11 Things Worth Knowing About Cricket

Here in North American, cricket is a mysterious sport. We recognize that it is a little bit like baseball, but when people talk about it they use all kinds of funny words we don’t understand. Then, if we ever see it on TV—and we rarely do—it’s so confusing because it just looks like a whole mess of people running around aimlessly. However, I’m here to tell you if you just take the time to learn a little bit about the sport, it starts to make sense pretty quickly. Now, maybe you say, “yeah, well, why bother? Who even cares about cricket?” Well, at least 1.5 billion people care about cricket, that’s who—probably twice as many as those who care about baseball or American football. So if nothing else, for serious sports fans it’s worth leaning a bit about the sport just to see what all the fuss is. With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 things you need to know in order to understand the sport of cricket. Why not enlighten yourself a little?

11. A cricket field is oval-shaped

Inside the main oval playing field is a smaller oval territory called the infield, which is 30 yards wide. Inside the infield is the pitch, where all the action of cricket begins. The pitch is 22 yards long and 10 feet wide, and at either end is a wicket.


10. The basic goal of cricket is pretty simple

One guy throws a ball toward another guy who tries to hit it. The act of throwing the ball is called bowling and, as you would expect, the guy bowling is called the bowler. The guy trying to hit the ball is called the batsman. If he hits the ball far enough, he can score points for his team—called runs—by running back and forth between two safe zones called creases. If the batsman misses the ball, however, and it hits the wicket behind him, he is dismissed and doesn’t get to hit anymore. He is also dismissed if (a) he hits the ball but it is caught on the fly by a fielder, or (b) the ball is not caught on the fly but the fielder is able to knock over the wicket while the hitter is outside the crease. Obviously, the team that scores the most runs wins.

This sort of reminds you a little baseball doesn’t it? You hit a ball to somewhere on a playing field; if it is not caught before it touches the ground, then try to get to a designated area before the ball does. Speaking of baseball…


9. Cricket and baseball share a lot of the same terminology

Baseball is most likely a derivation of an early form of cricket. For evidence of this, all you need to do is look at the terminology the games share today. In cricket, as in baseball, there are “innings,” “bats” and “batting,” an “infield,” an “outfield,” and, of course, “runs.”

Now, the basic action of batting in cricket is pretty much the same as in baseball, although the object of batting is somewhat different, as is the equipment. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the object of batting shortly.) The terms “infield” and “outfield” are also similar in that they apply to the areas of the field closer to and further away from the person batting, but of course the field itself is a different shape. Ditto for runs: in baseball and cricket, you score runs by hitting the ball and then running to a designated area, but the designated area is different for the two sports. The only shared term that is almost completely different in baseball and cricket is “innings.” In both games, “innings” refers to a discreet unit of gameplay. However, in baseball an inning (singular) is comprised of 6 “outs” (3 per team), while in cricket an innings (always plural for some reason) is an entire team’s turn batting.

Let’s explain cricket’s innings in baseball terms. In baseball, each team gets to bat until they make 27 outs, right? However, instead of taking all their at-bats in a row, the teams take turns batting and fielding. You get 3 outs, we get 3 outs, and we call 6 outs an inning. Well, if instead of taking turns every 3 outs, each team batted until they made all 27 outs, then an “inning” in baseball would be like an “innings” in cricket.

8. There are always two batsman on the field at the same time

There are always 2 batsman on the field for the offensive team—one at each wicket. The one to whom the bowler is bowling is called the striker. The one just standing there watching is called, un-creatively, the non-striker. When the striker hits the ball, he and the non-striker can decide to attempt to score runs by running back and force between the two creases. If they do attempt to score runs and they end up switching places, then the striker become the non-striker, and vice versa.


7. The smallest unit of play in a cricket (like at at-bat in baseball) is called an “over”

An over is a series of 6 deliveries from a bowler. It’s called an over because, after 6 deliveries, the umpire yells “over!” An over is kind of like an at-bat in baseball, only there is a finite number of pitches. Bowlers are allowed to throw multiple overs in a game, but no bowler may throw 2 overs in a row. Instead, after each over, the defensive team switches ends and different player bowls toward the other wicket at the opposite end of the pitch. Now the non-striker who stood at the other wicket becomes the striker. If he was not dismissed during the previous over, the guy who was the striker becomes the non-striker. If the previous striker was dismissed in the previous over (at-bat), then a new batsman takes his place as the new non-striker.

Of course, another key difference between an over and an at-bat is that the person batting can change in the middle of an over. This occurs when the striker and non-striker attempted a run that caused them to switch places (as in the above photo).


