About Cricket

Cricket is a team sport played between two groups of eleven players each. It originated in its modern form in England, and is popular mainly in the countries of the Commonwealth. In some countries in South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, cricket is by far the most popular sport. Cricket is also a major sport in England and Wales, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, which are known in cricketing parlance as the West Indies.

The length of the game — a match can last six or more hours a day for up to five days in one form of the game — the numerous intervals for lunch and tea, and the rich terminology are notable aspects which can often confuse those not familiar with the sport. For its fans, the sport and the intense rivalries between top cricketing nations provide passionate entertainment and outstanding sporting achievements. It has even occasionally given rise to diplomatic outrage, the most infamous being the Bodyline series played between England and Australia.

Objective and summary

Cricket is a bat and ball sport. The objective of the game is to score more runs (points) than the opposing team. A match is divided into innings[1] during which one team bats and the other bowls.

If, in a two-innings match, the first team to bat is dismissed in their second innings with a combined first- and second-innings score less than the first-innings score of their opponents (a rare occurrence), the match is concluded and they are said to have lost by an innings and n runs, where n is the difference in score between the teams. If the team batting last is dismissed with the scores exactly equal, i.e. they are one run short of their target (an extremely rare occurrence) the match is a tie.

If the match has only a single innings per side, with a set number of deliveries, and the match is temporarily interrupted by bad weather, then a complex mathematical formula known as the Duckworth-Lewis method is used to recalculate a new target score.

If such a match is abandoned without completion due to an impossibility of continuing the play, because of an extended period of bad weather, unruly crowd, or any such unlikely event or situation, the result is declared as No-Result if fewer than a previously agreed number of overs has been bowled by either team.

Laws of cricket

The game is played in accordance with 42 laws of cricket, which have been developed by the Marylebone Cricket Club in discussion with the main cricketing nations. Teams may agree to alter some of the rules for particular games. Other rules supplement the main laws and change them to deal with different circumstances. In particular, there are a number of modifications to the playing structure and fielding position rules that apply to one innings games that are restricted to a set number of fair deliveries.

Players and officials

Each team consists of eleven players. Depending on his primary skills, a player may be classified as a specialist batsman or bowler. A balanced team usually has five or six specialist batsmen and four or five specialist bowlers. A player who excels in both fields is known as an all-rounder. One player of the team that is currently bowling takes up the role of a wicket-keeper, which is a highly specialised fielding position.

Two on-field umpires preside over a match. One umpire will stand behind the wicket at the end from which the ball is bowled, and adjudicate on most decisions. The other will stand near the fielding position called square leg, which offers a side view of the batsman, and assist on decisions for which he has a better view. In some professional matches, they may refer a decision to an off-field ´third´ umpire, who has the assistance of television replays. In international matches an off-field match referee ensures that play is within the laws of cricket and the spirit of the game.

The playing field

A standard cricket ground, showing the cricket pitch (brown), close-infield (light green) within 15 yards (13.7 m) of the striking batsman, infield (medium green) inside the white 30 yard (27.4 m) circle, and outfield (dark green), with sight screens beyond the boundary at either end.

A wicket consists of three stumps, upright wooden poles that are hammered into the ground, topped with two wooden crosspieces, known as the bails.

The standard fielding positions in cricket for a right-handed batsman; the positions are reflected for a left-handed batsman.

A perspective view of the cricket pitch from the bowler´s end. The bowler runs in past one side of the wicket at the bowler´s end, either ´over´ the wicket or ´round´ the wicket.

The Cricket pitch dimensions

The cricket field consists of a large circular or oval-shaped grassy ground. There are no fixed dimensions for the field but its diameter usually varies between 450 feet (137 m) to 500 feet (150 m). On most grounds, a rope demarcates the perimeter of the field and is known as the boundary.

The pitch

Most of the action takes place in the centre of this ground, on a rectangular clay strip usually with short grass called the pitch. The pitch measures 10 × 66 feet (3.05 × 20.12 m).

