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Cricket 101 an introduction to the "Gentleman's Game".

Updated on May 4, 2015
The great W G Grace credited with popularising cricket in the late 1800's and early 1900;s
The great W G Grace credited with popularising cricket in the late 1800's and early 1900;s

Early days

It is generally accepted that the "Gentleman's Game " of cricket is as English as jellied eels and mushy peas. Historical records seem to support this with some showing that a recognisable form of today's game was played in the mid 1500's.

There are suggestions that the game originated much earlier than this, probably starting as a 2 man "game" where one would serve up an object and the other would strike at it with a club or stick with the intent of hitting it as far as possible. It seems that over time the game has evolved with other participants joining in as fielders and additional 'strikers" to form the genesis of the team game it was to become.

The growth of the game

By the 1600's Cricket in England had evolved into an eleven a side team sport where one side would be the batting team and the other the fielding side. There were various informal inter house and village games around the country but It wasn't until the early 1700's that the first formal inter county cricket game was played between Kent and Surrey.

Over the next 150 or so years the game became widespread throughout England but ironically the first recorded international match was between the USA and Canada in 1884.

There were sporadic international matches after this and as the English county competition blossomed the desire to play teams from overseas grew and in an effort to formalise this in1909 the ICC (International Cricket Council ) was formed with the founding members England, Australia and South Africa hosting each other for official games and tours.

The current ICC membership is 106 countries with 10 full test playing member countries, 37 associate members and 59 affiliate members. This by and large reflects the playing strength on a world wide scale.

Image of the stumps and pitch layout
Image of the stumps and pitch layout

The Basics of the Game

Cricket is a wonderfully complicated game, for the uninitiated this is not always apparent and it can seem dull and boring. Any student of the game will vehemently contend that it is anything but and will no doubt embark on a lengthy assertion on the vagaries of the game.

The game is usually played on an oval or round grass field of no fixed dimension but it is generally around 70 yards from the centre of the 'pitch" to the edge or "boundary line" which surrounds the whole field. The pitch is located roughly in the centre of the ground and is 22 yards long. There are 2 sets of 3 wooden "wickets" or "stumps" (poles roughly 26 inches high and inserted into the ground an inch or 2 apart with 2 timber bails sitting on top) located at each end of the pitch.

There are 2 teams of 11 players, one fielding and one batting. The "batting" side players take the field 2 at a time and position themselves at opposite ends of the pitch. Their primary mission is to prevent the Bowler from hitting the wickets (stumps) and to score runs by hitting the ball into the outfield and running to the opposite end of the pitch before the fielders can hit the wickets with the ball. If a batsman hits the ball ball past the boundary with the ball having touched the ground before hand they are awarded 4 runs, if they hit the ball over the boundary on the full they are awarded 6 runs to the team and individual tallies, these "shots" are called "boundaries" funnily enough. Other runs are accumulated by running between the wickets if the ball does not reach the boundary.

The nominated bowler from the fielding side bowls 6 balls in a row at the batsmen, this is called an "over", once completed another bowler takes up the attack at the opposite end with another 6 ball over and so on . The mission for the fielding team is to dismiss the batsman by a variety of methods which I will explain soon. The fielding team takes up positions around the field strategically placed to prevent runs and positioned to take catches.

The captain of the fielding side can tactically move his fielders to virtually any position on the field within the boundary (but not on the pitch). This enables the captain to individualise a certain field setting to a certain batsman in order to maximise their chances of dismissing them. The shorter versions of the game have some field placement restrictions which I''ll elaborate on later.

Once the fielding team dismisses 10 of the batsmen, the batters innings comes to an end and the fielding side then takes their turn at batting and the other side heads out into the field.

The game at lower levels and most schoolboy cricket will have only one innings for each side and the game will be completed in up to 6 hours. Higher level club, provincial and international cricket will have 2 innings for each team and will last up to 5 days as is the case for international "Test" cricket.

Cricket fielding positions.
Cricket fielding positions.

Different Varieties and Scoring the Game

There are 3 main varieties of the game:

(1) The long or traditional game which consists of 2 innings for each team and is played over 2, 3, 4 or 5 days, each day consisting of around 6 hours play and have a requirement to bowl 90 or more 6 ball overs on each day. The player's uniforms consists of cream or white "flannels" and the balls used are red.

