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Cricket Explained for Dummies

Updated on September 22, 2016

Keep It Simple Stupid - especially cricket

Like all great world sports, cricket is at heart, a very simple game. One player throws a ball, another tries to hit it. But, like all sports, it has to have a set of rules to play by, which have to be learned, and specific terminology which can be complicated and very confusing.

In addition, Cricket, uniquely has a moral code, a 'fair play' ethos, which still exists at all levels of the game. Thus it has introduced expressions into the English language such as 'Its not cricket', 'play with a straight bat' and 'sticky wicket' which are routinely used in situations completey divorced from the game.

I am a cricket enthusiast from England and I am going to try to lift some of the layers of confusion from the game and in the process, I hope to show what an utterly magical and compelling spectacle it can be.

And yes, I'm not going to clutter my explanations with too many complications. I will 'Keep It Simple Stupid'.

The absolute, absolute basics

No fuss or frills

There are 2 sorts of cricket - long (3 to 5 days)and short (1 day). I will start by describing short cricket which is by far the easier to explain. Then I will explain long cricket, which is the traditional game. For the purposes of explanation I will use a match between 2 village teams called, imaginatively, Team A and Team B.

Cricket is played between 2 teams of 11 men a side. Matches are officiated over by 2 umpires (referees) - and their decision is final.

The aim of the game is to score more runs than the opposition. Yes, its that simple!

The captains toss up to see which side will bat first. The winner of the toss can elect to bat first or bowl/field first. In our imaginary game Team A will bat first. They will have their 'Innings'.

First definition - INNINGS

It's a singular, AND a plural

The word Innings is used to describe a team's or an individual's turn at batting.

Thus a batsman can 'play a good innings' or a whole team can have a 'first innings' or (in long cricket) a 'second innings'.

NB The word 'inning' does not exist in cricket, only in baseball. Thus a batsman can play one 'innings' or, over a career, hundreds of 'innings'.


The batsman is the person holding the bat - yes.

This is what happens when a side, in our case, Team A, has its innings: they send in their first two in their batting order. The remainder of the batting team wait off the field for their turn to bat.

Team B, meanwhile, who are the 'Fielding Side' put all 11 of their players on the pich.

In cricket, unlike Baseball, two "batsmen" are up at a time, not one. They bat and bat and bat and bat until one of them is 'out'. Then he has to leave the field and the third man in the order replaces him. Then those two bat and bat and bat until one of them is out. Then that person is replaced by the fourth person in the order, and so on. This goes on until ten of the eleven are out. Then the innings is over, because the last person cannot bat alone, you need two to bat in cricket. After ten people are out, the other team has their innings.

One batsman stands at each wicket. The batsman farthest from the bowler is the 'striker', the other is the 'non-striker'. The striker stands before his wicket, and awaits the ball.

Video - The Basics of Batting

The 3 wooden sticks that the batsman defends (individually they're called stumps)- that's his wicket. They are topped with 2 crosspieces, smaller pieces of wood, called bails. When the stumps are moved, the bails fall off.

When the batsman is out he has 'lost his wicket'.

Firstly - Bowled - the ball hits the wicket (that's the 3 pieces of wood, remember?) and dislodges at least one bail (those are the 2 small pieces of wood sitting on top of the 3 stumps.)

Secondly - Caught - the batsman hits the ball and one of the fielding side catches it before it touches the ground

Thirdly - Stumped - If the batsman misses a ball and steps outside the batting crease, (that's the white line in front of the stumps) the wicket-keeper will catch the ball and break the wicket before the batsman can get back inside the crease.

Fourthly - Run Out - A run-out is when the batsmen are going for a run or runs and the fielder collects the ball and throws down the wicket before the batsman can get into the 'safe' territory of the batting crease.

Run-outs are always difficult decisions for umpires to make because it all happens so fast. That's why at the highest level the third umpire, who can watch video replays, is often called on to make those tight decisions.

Fifthly - LBW - If the ball hits the batsman's leg and an umpire rules it

would have hit the wicket if the leg hadn't been there, the batsman is out because he must "defend his wicket" only with his bat, not with his leg. This is called "LBW" which stands for "leg before wicket."

Bowled out - Some top batsmen getting bowled out


The bowler is the one who bowls the ball to the batsman. Honestly.

The game progresses by the bowling of balls. The sequence of events which constitutes a ball is as follows:

The fielding team disperses around the field, to positions designed to stop runs being scored or to get batsmen out. One of the fielding side is the bowler. He takes the ball and stands some distance behind one of the wickets. Another fielder is the wicket-keeper, who wears a pair of webbed gloves designed for catching the ball and protective pads covering the shins. He waits behind the opposite wicket. The rest of the fielders have no special equipment - gloves to assist catching the ball are not allowed to anyone but the wicket-keeper.