At each end of the pitch three upright wooden poles, called the stumps, are hammered into the ground. Two wooden crosspieces, known as the bails, sit in grooves atop the stumps, linking each to its neighbour. Each set of three stumps and two bails is collectively known as a wicket. One end of the pitch is designated the batting end where the batsman stands and the other is designated the bowling end where the bowler runs in to bowl.

Lines drawn or painted on the pitch are known as creases. Creases are used to adjudicate the dismissals of batsmen and to determine whether a delivery is fair.

Parts of the field

For a one-innings match played over a set number of fair deliveries, there are two additional field markings. A painted oval is made by drawing a semicircle of 30 yards (27.4 m) radius from the centre of each wicket with respect to the breadth of the pitch and joining them with lines parallel, 30 yards (27.4 m) to the length of the pitch. This line, commonly known as the circle, divides the field into an infield and outfield. Two circles of radius 15 yards (13.7 m), centred on each wicket and often marked by dots, define the close-infield. The infield, outfield, and the close-infield are used to enforce fielding restrictions.

Placements of players

The team batting always has two batsmen on the field. One batsman, known as the striker, faces and plays the balls bowled by the bowler. His partner stands at the bowling end and is known as the non-striker. The wicket-keeper stands or crouches behind the wicket at the batting end.

The captain of the fielding team spreads his remaining nine players — the fielders — around the ground to cover most of the area. Their placement may vary dramatically depending on strategy. Each position on the field has a unique label.

Match structure

The toss

For more details on this topic, see toss (cricket).
On the day of the match, the captains inspect the pitch to determine the type of bowlers whose bowling would be suited for the offered pitch surface and select their eleven players. The two opposing captains then toss a coin. The captain winning the toss may choose either to bat or bowl first.

Overs

Each innings is subdivided into overs. Each over consists of six consecutive deliveries bowled by the same bowler. No bowler is allowed to bowl consecutive overs. After the completion of an over, the bowler takes up a fielding position, while another player takes over the bowling.

After every over, the batting and bowling ends are swapped, and the field positions are adjusted. The umpires swap so the umpire at the bowler´s end moves to square leg, and the umpire at square leg moves to the new bowler´s end.

End of an innings

For more details on this topic, see End of an innings (Cricket).
An innings is completed if:

Ten out of eleven batsmen are ´out´ (dismissed).
A team chasing a given target number of runs to win manages to do so.
The predetermined number of overs are bowled (in a one-day match only, usually 50 overs).
A captain declares his innings closed (this does not apply to one-day limited over matches).

Playing time

Typically, two innings matches are played over three to five days with at least six hours of cricket being played each day. One innings matches are usually played over one day for six hours or more. There are formal intervals on each day for lunch and tea, and shorter breaks for drinks, where necessary. There is also a short interval between innings.

The game is only played in dry weather. Additionally, as in professional cricket it is common for balls to be bowled at over 90 mph (144 km/h), the game needs to be played in daylight that is good enough for a batsman to be able to see the ball. Play is therefore halted when it rains (but not usually when it drizzles) and when there is bad light. Some one-day games are now played under floodlights, but, apart from few experimental games in Australia, floodlights are not used in longer games. Professional cricket is generally played outdoors. These requirements mean that in England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe the game is usually played in the summer. In the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh games are played in the winter. In these countries the hurricane and cyclone season coincides with their summers.

Batting and scoring runs

The directions in which a right handed batsman intends to send the ball when playing various cricketing shots.

Batting

Batsmen stand waiting for the ball at the batting crease. The wooden bat that a batsman uses consists of a long handle and a flat surface on one side. If the batsman hits the ball with his bat, it is called a shot (or stroke). If the ball brushes the side of the bat it is called an edge or snick. Shots are named according to the style of swing and the direction in the field to which the batsman desires to hit the ball. Depending on the team´s strategy, he may be required to bat defensively in an effort to not get out, or to bat aggressively to score runs quickly.

