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What is Cricket: How is it played

Updated on June 9, 2014

What is cricket, how is it played

O.k., this is going to be difficult. Imagine explaining baseball to someone (like me) who knows that a pitcher throws a ball and umm... someone hits. Nothing more than that (almost).

Nevertheless, I have tried to explain cricket in least possible words without omitting critical information. An expert (Australians, Brits, Indians, South Africans etc) can argue that the information is vague(I am always game for deeper discussions), I have just tried to put the basics of cricket here. Please leave your feedback after reading and don't you dare say it's (cricket) boring (I have added videos to make it interesting).

A Cricket Ground
A Cricket Ground | Source

What Makes a Game

Two teams, 22 players (11 each), and two umpires (like referees in soccer). A rectangular pitch, long and thin (22 yards) in the center of an oval shaped grassy ground. Wickets (three wooden sticks called stumps) inserted in the ground at the ends of the pitch. That is all needed for a cricket match (add bats and ball).

A Short Summary

  • Two teams, 11 players each
  • Played on a rectangular area called pitch
  • Number of balls to be b are fixed, six consecutive balls bowled makes an over.

The Three Versions of Cricket

There are three versions of cricket played internationally, test cricket, ODI (one day internationals) and T20. Test cricket is of 5 days, ODI of 50 overs (an over consists of six balls bowled (pitched) by a bowler, 50 overs mean 600 pitches) and T20 of 20 overs. Now I am not planning to explain test cricket here, that would be disastrous (those who know will understand), for you it's just, well..., very long. We'll focus on ODIs here.

A cricket bat - unlike the baseball - is flat and rectangular which makes it easier for the batsman to play a variety of strokes


So how is it played

A coin is tossed to decide which team is gonna bat first. The winning captain elects to field or bat. Simple.

13 players play at a time, 11 of the fielding side - 9 fielders, a wicket keeper and a bowler, who keeps changing like pitchers in baseball (I am guessing here) - and two of the batting side (called batsmen).

The batsmen stand on opposite ends (called batting and bowling ends) of the pitch. The bowler stands at the bowling end (not literally stands, he needs to run to bowl (pitch) the ball) and the fielders are spread across the ground. The wicket keeper stands behind the batsman (at the batting end) to collect the ball (those missed by the batsman).

Bowling means throwing the ball at the batsman (like pitching in baseball, though the bowling action is largely different). The bowling speed reaches 90mph (guess it's slower in baseball). The batsmen need to score runs (what do you call them, points??). Unlike baseball, they can't go for a wild swing, they tactically manoeuvre the ball for runs, courtesy the flat bats.

How are the Runs Scored

There are mainly three ways to score a run

  1. By hitting a four (four runs)
  2. By hitting a six (six runs)
  3. Running between the wickets

When the batsman hits the ball with his bat anywhere in the ground and any one of the above events occur, runs are scored.

Boundaries (sixes and fours)

If the ball so hit crosses the boundary rope (surrounding the oval shaped ground) without touching the ground, a six is scored.

If it bounces (even once) or rolls to the boundary ropes, it's called a four.

Six sixes on six balls, a rare feat

A Cricket Ball


Which one do you think is harder

See results

Running between the wickets

Singles, doubles and triples are scored when the ball stops, or is stopped before reaching the boundary line. Stopping the ball before reaching the boundary line is the job of fielders ( and yes, they don't wear gloves) spread across the ground.

While they are chasing the ball, the batsmen switch ends to score singles, doubles etc. The batsman at the batting end (called striker) runs for the bowler's end while the non-striker (the one initially at bowling end) runs for the batting end. The number of times they switch ends is the amount of run(s) they score by running.

Ways to get a batsman out

There are mainly* three ways to get a batsman out (how is it done in baseball)

  1. Clean bowled
  2. Catch out
  3. Run out
  4. Leg Before Wicket (LBW)

A batsman gets bowled (out) when he fails to hit a ball and the ball hits the wicket (stumps).

A catch out occurs when the ball is hit up in the air by the batsman and it is caught by a fielder (no gloves, much harder ball...) within the ground of course, before bouncing

A batsman gets run out when a fielder hits the wicket while he is still running on the pitch for runs.

LBW follows a set of complicated rules. To put it simply, you can't protect the wicket with anything except bat. If you do, your are out.

Enjoy the catch outs and run outs in the video below.

*Additional ways exist but they are rare and complicated.

Catches and Run Outs World Cup 2011

What do we know now

  • Two teams, 11 players each
  • Played on a rectangular area called pitch
  • Number of balls to be bowled are fixed, six consecutive balls bowled makes an over.
  • The batsmen hit runs, the bowlers get them out
  • Runs are scored in boundaries and singles, doubles etc
  • Batsmen get out by getting bowled, catch out, run out etc

How to Win a Cricket Match

That pretty much explains what goes on the field, now we’ll figure out how to win the match.

The aim of the bowling or fielding side is to restrict the opposition within lowest possible total (runs). They do this either by making the batsman miss the ball (and not let him score runs) or by getting him out. Once a batsman gets out, he can not bat (score runs) any further and next batsman has to come. As soon as they get 10 batsmen out (the last one can't bat alone), an inning ends and no more runs can be scored.

Now they have to chase the total (score greater than the first inning's total) in second innings. If they chase it within 50 overs without getting all-out, they are declared winners.

See, wasn't that easy to understand. So, next time you see a cricket match, don't flip the channel.

You could always start with the T20s, they are short, power packed matches of just 20 overs. You'd love to see soaring sixes and fours.


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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great article about Cricket--the game!

      I also love watching Cricket and who doesn't in India!

      Your article will be useful to others who have no idea about this great sport.

      Thanks for sharing this informative hub and thanks for the follow as well!


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