A Beginner's Guide to Cricket
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.
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
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.
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