Batsmen come in to bat in a batting order, which is determined by the team captain. The first two positions, known as “openers”, are generally a specialised position, as they face the most hostile bowling (the opposing team´s fast bowlers are at their freshest and the ball is new). After that, the team typically bats in descending order of batting skill, the first five or six batsmen usually being the best in the team. After them the all-rounders follow and finally the bowlers (who are usually not known for their batting abilities). This order may be changed at any time during the course of the game for strategic reasons.

Run scoring

To score a run, a striker must hit the ball and run to the opposite end of the pitch, while his non-striking partner runs to his end. Both runners must touch the ground behind the popping crease with either his bat or his body to register a run. If the striker hits the ball well enough, the batsmen may double back to score two or more runs. This is known as running between wickets. But there is no tip and run rule, so the batsmen are not required to attempt a run when the ball is hit. If the batsmen score an odd number of runs, then they will have swapped ends and their roles as striker and non-striker will be reversed for the next ball, unless the most recent ball marks the end of an over.

If a fielder knocks the bails off the stumps with the ball while no batsman is grounded behind the nearest popping crease, the nearest batsman is run out. If the ball goes over the boundary, then four runs are scored, or six if the ball has not bounced.

Extras

Every run scored by the batsmen contributes to the team´s total. A team´s total also includes a number of runs which are unaccredited to any batsmen. These runs are known as extras, apart from in Australia where they are also called sundries. Extras consist of byes, leg byes, no balls, wides and penalty runs. The former two are runs that can be scored if the batsman misses making contact with bat and ball, and the latter two are types of fouls committed by the bowler. For serious infractions such as tampering with the ball, deliberate time-wasting, and damaging the pitch, the umpires may award penalty extras to the opposition; in each case five runs. Five penalty runs are also awarded if a fielder uses anything other than his body to field the ball, or if the ball hits a protective helmet left on the field by the fielding team. A team need not be batting in order to receive penalty extras.

Bowling and dismissals

A bowler delivers the ball toward the batsmen, using what is known as a bowling action: the elbow may be held at any angle and may bend further, but may not straighten out during the action. If the elbow straightens, it is an illegal throw and the delivery is called a no-ball. Usually the bowler pitches the ball so that it bounces before reaching the batsman. Bowlers must release the ball with their entire back foot and some part of the front foot inside the area bounded by the creases to prevent it from being called a no-ball. The ball must also be delivered so it is within the batsman´s reach, otherwise it is termed a wide. A wide cannot be called if the batsman hits the ball.

The bowler´s primary goal is to take wickets; that is, to get a batsman out or dismissed. If a bowler can dismiss the more accomplished batsmen on the opposing team he reduces the opportunity for them to score, as it exposes the less skilful batsmen. Their next task is to limit the numbers of runs scored per over they bowl. This is known as the Economy rate. If a bowler gets a batsman out, he is credited for this achievement. There are two main kinds of bowlers : pace bowlers and spin bowlers.

Dismissal of a batsman

A batsman is allowed to bat as long as he does not get out (also known as being dismissed). There are ten ways of being dismissed, some of which are credited as wickets to the bowler, some of which are not credited to any player. If the batsman is dismissed, another player from the batting team replaces him until ten batsmen are out and the innings is over.

Many modes of dismissal require the wicket to be “put down”. The wicket is put down if a bail is dislodged from the top of the stumps or a stump is struck out of the ground either with the ball, or by a fielder with the ball in his hand. Of the following ten modes of dismissal, the first six are common, while the last four are technicalities which rarely occur. Briefly, the ten modes are:

