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A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Cricket

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I am a big sports fan who loves explaining the beautiful sport of cricket to others.

Cricket is played between two teams of 11 players on each side. Matches are officiated over by two umpires. Their decisions in the game are final.

Cricket is played between two teams of 11 players on each side. Matches are officiated over by two umpires. Their decisions in the game are final.

How Does Cricket Work?

Like all great world sports, cricket is a very simple game when you break it down. One player will throw a ball while another tries to hit it. However, like all sports, there are a set of rules to play by that you must learn. There is also specific terminology that can be complicated and very confusing.

I am a cricket enthusiast from England and I am going to try to lift some of the layers of confusion from the game. By the end of this article, you will have a basic understanding of how the game works.

The Absolute Basics

Cricket is played between two teams of 11 players on each side. Matches are officiated over by two umpires. Their decisions in the game are final.

Similar to baseball, one team will bat while the other takes the field. The aim of the game is to score more runs than the opposition. Yes, it's that simple!

A game begins with the team captains flipping a coin to see which side will bat first. The winner of the toss can elect to bat first or to take the field first.

Types of Matches

There are three major types of cricket matches that you will see at the professional level.

  • Test match: This is the longest match type; it could potentially last up to five days. Both teams will go through their batting lineup twice for a total of four innings. For reference, one innings (yes, that term is singular and plural) can last for roughly a day. A test match will feature 90 overs; an over refers to six bowls or pitches that a bowler (the guy throwing the ball) delivers.
  • One-day match: As the name suggests, this type of match will only last a day. Each team bats once with 50 overs each.
  • Twenty20: This is the quickest match type. Each team only faces 20 overs, so matches can end within three hours.


The batting side begins by sending in the first two players in their batting order. The striker will be taking pitches from the bowler while the other batsmen, the non-striker, will be at the other end of the pitch. The remainder of the team will wait off of the field for their turn to bat.

Bowls will be delivered to the striker in an attempt to get them out. When this happens, they are replaced by another batsman. This will occur until all players are out, which will be the end of the innings.


The bowler is the one who bowls the ball to the batsman.

The fielding team will disperse around the field to positions designed to either stop runs from being scored or to get the batsmen out. The bowler will take the ball and bowl it to a batsman at the wicket, which are stumps in the ground that designate where the batsman should be. The wicket-keeper, who wears a pair of webbed gloves designed for catching the ball and protective pads covering the shins, will be behind the wicket. They will catch any balls that the batsman fails to hit.

The goal of the bowler will be to prevent runs from being scored by getting the batsman out. This is referred to as a dismissal in cricket.

When one bowler has delivered six balls, that constitutes as 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, as long as no bowler delivers two consecutive overs. Once a bowler begins an over, they must complete it, unless they're injured or suspended during the over.

Basic Cricket Terms

  • Innings: This is how a game is broken up. Innings refer to the duration it takes for a team to bat. A test match has four innings with each team coming up to bat twice. Other match types will only have two innings with each team batting once.
  • Wicket: This refers to the three stumps at the end of a pitch. A batsman will bat in front of the wicket to protect it. Their goal is to prevent the ball from hitting the wicket.
  • Run: This is simply the unit of scoring in cricket. This is most commonly done when a batsman makes a run after making a good hit.
  • Dismissal: This refers to the end of a batman's batting period, similar to an out in baseball. The goal for the fielding team is to dismiss 10 players to end the innings.

Scoring in Cricket

Here are the main methods to score a run in cricket.

  • Single: This is when a batsman makes a good shot that allows him to run to the opposite wicket. A run is scored if they make it to the opposing side; both batsmen must be aware of when this can be done on the field. Double or triple singles are possible as well.
  • Boundary: This is basically the equivalent of a home run in cricket. If a batsman hits the ball to the perimeter of the field, their team is awarded six runs. There is no need to run in a boundary hit.
  • Extras: These refer to points awarded from penalties that are done by the fielding team. This happens when a bowler delivers a wide (an illegal delivery that is too high or wide) or no-ball (the bowler made some type of illegal delivery or a fielder made an illegal action).

