in 200 Test matches.

India's Sachin Tendulkar is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in history, amassing 15.921 runs in 200 Test matches.

Run of Play

Whenever a ball is bowled, the batsman on strike has to try and achieve one of two objectives. Firstly, hit the ball in order to try and score a run/runs, and secondly, try and avoid getting out. If the bowler manages to strike the wickets with the ball, then the batsman is out. This is referred to as being “bowled” out. The other common ways that a batsman can be out is through LBW or leg before wicket, caught by a fielder, wicketkeeper or bowler, run out and stumped.

In any Test Match innings, the objective of the batting team is to score as many runs as possible while the bowling team tries to restrict them to as few runs as possible, or ideally bowl 10 of the 11 batsmen out.

You're Out!

A Cricket umpire giving the typical signal telling a batsman that they are out.

A Cricket umpire giving the typical signal telling a batsman that they are out.

What to Look Out For

When watching a game of cricket will get you to quickly notice that there are two basic types of bowlers. Firstly there are fast bowlers, they bowl after a long run up with the aim of trying to generate as much ball speed as possible from the hand. Secondly, there are spin bowlers, they bowl more slowly, with the aim of trying to spin the ball sideways off the surface of the pitch in order to try and deceive the batsman.

When watching a Cricket match, you’ll see the camera pan towards the umpire whenever a big decision has to be made. You’ll see them make a variety of different arm and hand signals to indicate a decision. Here’s a quick guide to what some of those signals mean.

  • Four runs: The umpire will extend their arm forward and wave it back and forth.
  • Six runs: Both arms are raised aloft.
  • Out: The index finger of one hand is raised aloft.
  • Wide ball: Both arms are extended horizontally.
  • No ball: one arm is extended horizontally. A no ball occurs when the bowler has stepped completely over the crease during their delivery.

Like all sports, Cricket is awash with statistics, so here are a few to keep an eye out for. Firstly there are the scoring rates. Scoring rate are always important; if a team has a slow scoring rate for instance, then it’s likely they will fall short of a competitive total. Whereas a fast scoring rate will inevitably lead to more risks being taken, and thus more chance of being bowled out.

Secondly, there are the milestones. Milestones are special in any sport, and in Cricket the ones to keep an eye out for are batsmen reaching either a half century (50 runs) or a century (100). Anything above that is truly remarkable. On the bowling side of things, then claiming 5 wickets or more is seen as an exceptional innings.

Lastly, there are fielding restrictions. You won’t see this in Test Match Cricket, but in a limited overs match, a team will sometimes be subject to restrictions on the amount of fielders they can have on the outside of the inner circle. Usually it's for about 40% of a limited overs innings. This is designed to encourage the batsmen to take more risks, hit the ball harder and into the air, in order to please the crowd.

A True Cricketing Milestone

© 2019 James Kenny


James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 11, 2019:

Thank you very much. I'm hoping that this article will inspire and few readers to at least show an interest in a great game.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on August 10, 2019:

Very informative article for laymen to understand the game of cricket.

The picture of the field is quite educative about the different words used by the umpires while giving their running commentaries.

James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 09, 2019:

Thank you sweetheart xxxx

Paula on August 08, 2019:

Fabulous article ❤️xxxx

James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 08, 2019:

No problem Larry, it can be a hard game to grasp, but once you give it a chance it does grow on you. It's still our national sport, although Football (Soccer) gets far more coverage nowadays.

James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 08, 2019:

Thanks Chuck, funny you mentioning Baseball, as during my research I discovered that our two national sports have a common link. Turns out that an English born cricketer called Henry Chadwick invented the modern Baseball box score modelling it on a similar one used in Cricket still to this day.

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on August 08, 2019:

Looks really interesting. I had always been curious how the game was played; seen it on television off and on my entire life, but never really grasped the rules until now. Thank you for sharing!

Chuck Nugent from Tucson, Arizona on August 08, 2019:

Fascinating Hub. I'm an American but have heard references to Cricket since my youth but have never known much more other than it has a bat and ball like baseball. Thanks to your Hub, especially the diagram, I now have a good basic idea as to how it is played. Thanks

James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 08, 2019:

I must admit Liz that I don't watch much ODI or T20 Cricket, as I'm more of a purist. I did see the highlights of the Final and Stokes' extra run. According to the laws of the game: “If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side and the allowance for the boundary and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.” So England should have only been given 5 runs, as Stokes and Rashid hadn't crossed the line for their second run. It's all in the past now though. I'm looking forward to the 2nd Test, hopefully we can do a better job at stopping Steve Smith at Lord's.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 08, 2019:

This is a great idea for an article. Your map of the field explains a lot of the terms I am a bit hazy about. Very topical too, following the first match in the Ashes series, just a shame we lost. Going back to the world cup final, which seems an age ago now, should England have had 6 runs off that misfielded ball?

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