  • Caught — When a fielder catches the ball before the ball bounces and after the batsman has struck it with the bat or it has come into contact with the batsman´s glove while it is in contact with the bat handle. The bowler and catcher are both credited.
  • Bowled — When a delivered ball hits the stumps at the batsman´s end, and dislodges one or both of the bails. The bowler is credited with the dismissal.
  • Leg before wicket (LBW) — When a delivered ball misses the bat and strikes the batsman´s leg or pad, and the umpire judges that the ball would otherwise have struck the stumps. The laws of cricket stipulate certain exceptions in favour of the batsman; for instance a batsman should not be given out LBW if the place where the ball bounced on the pitch is to the leg-side of the area strictly between the two wickets. The bowler is credited with the dismissal.
  • Run out — When a fielder, bowler or wicket-keeper removes one or both of the bails with the ball by hitting the stumps whilst a batsman is still running between the two ends. Such a dismissal is not officially credited to any player, although the identities of the fielder or fielders involved is often noted in brackets on the scorecard.
  • Stumped — When the batsman leaves his crease in playing a delivery, voluntarily or involuntarily, but the ball goes to the wicket-keeper who uses it to remove one or both of the bails through hitting the bail(s) or the wicket before the batsman has remade his ground. The bowler and wicket-keeper are both credited.
  • Hit wicket — When the batsman accidentally knocks the stumps with either the body or the bat, causing one or both of the bails to be dislodged, either in playing a shot or in taking off for the first run. The bowler is credited with the dismissal.
  • Handled the ball — When the batsman deliberately handles the ball without the permission of the fielding team. No player is credited with the dismissal.
  • Hit the ball twice — When the batsman deliberately strikes the ball a second time, except for the sole purpose of guarding his wicket. No player is credited with the dismissal.
  • Obstructing the field — When a batsman deliberately hinders a fielder from attempting to field the ball. No player is credited with the dismissal.
  • Timed out — When a new batsman takes more than three minutes to appear on the field to replace a dismissed batsman. (If the delay is even more protracted, the umpires may cause the match to be forfeited.) No player is credited with the dismissal.

Additionally, a batsman may leave the field undismissed. For instance, if he is ill or injured, this is known as retired hurt or retired ill. The batsman is not out; he may return to bat later in the same innings if sufficiently recovered. Also, an unimpaired batsman may retire, in which case he is treated as being dismissed retired out; no player is credited with the dismissal.

An individual cannot be out — ´bowled´, ´caught´, ´leg before wicket´, ´stumped´, or ´hit wicket´ off a no ball. He cannot be out — ´bowled´, ´caught´, ´leg before wicket´, or ´hit the ball twice´ off a wide.

Some of these modes of dismissal can take place without the bowler bowling a delivery. The batsman who is not on strike may be run out by the bowler if he leaves his crease before the bowler bowls, and a batsman can be out obstructing the field or retired out at any time. Timed out by its nature is a dismissal without a delivery. With all other modes of dismissal, only one batsman can be dismissed per ball bowled. Obstructing the field, Handled the ball, Timed Out and Hit the ball twice dismissals are extremely rare.

Fielding and wicket-keeping

Fielders assist the bowlers to prevent batsmen from scoring too many runs. They do this in two ways: by taking catches to dismiss a batsman, and by intercepting hit balls and returning them to the pitch to attempt run-outs to restrict the scoring of runs.

The wicket-keeper is a specialist fielder who stands behind the batsman´s wicket throughout the game. His primary job is to gather deliveries that the batsman fails to hit, to prevent them running into the outfield, which would enable batsmen to score byes. To this end, he wears special gloves (he is the only fielder allowed to do so) and pads to cover his lower legs. Due to his position directly behind the striker, the wicket-keeper has a good chance of getting a batsman out caught off a fine edge from the bat; thicker edges are typically handled by the “slips” fieldsmen. The wicket-keeper is also the only person who can get a batsman out stumped.

Other roles

Captain

For more details on this topic, see Role of a cricket captain.
The captain´s acumen in deciding the strategy is crucial to the team´s success. The captain makes a number of important decisions, including setting field positions, alternating the bowlers and taking the toss.

A runner

In the event of a batsman being fit to bat but too injured to run, he may request the umpire and the fielding captain for a runner. The runner chosen must, if possible, be a player who has already been given out. After a batsman hits the ball, the runner´s only task is to run between the wickets in place of the injured batsman.