Dismissal in Cricket

Here are the basic methods of dismissal in the sport.

  • Bowled: A batsman is out if a delivery hits the wicket. It can be a direct hit or be a deflection off of the batsman or their bat.
  • Caught: A striker is out if they hit a delivery and the ball is caught by a bowler or a fielder before it hits the ground.
  • Leg before wicket: A striker is out if the ball hits any part of their body and the umpire decides that the delivery would have hit the wicket. This does not apply if the delivery hit the bat.
  • Run out: This happens when the batsmen are running between wickets. If the fielding team puts down a wicket while the ball is in play, the batsman closest to the wicket is out.
  • Stumped: This occurs when the wicket-keeper puts down a wicket when a batsman has stepped out of his grounds.

Are You Interested?

This is the basic outline of how the game is played. Cricket is an exciting sport that has a huge following. If you think this game is intriguing, I encourage you to do more research about the sport. I highly recommend watching a professional game!

Reader Feedback

Babysparkle on September 15, 2019:

Nice simple account of cricket, a sport that has just seemed interesting to me - thank you! :o)

Neil Kelson on January 30, 2019:

I also love cricket -- great Web pages

aliajamesaj8914 on August 02, 2014:

I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

aliajamesaj8914 on August 02, 2014:

I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

aliajamesaj8914 on August 02, 2014:

I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 23, 2013:

It is so hard to explain cricket to someone who doesn't understand and you've done a great job. I think, when you know the game, you love it so much you forget to cover the basics. Mr Boycott said something interesting (for once.) Batting is like the opposite of golf where, the worse you play, the more goes you get.

Im into that on January 03, 2013:

Watching Aus Vs Sri Lanka right now. Cricket is Awesome! Go the Aussies

Lee from Derbyshire, UK on January 01, 2013:

Great lens, seems so many people have never really got into the game which is so sad

Kay on November 27, 2012:

My son played cricket when we lived in the Caribbean. I could have really used this page because I just didn't understand it :)

Negombotown on May 17, 2012:

we love Cricket

anonymous on May 08, 2012:

I used to enjoy going to one day cricket matches, I liked the quicker pace of the game as opposed to test matches. Great information on the basics of Cricket.

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on April 27, 2012:

At last somewhere I can send my American friends to learn all about it. I've tried to explain but ended up mystifying them.

cricandcric1557 on April 23, 2012:

This is the best article Iâve ever seen on this topic. Iâll be linking and sending out links to this one for a long time.

HenkWillemse on April 07, 2012:

Great post, there are a couple of people I would like to show this to.

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on March 21, 2012:

Cricket is one of my favourite sports and we played it a lot when I was in my teens. I prefer it to sports like baseball 'cos there is so much of variation, both in bowling and batting.

julieannbrady on March 04, 2012:

Well, I always wondered what it was about cricket that made it so appealing. Now, I think I know!

anonymous on February 19, 2012:

Also check out our website : for latest scores

AllenShapiro on February 06, 2012:

Love cricket humor and wit .. check out my lens for tons of cricket laughter :)

goo2eyes lm on January 28, 2012:

i play softball and i think i can hit the ball with a flat batter.

Natalie W Schorr on December 08, 2011:

Very thorough lens!

jacinto888 on November 29, 2011:

Great link, I never know how to play and this lens gives a great explanation

ScareYouDiva on October 25, 2011:

great explanation! I always wondered how cricket worked. I'm looking forward to watching it and actually understanding what's happening now. Thanks

Shivani09 LM on October 13, 2011:

Interesting lens!

PopArtGirl on September 03, 2011:

Great lens - love cricket!

pramodbisht on June 19, 2011:

nice lens

humzayunas on June 17, 2011:

cricket is very good game and i like cricket

anansigirls lm on May 30, 2011:

Nice try, but I am still none the wiser. A few years ago I went to a picnic where they were short of a player and asked a friend of mine, who didn't have a clue about cricket, to stand in. He was given a bat, and someone told him: Now, whenever someone throws a ball at you, you just hit it. Apparently it worked (the picnic was suddenly extented to 8 hours). And that's still all I know about cricket. However, I had fun reading the lens.

