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Cricket rules explained

Updated on May 28, 2010
lime tree Canterbury
lime tree Canterbury

Cricket the English game

Imagine the early evening of a summer's day in a country village, there's a tall church spire in the background; green trees sit against the horizon; the players are in white, their shadows are long and crisp; birds are singing; there's the smell of fresh cut grass; on the other side of the village green there's a pub; its windows are festooned with flower boxes, a few of the older generation have settled themselves in the benches outside to watch the game and you hear the sound of leather on willow. It's a quintessential English scene that sits deep in the English psyche. Cricket is the most English game. It has intricate rules and expected codes of behaviour, our language has phrases from the game that are linked to uprightness and honesty - 'play with straight bat', it's just not cricket' describes something that's amiss - the centre of the game itself is individualistic but each individual's effort must be backed up by team mates or that effort is worthless. Wherever Englishman have travelled cricket has been played; I have pictures of Sharjah where the Royal Engineers have made a wicket from matting in the middle of the dsesert, there have been cricket matches on the ice of the Arctic, aircraft carrier runways have seen the odd spin ball and a four or two has hit the waves. A sandbank off the coast of Kent is the scene of an annual match that must finish before the waves swallow up the is replete with eccenctricities; beside the hospital where I was born stood a 120 ft high lime tree growing inside the field of play at Canterbury's St Lawrence Cricket Ground; when the tree died in the late 1990s it was of course replaced keeping in place, as well, the special rules created for this peculiar circumstance (4 runs scored if the ball was stopped by the tree).

cricket ball
cricket ball
fielding positions
fielding positions
cover drive
cover drive
drinks interval
drinks interval
slip catch
slip catch

The basics

  • Each team has 11 men.
  • One team bats and one team fields and bowls.
  • When the team batting has lost 10 wickets (10 players have got out) roles are reversed.
  • The team that scores the most runs wins.
  • The pitch is the piece of land where the action takes place. It's 22 yards long and 10 feet wide.
  • At each end of the pitch there are three stumps and two bails which make a wicket. A stump is a round stick with a pointed end that is driven into the ground; the stump is 28ins high. The bails sit in grives on the top of the stumps forming a tall lowercase 'm' shape with the stumps.
  • The crease is a white line drawn across and in front of the stumps two feet from their base.
  • A batsman uses a bat traditionally made from willow. He wears pads that protect his shins and knees and part of his thigh. Padded gloves protect his hands. A box protects his family jewels. In top class cricket players also wear helmets, thigh pads and even body armour - some fast bowlers deliver the cricket ball in excess of 90 miles an hour.
  • A bowler must bowl the ball, this means that when he releases the ball his arm must be straight, if it is bent the delivery is illegal because he has thrown the ball.
  • The wicket keeper stands behind the stumps and batsman; he is similarly protected as the batsman but wears wicket keeping gloves that have extra padding.
  • The boundary is the line on the edge of the cricket field. If a batsman hits the ball past the boundary without the ball bouncing he scores six runs, if he hits the ball past the boundary and the ball makes contact with the ground before reaching the boundary he scores 4 runs.
  • To score a run without hitting the ball past the boundary the batsman must run from one end of the wicket to the other; each time he does this he scores one run. While he is running the fielding side has the opportunity to dismiss the batsman by hitting the stumps he is running to with the ball before the batsman can cross the crease.
  • The fielding side can dismiss a batsman in a number of different ways. A batsman can be bowled out which means the ball hits the stumps directly from a bowler's delivery. A batsman can be caught out which means he has hit the ball directly into the air and a fielder has caught it. He can be run out which means the stumps he was running to were hit while he was trying to complete a run. He can be stumped which means the wicket keeper caught a bowler's delivery and knocked off the bails with the ball while the batsman was outside his crease. He can dismissed by LBW - this stands for 'leg before wicket' and this decision is made by the umpire who stands directly behind the set of stumps at the bowler's end of the wicket. The bowler asks the umpire to make a decision by shouting 'Howzat!!'. If the umpire thinks the ball has pitched in line with the wicket and would have hit the wicket if had not hit one of the batsman's leg he is out. Another way to be out is to accidentally hit your own stumps with part of your body or bat - embarrassing...
  • The cricket ball is made of cork, string and leather. The centre of a cricket ball is cork; around the cork string is wound and a leather exterior is sewn around the outside. A pronounced seam binds the leather. The seam runs like an equator around the middle of the ball. A cricket ball is hard and a similar size to a baseball. Traditionally, cricket balls are red but with the invention of floodlit cricket and with players in some forms of the game wearing coloured uniforms instead of the traditional whites, cricket balls are also white.
  • There are different types of bowlers that describe how fast they bowl and their method of delivery. A fast bowler is what it says. 'Fast' is generally considered to be around 90 mph in the professional game. A swing bowler has the ability to make the delivery bend in the air; he does this by shining one side of the ball and leaving the other side to be scuffed and made dirty by normal play, the effect of this is that the shiny side of the ball travels faster through the air that the rough side which will drag through the air. A seam bowler has the ability to make the ball bounce on the seam thereby making the direction of the bounce variable and unpredictable. Spin bowling - players spin the ball in order for the ball to 'turn' when it bounces.
  • Fielders can stand anywhere on the pitch. There are specific names for specific fielding positions on the pitch. Many of the names relate to the fielder's position in relation to the batsman. If a fielder is standing to the left of a right handed batsman he is 'legside' and positions here are designated 'on'; if he is standing to the right of a right handed batsman he is 'offside' - hence 'mid off' and 'mid on' are basically the same position but on opposide sides of the pitch. The slips are a set of fielders' positions behind the batsman on the on side. They are near enough to catch any balls that slice off the edge of the bat. There are some wonderful names - 'silly mid on' and silly mid off' close to the batsman and are in peril if hit by the ball; gulley, third man, cover, extra cover...
  • The bowler delivers six deliveries from one end of the pitch. This is an over. At the end of each over a new bowler will deliver from the opposite end - all the fielders have to rotate their positions.
  • There are two batsman in at any one time. One facing the deliveries the other stands at the bowler's end and will be ready to run in order to score runs.
  • An innings is the completed batting of a team.
  • There is limited over cricket which usually takes place over one day - the shortest is twenty over cricket. The opposite extreme to this is international test match cricket which takes 5 days each team has two innings.
  • There are two umpires. One stands behind the wickets at the bowlers end and the other stands in line with the batting crease of the batter about twenty yards away on the legside.
  • Screens are whiteboards placed behind the bowler to help the batsman see the ball.
  • Here's the famous summary of cricket found on a tea-towel:
  • Cricket, as explained to a foreigner: You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      thbanks this is helpful formy long write

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      thanks for sharing

    • hotspur profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from England

      Thanks LadyWriter, you're right

    • LadyWriter profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      A great hub - there's no better way of spending a beautiful summer's day than watching a game of cricket. Total relaxation!

    • hotspur profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from England

      Hey Larry, after choking on my tea on reading that cricket was on a drug I've come to the conclusion it's probably a good thing Americans don't understand the game, I think that's part of it's beauty! Batter up!

    • maven101 profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      I was doing great until I read the summary for I'm totally confused...Cricket is a sport to be watched blandly, without intellectual engagement or understanding...the perfect sport for mad dogs and Englishmen... Cricket is Baseball on Valium...

      After reading your interesting and informative Hub I remain blissfully mystified by this game...Howzat !!...Larry


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