Substitutes

In ODI cricket only, a single substitution is allowed during the game. A player who is replaced cannot return to the game.

In other forms of cricket, if a player gets injured or becomes ill during a match, a substitute is allowed to field instead of him; though he cannot bowl, bat, or act as a captain or wicket-keeper. Here the substitute is a temporary role and leaves the field once the injured player is fit to return.

History

A rudimentary form of the sport can be traced back to the 13th century, but it may have existed even earlier than that. The game seems to have originated among shepherds and farm workers in the Weald between Kent and Sussex. Written evidence exists of a sport known as creag being played by Prince Edward, the son of Edward I (Longshanks), at Newenden, Kent in 1300.

In 1598, a court case referred to a sport called Creckett being played at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford around 1550. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this as the first recorded instance of cricket in the English language.

A number of words are thought to be possible sources for the term cricket. The name may derive from a term for the cricket bat: old French criquet (meaning a kind of club) or Flemish krick(e) (meaning a stick) or in Old English crycc (meaning a crutch or staff). (The latter is problematic, since Old English ´cc´ was palatal in pronunciation in the south and the west midlands, roughly ch, which is how crycc leads to crych and thence crutch; the ´k´ sound would be possible in the north, however.) Alternatively, the French criquet apparently derives from the Flemish word krickstoel, which is a long low stool on which one kneels in church and which resembles the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket.

During the 17th century, numerous references indicate the growth of cricket in the south-east of England. By the end of the century, it had become an organised activity being played for high stakes and it is possible that the first professionals appeared about that time. We know that a great cricket match with eleven players a side was played for high stakes in Sussex in 1697 and this is the earliest reference we have to cricket in terms of such importance.

The game underwent major development in the 18th Century and had become the national sport of England by the end of the century. Betting played a major part in that development and rich patrons began forming their own “select XIs”. Cricket was prominent in London as early as 1707 and large crowds flocked to matches on the Artillery Ground in Finsbury. The Hambledon Club was founded sometime before 1750 and started playing first-class matches in 1756. For the next 30 years until the formation of MCC and the opening of Lord´s in 1787, Hambledon was the game´s greatest club and its focal point. MCC quickly became the sport´s premier club and the custodian of the Laws of Cricket.

The 19th Century saw underarm replaced by first roundarm and then overarm bowling. Both developments were accompanied by major controversy. County clubs appeared from 1836 and ultimately formed a County Championship. In 1859, a team of England players went on the first overseas tour (to North America) and 18 years later another England team took part in the first-ever Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia.

Cricket appeared at one Olympic Games, at Paris in 1900. Olympic cricket lasted only two days and Great Britain is the current Olympic champion.

Cricket entered an epochal era in 1963, when English counties modified the rules to provide a variant match form that produced an expedited result: games with a restricted number of overs per side. This gained widespread popularity and resulted in the birth of one-day international (ODI) matches in 1971. The governing International Cricket Council quickly adopted the new form and held the first ODI Cricket World Cup in 1975. Since then, ODI matches have gained mass spectatorship, at the expense of the longer form of the game and to the consternation of fans who prefer the longer form of the game. As of the early 2000s, however, the longer form of cricket is experiencing a growing resurgence in popularity.

Forms of cricket

Test cricket

Test cricket is a form of international cricket started in 1877 during the 1876/77 English cricket team´s tour of Australia. The first Test match began on 15 March 1877 and had a timeless format with four balls per over. It ended on 19 March 1877 with Australia winning by 45 runs.

The Test Cricket Series between England and Australia is called The Ashes, with the trophy being a tiny fragile urn, reputed to hold the ashes of a bail or cricket ball used during the second Test series between the two countries, which was presented to the English Cricket Captain, Ivo Bligh, by a group of Melbourne women, following the Test Series win by the England Cricket Team, during the England Cricket Team´s Tour of Australia in 1882/83.