SandyPeaks on May 28, 2011:

Very helpful lens, nicely explained. Used to play ladies cricket myself, once.

anonymous on May 13, 2011:

I feel better equipped on cricket now, less chances of people making fun.

VarietyWriter2 on March 16, 2011:

Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

CliveAnderson LM on March 06, 2011:

I'll be honest... I'm not a great fan, but perhaps that was down to my ignorants of like so many others not knowing the full rules of the game. Thanks to your lens I now have a better understanding and so will probably enjoy the game a whole lot more... Thank you for sharing,

Warm Regards,


Vicki from USA on March 03, 2011:

I'm not a dummy. I'm an idiot. I knew nothing about cricket, but I know a little now. Thank you for explaining! Nice, well-presented lens! ~Vicki~

just2011 on February 02, 2011:

A nice & compact lens on cricket.

huvalbd on December 04, 2010:

I moved to England from the States, and until now cricket has remained a complete mystery to me. Thank you for helping me begin to understand.

sallemange on November 18, 2010:

When you're in you try to stay in and not get out whilst the team that are out try to get in and get you out. This is complicated by the totally arbitrary rule of 'leg before wicket'

anonymous on November 17, 2010:

well explained about the basics

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on October 28, 2010:

very detailed informations. well presented lens.

regregerson on October 28, 2010:

Great lens. Thank you!

ZazzleEnchante on October 20, 2010:

A very informative, well researched lens! Loved reading thru it!

Paula Morgan from Sydney Australia on October 05, 2010:

Great lens - more of the world should play cricket! Blessed by an angel

Yourshowman LM on September 27, 2010:

Great lens

I Love cricket.I am all-Rounder. Your lens helped to know more tricks and tips about my favorite game

LouisaDembul on September 18, 2010:

I was beginning to get the hang of it towards the end!

reasonablerobby on September 17, 2010:

I live near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. I played for the school cricket team, pretty good bowler, lousy batter. You've done a good job of explaining this strange game!

chrisqw (author) on September 16, 2010:

Thanks for the kind comments. I'm glad its made cricket at least a bit more understandable!

divacratus 2 on September 14, 2010:

Well explained! I love cricket but never really understood the game completely. You've made it easier for me. Thanks!

piedromolinero on September 13, 2010:

I didn't know anything about cricket before. Recently it even happened that I called the bat a racket. Now I know better. :)

anonymous on August 27, 2010:

Thumbs up!

Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.


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Sadheeskumar on February 16, 2010:

Nice lens about Cricket. I am a big cricket fan. I have created a few cricket related lens. If you got a time, visit my lenses. I am sure you will enjoy.

1. Umpiring Signals

2. Sachin Tendulkar

3. M S Dhoni

4. Virendar Sehwag

anonymous on November 02, 2009:

Very nice, I can actually understand your explanation.

Greetings from Minnesota, USA

anonymous on July 17, 2009:

I am officially a cricket widow so figured I might as well learn what the game is about since it's taken over my husband's life for the duration of the Ashes.

This was a great explanation .... what are clever comments to make or interesting things to look out for. My husband is Australian and I am English so patronising comments are even better. He seems to think they are loads better than us but somehow didn't win?


anonymous on July 08, 2009:

Excellent!...I now think I know what a "wicket" is!...always wanted to know...thank you!

anonymous on May 22, 2009:

Visiting Lord's next week for T20. Thank you very much for explaining this interesting game.

Kind Regards.

anonymous on May 11, 2009:

This helped me enormously, thanks. I'm a lady wanting to show interest in my new b/f's game. So now I know what he's talking about!

anonymous on January 28, 2009:

Thank u for theses explanations, it give the good basics to understand this beautiful game

Spook LM on May 22, 2008:

I quite enjoyed reading this and think it,s a great lens,keep it up and the best of luck.Cheers