The bowler takes a run-up from behind the non-striker's wicket. He passes to one side of the wicket, and when he reaches the non-striker's wicket he bowls the ball towards the striker, usually bouncing the ball once on the pitch before it reaches the striker.

The striker may then attempt to hit the ball with his bat. If he misses it, the wicket-keeper will catch it and the ball is completed. If he hits it, the two batsmen may score runs (described later). After hitting the ball, the batsman DOES NOT HAVE TO RUN. He may run if he wants to or he can stand there for hours just tapping the ball away from the wicket. When the runs are completed, the ball is also considered completed.

Once the ball is dead, it is returned to the bowler for the next delivery (another name for the bowling of a ball). Between deliveries, the batsmen may leave their creases and confer with each other.

When one bowler has completed six balls, that constitutes an 'over'. A different member of the fielding team is given the ball and bowls the next over - from the opposite end of the pitch. The batsmen do not change ends, so the roles of striker and non-striker swap after each over. Any member of the fielding team may bowl, so long as no bowler delivers two consecutive overs. Once a bowler begins an over, he must complete it, unless injured or suspended during the over.

Video - The Basics of Bowling

Basic Cricket Equipment


Cricket balls are traditionally dyed red, and red balls are used in Test cricket and First-class cricket. White balls were introduced when one-day matches began being played at night under floodlights, as they are more visible at night.

Professional one-day matches are now played with white balls.

The materials used to make cricket balls are the same now as in the 1700s. They are made from cork and latex rubber on the inside with leather on the outside, with a slightly raised sewn seam. The "equator" of the ball is stitched with string to form the seam, with a total of six rows of stitches.

The slightly raised seam means that, uniquely, a cricket ball is not completely round. Some bowlers exploit this by bowling on the seam to produce grip and deviation. Also, with one side of the ball polished and the other rough, differential air pressure will cause it to swing in the air, making it very difficult for the batsman to play. This is why you see some bowlers vigorously polishing the ball on their trousers.

...and Bat

The bat is traditionally made from willow wood, treated with linseed oil. This wood is used as it is very tough and shock-resistant, not being significantly dented nor splintering on the impact of a cricket ball at high speed, while also being light in weight. It incorporates a wooden spring design where the handle meets the blade. The rules of the game limit the allowable size for a bat as not more than 38 in (965 mm) long and the blade may not be more than 4.25 in (108 mm) wide. Bats typically weigh from 2 lb 8 oz to 3 lb (1.1 to 1.4 kg) though there is no standard. The handle is usually covered with a rubber or cloth sleeve to enhance grip and the face of the bat may have a protective film.

Fourth Definition - A RUN

We're not talking jogging

A run is the basic unit of scoring. Runs are scored by a batsman, and the total of the scores of the team's batsmen constitutes the team's score. A run is scored by the batsmen running between the

popping creases, crossing over midway between them. When they both reach the opposite crease, one run is scored, and they may return for another run immediately if they wish. The fielding side attempts to prevent runs being scored by threatening to 'run out' one of the batsmen.

In addition to scoring runs like this, if a batsman hits the ball so that it reaches the boundary fence, he scores four runs, without needing to actually run them. If a batsman hits the ball over the boundary on the full, he scores six runs.

One Day Cricket and Traditional Cricket

Easy isn't it?

Just to summarise our imaginary one day match. Two teams, A and B. Team A bats first and in their 40 overs score 210 runs. Team B then have their innings but only manage 192 runs before they're all out. So Team A are the winners. This form of of cricket is extremely popular - its exciting, a result is guaranteed, and its over in a few hours.

Traditional cricket is not over in a few hours as it lasts for, usually, 3 days, up to 5 or even 6 days for international matches (known as Test Matches.) Unlike one day cricket each side bats twice - in other words, has two innings each. The total of each side's two innings is the deciding factor in the result.

If a traditional cricket match is not completely finished when time runs out, the match is a draw, no matter how lopsided the score may be. If rain stops play during a match, suprise, suprise, the time is NOT MADE UP! Only got three days to play a five- day match? Better hurry!

That's all for now

Ok, i think we've covered enough ground for starters. Before anyone reminds me, I know we haven't discussed extras, no balls, short runs, wides, bouncers, hit wicket, declaration, googlies, silly mid off etc etc They will have to wait for another time.

As I said at the start I've 'kept it simple stupid' and that means leaving things out. I hope the above short explanation has made this great game a bit easier to understand and, above all, to enjoy.

Village Green Cricket, Tilford, Surrey, England, UK

Rolf Richardson
12 in. x 9 in.