6. Every cricket player has two goals

Unlike a batter in baseball, a batsman in cricket has to be somewhat defensive minded. That’s because, in cricket, unlike baseball, if you swing and miss and the ball hits the wicket behind you, you’re out (i.e., dismissed). You don’t get three chances. And when 10 of your 11 players make outs (are dismissed) in cricket, your innings is over. Thus, while the 27 outs you get in baseball are precious, the 10 dismissals you get in cricket are even more precious. So every player has two equal goals. If you’re the batsman, you want to (1) avoid being dismissed and (2) score runs. If you’re the bowler, you want to (1) dismiss the batsman and (2) prevent runs from being scored. And if f you’re a fielder, you want to (1) dismiss the batsman and (2) prevent runs.

5. Test cricket is ridiculously long and drawn out

The three kinds of cricket are Twenty20, Limited Overs Cricket, and Test Cricket. Test cricket is considered the purest form of the game, and the greatest test of skill and endurance. In this format, there is no limit to the number of overs (at-bats) each team gets on offense. Instead, each team gets 2 innings (turns batting) for a total of 4, and they must be played in no longer than 5 days. In this format, an innings is over only when 10 of the 11 batters have been dismissed. There is never any limit to the amount of overs one batsman can take, so in Test cricket it is theoretically possible for one batsman to bat for the entire match. In reality, of course, even the best batsman would wear out and eventually be dismissed. There is no specific limit to the number of overs a bowler can bowl; however, since he can never bowl (pitch) two consecutive overs (at-bats), he can never bowl (pitch) more than 50% of the overs (at-bats). Since there are 2 innings (turns batting) for each team and no limit to the amount of overs (at-bats) in each innings, a Test match is only over when (a) 40 dismissals (outs) have been made or (b) the 5-day time period has run out.

(FYI, you can always tell if it’s a Test match if the players wear all white.)


4. Limited overs cricket can be long, but it’s better than Test cricket

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For the sake of time, there is also limited overs cricket. There are several varieties of limited overs cricket, but the most esteemed is the one-day international (ODI) format. In ODI cricket, each team gets only 1 innings (turn) on offense, which is limited to 50 overs (at-bats). Thus, unlike test cricket, an innings in ODI cricket can end in two ways. Either 10 of the 11 batsmen have been dismissed, or they have reached their allotment of 50 overs. In addition, ODI cricket places stricter limits on who can bowl, thus limiting the effect a top-notch bowler can have on a match. In ODI cricket, a bowler can bowl a maximum of 10 overs (at bats), meaning each team will have to use at least 5 different bowlers.

(In the video here, note the score display in the top left corner. It starts out at Over 49, meaning they have completed an even 49 of 50 overs. Then is goes to Over 49.1, Over 49.2, and so one, meaning 49 overs and X deliveries. When the counter reaches 49.5, that means Australia is only 1 delivery away from giving the opposing team their 50 overs.)


3. Twenty20 cricket is the newest kind of cricket match, and the shortest

In Twenty20 cricket, each innings is only 20 overs, and those 20 must be taken within 75 minutes. Like all other forms of cricket, there is no limit to the amount of overs a batsman take take, but no bowler may bowl more than 4 overs. This means one stellar offensive player can dominate, making for a shorter, more explosive match. Cricket purists abhor this version of the sport; however, because it is easier for fans to take in a match under these rules, it is more profitable and has therefore become extremely popular.


2. There are 2 basic types of bowlers

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The two basic kinds of bowlers in cricket are the fast bowler and the spin bowler. You get the idea of what they do from their names: the fast bowlers specializes in throwing the ball really fast, while the spin bowler specializes in making the ball take crazy bounces (the ball can bounce twice before it either hits the wicket or is hit by the batsman). One way to measure the greatness of a bowler is to look at how many wickets he earned—that is, how many batsmen he dismissed by throwing the ball by him and knocking over the wickets. This stat is very much like the strikeout in baseball.


1. Batting a “century” is a big deal for a cricket batsman

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In cricket, you score runs by hitting the ball far. If you hit into the gap of the outfield but the ball stays in the field of play, you can easily score 2 or 3 runs by running between two wickets on the pitch 2 or 3 times. However, if you hit the ball such that is land in the playing field but eventually goes out of the playing field, that’s an automatic 4 runs. And if you hit the ball and it leaves the field all together, that’s an automatic 6 runs. This is called “hitting a six,” and it is obviously the equivalent of hitting a home run in baseball. The best offensive players in cricket can hit for many overs (at-bats) without being dismissed (making an out). If they hit for power, then they can achieve what is called a century—scoring 100 runs in a single match. Only once in the history of ODI cricket has a player hit a double century. This player was India’s Sachin Tendelkar. He is a cricket stud, and a superstar in India.