Since then, over 1,700 Test matches have been played and the number of test playing nations has increased to ten with Bangladesh, the most recent nation elevated to Test status, making its debut in 2000. Test matches are two innings games that are nowadays played over five days.

One-day cricket

One-day matches, also known as limited overs or instant cricket, were introduced in English domestic cricket in the 1960s due to the growing demands for a shorter and more dramatic form of cricket to stem the decline in attendances. The idea was taken up in the international arena in 1971, during an England team tour of Australia, when a Test match was rained off, and the one-day game has since swollen to become a crowd-pleaser and TV-audience-generator across the globe. The inaugural World Cup in 1975 did much to hasten this. The abbreviations ODI or sometimes LOI (for Limited Overs International) are used for international matches of this type. In one-day cricket, each team bats for only one innings, and it is limited to a number of overs, usually 50 in international matches. Despite its name, a one-day match may go into a second day if play is interrupted by rain. Day and night matches are also played which extend into the night. Innovations such as coloured clothing, frequent tournaments and result oriented-games often resulting in nail-biting finishes have seen ODI cricket gain many supporters. Strategies such as quick scoring, gravity-defying fielding and accurate bowling make this form more invigorating as compared to the Test matches.

First-class matches

A first-class match is a high-level international or domestic match that takes place over at least three days on natural (as opposed to artificial) turf. The status of a match depends on the status of the teams contesting it. All Test-playing nations are allowed to play first-class matches, as are their regional, state, provincial or county teams. Matches of Kenya, one of the foremost non-Test-playing nations, with other first class teams are adjudged first class, but its domestic matches are not. Generally speaking, a match can be considered first-class only if both teams have first-class status. Thus, a match between two test nations, between two domestic teams in full members of the ICC, or between a Test nation and another test nation´s domestic team, may be considered first class. A Test match is also considered to be a first-class match, but one-day matches are not. First-class cricket is conventionally treated as having started in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, though more recently this has been extended to 1801.

Other forms of cricket

At lower levels, club cricket is usually played over one to two days, either as a two innings or one innings limited overs match. The game of cricket has also spawned a set of matches with modified rules to attract more fans. The ´Twenty20´ rule can be an example of cricket rule modification, since this particular modification enforces a 20 overs per innings, which makes the game rather shorter, to maximise the attention of the fans. These matches are not recognised by the ICC as official matches. Other variants of the sport exist and are played in areas as diverse as on sandy beaches or on ice. Kwik cricket is a form of the sport where the bowler does not have to wait for the batsman to be ready before a delivery, leading to a faster, more exhausting game which is often used in school PE lessons.

 

cricket_SCG1

A cricket match in progress. The beige strip is the cricket pitch. The people wearing black trousers on the far right are the umpires.

action at the centre of the ground

Action at the centre of the ground.

cricket field

A standard cricket ground, showing the cricket pitch (brown), close-infield (light green) within 15 yards (13.7 m) of the striking batsman, infield (medium green) inside the white 30 yard (27.4 m) circle, and outfield (dark green), with sight screens beyond the boundary at either end.

cricket stumps

A wicket consists of three stumps, upright wooden poles that are hammered into the ground, topped with two wooden crosspieces, known as the bails.

cricket wickets

A perspective view of the cricket pitch from the bowler´s end. The bowler runs in past one side of the wicket at the bowler´s end, either ´over´ the wicket or ´round´ the wicket.

cricket pitch dimensions

The Cricket pitch dimensions

cricket bat

A cricket bat

cricket ball

A cricket ball used in Test matches. The white stitching is known as the seam.
As One-Day games are often played under floodlights, a white ball is used to aid visibility.

wicket keeping gloves

A pair of Wicket Keeping Gloves. The webbing which helps the keeper to catch the ball can be seen between the thumb and index fingers.

MCG

The first Test cricket match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) situated in Yarra Park, Melbourne, Australia, in 1877.