This form of cricket is decided by adding the 2 batting "innings together with the highest total winning the match. Games can also end in a draw where the team batting last fails to reach or overtake the oppositions total from its 2 turns at bat but have not had all of their batsmen dismissed within the allotted time frame of the match.

e.g. Team 1 scores 323 runs in its first turn at bat , team 2 replies with 300 runs giving team 1 a first innings lead of 23 runs. Team 1 bats again and scores 257 giving them a total of 580 runs and an overall lead of 280 runs. If team 2 passes that total with batters in hand within the set time frame of the match (2,3,4,or 5 days) they take the win. If team 2 is fully dismissed (10 batters out) before they reach their target of 280, team 1 wins. If team 2 cannot reach the target but still have batters in hand at the end of the set timeframe ("close of play") the match is deemed a draw.

(2) The "one day " game where there is only one innings per side of 40 or 50 overs duration (usually 50). These games last around 7 1/2 hours including a break between innings and this is the format of the current world cup tournament now in progress. The players in the shorter forms of the game, i.e. one day and 20/20, have coloured uniforms and the balls used are white.

The winning team in this form of cricket is the team with the most runs at the end of the allotted overs even if the team batting second still has batters in hand. Very occasionally a one day game can end in a tie with both teams on exactly the same scores at the end of the allotted overs.

(3) 20, 20 or T Twenty cricket which as the name suggests is one 20 over innings per side, these games last around 3 hours. This form of cricket has only become prevalent in the last decade or so to satisfy a demand for quicker games from the TV channels and paying public.

The winning team here is the same as one day cricket although if the teams are tied at the end the players have a super over where a nominated bowler and 3 nominated batsmen play a mini game of 1 over each the winner being decided on wickets taken or runs scored in those overs. If still a tie there is a count-back and the team that scored the most boundaries wins.

Example of a scorecard from 1 innings of a one day game.
Example of a scorecard from 1 innings of a one day game.

Example of a scorecard

The above scorecard is of 1 innings of a one day match between India and Australia. The top section shows the batting statistics as runs scored, minutes at the crease, balls faced, 4 or 6 boundaries and strike rate per 100 deliveries.

The bowlers figures are shown as, overs bowled, Maidens or overs that had no runs scored from them, total runs scored off that bowler, how many wickets they have (how many batters they have dismissed) and how many runs they have conceded per over.

A passionate appeal to the umpire
A passionate appeal to the umpire

HOWZAAAATT !!!!!, Some Methods of Dismissal

Howzaaatt !! is the shouted "appeal" to the umpires when a bowler and other fielders believe they have dismissed a batsman, translated, it simply means "How was that". There are the obvious forms of dismissal and there are dismissals that have much doubt and require the umpire to make an on the spot decision. No batsman can be given out unless someone from the fielding side voices an appeal to the umpire. I have listed the 11 forms of dismissal below.

Bowled : When a batsman is bowled out by the bowler by way of getting the ball past the batsman's defences, hitting the stumps and knocking off the bails. You are not out if the bails are not dislodged.

Caught : The batsman hits a delivery off the bat, glove or forearm to a fielder on the full.

LBW : Leg before wicket, very complicated and often subjective, basically if the ball hits the batters pads in front of the stumps in certain positions, they can be given out or not by the umpire. I will elaborate on this in another article.

Run Out : Each batsman has a safety area in front of the stumps, this is called the " batters or popping crease" If the batsman is caught out the crease and the fielders manage to dislodge the bails while the ball is still alive they are dismissed.

Stumped : Is the same as above but is affected by the wicket keeper catching a bowl the batter has missed and then removing the bails with the ball in his gloves while the batter is out of his ground (crease)

Hit Wicket: This happens when a batsman, in the motion of executing a shot somehow manages to hit the stumps with his bat or part of his body dislodging the bails.

Handled the Ball: If the batter handles the ball with his free hand while the ball is in play he is dismissed.

Timed Out: If, following a dismissal, the next batter is not in position out at the crease ready to face a delivery within 2 minutes, they can be timed out and deemed to be dismissed.

Obstruction : If either batsman wilfully obstructs a fielder, the fielders can appeal and the umpire will need to make a decision based on what he has seen.

Hitting the ball twice or after other contact: If struck on the body the batter cannot then play a shot and hit the ball with his bat, the only way they could use the bat is to prevent the ball rolling onto the stumps

Retired: When a batsman leaves the field uninjured but doesn't inform the umpire he can be given out. The fielding captain does have the option of allowing the batter to return later in the innings.

But Wait !! There's Way More

We have scratched the surface with the basics of the game, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are few sports that have the depth of history, traditions and complications of cricket, it is a game created in statisticians heaven. It is grand central station for train spotters, it's chess on grass and many other things that may seem nuts but are ingrained in the societies of the countries that have it as their national game.

I will attempt in future articles to dig a little deeper and expose for you the intricacies of this marvellous game.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope you have taken a couple of steps along the way to getting a handle on the game of cricket..


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