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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Quickly" Explaining Cricket to Americans

As a sports enthusiast, I appreciate learning new and foreign games from time to time. Cricket has always intrigued me, but its lack of presence on American television makes it difficult to learn and to get excited about. I finally resolved to batten down the hatches and learn the rules. While I'm at it, I might as well write down what I learned so other Americans can have a quick and dirty explanation of the rules.

There is a lot of terminology which may be foreign even to baseball fans. As such, I will try to follow any unclear terms with definitions in parentheses. I will also try to make comparisons to baseball whenever appropriate and helpful for clarity.

Let's first talk about the players. Each team consists of 11 players and 1 substitute. On the offensive side, each player will be a batsman during the match. On the defensive side, the players are separated into three main categories: bowlers (like pitchers), fielders, and a keeper (like a catcher). At any time, there is only one player bowling and one player keeping. The other nine players roam the field, trying to catch any balls hit toward them.

When on offense, a team sends two of its batsman to the area where the bowling (pitching) is done, called the pitch. One batsman stands on the opposite end of the bowler and the other batsman stands on the same end as the bowler. The batsman who is opposite of the bowler (also called the striker) is tasked with "protecting the wickets" which are three wooden stakes that are hammered into the ground behind him. If the bowler is able to break the wickets by hitting a stake with the ball, the striker is dismissed (out) and is then replaced by a new batsman. Note: There is another set of wickets directly behind the bowler.



In order to score runs, the striker and his opposite batsman must successfully cross the pitch (measuring about 60 feet) and cross the crease (essentially a batter's box) with either his body or his bat (they both carry their bats with them while running). Each time they manage to swap sides, they earn their team 2 points. After the ball has been bowled, the batsmen must together decide whether they will risk leaving their creases to attempt to score runs. If the ball looks as if it will not be caught in the air or picked up off the ground and quickly returned, the batsmen will take off running. They will continue to run back and forth, scoring two runs each time, until they feel as if they cannot safely cross again. Should the fielders or keeper return the ball and knock over a wicket while a batsman is not safely in the crease, that batsman is dismissed. Until dismissed, he and his partner continue batting.

As I said before, the batsmen can continue to run as long as they believe they will safely cross the pitch. Scoring one to three runs per batsman is common when crossing the pitch, but more than that is unlikely. Similar to baseball, there is a boundary around the pitch (which is generally shaped like an oval). If the batsman hits the ball and it bounces across the boundary (like a ground rule double), the batsman earns 4 runs and needs not cross the pitch. If the ball manages to clear the boundary while flying through the air (like a home run), the batsman is awarded 6 runs.

The format of a Cricket match can vary greatly, but the match is most commonly divided into innings. An innings (Cricket adds an "s" to inning for both the singular and plural form) continues for the offensive team until 10 out of the 11 batsmen have been dismissed. Not all 11 are required to be dismissed to end an innings because each striker needs a non-striker batsman to run opposite himself. When a team's innings is over, the fielding team and batting team swap sides.

Also important to note is the idea of "overs." Each bowler may only bowl one over, which consists of six consecutive balls thrown. After a bowler finishes his over, another bowler must replace him for no bowler may throw consecutive overs.

Finally, and I'm sure I left out some important details, I will cover the four most prominent ways of being dismissed as a batsman:
  1. "Bowled" - The bowler successfully gets the ball past the striker and "breaks" the wicket, which means it has either literally broken or one of the small pieces of wood sitting on top and essentially connecting the wickets together has been dislodged.
  2. "Caught" - The batsman's batted ball has been caught out of the air by one of the members of the other team.
  3. "Leg Before Wicket" - In the simplest sense, if the ball hits the striker when it would have hit the wickets, the striker is dismissed. Think of this rule as sort of an anti-goaltending rule. It prevents the batsman from purposefully getting hit to avoid being "bowled."
  4. "Run Out" - If a member of the defensive side breaks a wicket with the ball while the batsman nearest that wicket has not crossed the crease to safety, that batsman is dismissed.
A batter that has been "bowled"

The other six ways are less common and include rules about obstructing a fielder or mishitting the ball.
Note: There are also other ways of scoring runs that I have not mentioned for the sake of brevity.

So that's the basic gist of Cricket. If you have any questions or clarifications, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to provide an answer or look it up!

Sources: Wikipedia, Cricket-Rules.comLearn-Cricket.com

- Isaac M. Comelli (5/22/13)

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