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    • profile image

      Neil Kelson 

      7 weeks ago

      I also love cricket -- great Web pages

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I just love cricket and a big fan of #Cricket.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      It is so hard to explain cricket to someone who doesn't understand and you've done a great job. I think, when you know the game, you love it so much you forget to cover the basics. Mr Boycott said something interesting (for once.) Batting is like the opposite of golf where, the worse you play, the more goes you get.

    • Im into that profile image

      Im into that 

      6 years ago

      Watching Aus Vs Sri Lanka right now. Cricket is Awesome! Go the Aussies

    • leesholden profile image


      6 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

      Great lens, seems so many people have never really got into the game which is so sad

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image


      6 years ago

      My son played cricket when we lived in the Caribbean. I could have really used this page because I just didn't understand it :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      we love Cricket

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I used to enjoy going to one day cricket matches, I liked the quicker pace of the game as opposed to test matches. Great information on the basics of Cricket.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      At last somewhere I can send my American friends to learn all about it. I've tried to explain but ended up mystifying them.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is the best article Iâve ever seen on this topic. Iâll be linking and sending out links to this one for a long time.

    • HenkWillemse profile image


      6 years ago

      Great post, there are a couple of people I would like to show this to.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Cricket is one of my favourite sports and we played it a lot when I was in my teens. I prefer it to sports like baseball 'cos there is so much of variation, both in bowling and batting.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well, I always wondered what it was about cricket that made it so appealing. Now, I think I know!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Also check out our website : for latest scores

    • AllenShapiro profile image


      7 years ago

      Love cricket humor and wit .. check out my lens for tons of cricket laughter :)

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      7 years ago

      i play softball and i think i can hit the ball with a flat batter.

    • Natalie W Schorr profile image

      Natalie W Schorr 

      7 years ago

      Very thorough lens!

    • jacinto888 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great link, I never know how to play and this lens gives a great explanation

    • ScareYouDiva profile image


      7 years ago

      great explanation! I always wondered how cricket worked. I'm looking forward to watching it and actually understanding what's happening now. Thanks

    • Shivani09 LM profile image

      Shivani09 LM 

      7 years ago

      Interesting lens!

    • PopArtGirl profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens - love cricket!

    • pramodbisht profile image


      7 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      cricket is very good game and i like cricket

    • anansigirls lm profile image

      anansigirls lm 

      7 years ago

      Nice try, but I am still none the wiser. A few years ago I went to a picnic where they were short of a player and asked a friend of mine, who didn't have a clue about cricket, to stand in. He was given a bat, and someone told him: Now, whenever someone throws a ball at you, you just hit it. Apparently it worked (the picnic was suddenly extented to 8 hours). And that's still all I know about cricket. However, I had fun reading the lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very helpful lens, nicely explained. Used to play ladies cricket myself, once.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I feel better equipped on cricket now, less chances of people making fun.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • CliveAnderson LM profile image

      CliveAnderson LM 

      8 years ago

      I'll be honest... I'm not a great fan, but perhaps that was down to my ignorants of like so many others not knowing the full rules of the game. Thanks to your lens I now have a better understanding and so will probably enjoy the game a whole lot more... Thank you for sharing,

      Warm Regards,


    • Retro Loco profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I'm not a dummy. I'm an idiot. I knew nothing about cricket, but I know a little now. Thank you for explaining! Nice, well-presented lens! ~Vicki~

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A nice & compact lens on cricket.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I moved to England from the States, and until now cricket has remained a complete mystery to me. Thank you for helping me begin to understand.

    • sallemange profile image


      8 years ago

      When you're in you try to stay in and not get out whilst the team that are out try to get in and get you out. This is complicated by the totally arbitrary rule of 'leg before wicket'

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      well explained about the basics

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      8 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      very detailed informations. well presented lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Thank you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A very informative, well researched lens! Loved reading thru it!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 

      8 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Great lens - more of the world should play cricket! Blessed by an angel

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 

      8 years ago

      Great lens

      I Love cricket.I am all-Rounder. Your lens helped to know more tricks and tips about my favorite game

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      8 years ago

      I was beginning to get the hang of it towards the end!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I live near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. I played for the school cricket team, pretty good bowler, lousy batter. You've done a good job of explaining this strange game!

    • chrisqw profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the kind comments. I'm glad its made cricket at least a bit more understandable!

    • divacratus 2 profile image

      divacratus 2 

      8 years ago

      Well explained! I love cricket but never really understood the game completely. You've made it easier for me. Thanks!

    • piedromolinero profile image


      8 years ago

      I didn't know anything about cricket before. Recently it even happened that I called the bat a racket. Now I know better. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thumbs up!

      Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.


      Fatloss4idiots Reviews

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice lens about Cricket. I am a big cricket fan. I have created a few cricket related lens. If you got a time, visit my lenses. I am sure you will enjoy.

      1. Umpiring Signals

      2. Sachin Tendulkar

      3. M S Dhoni

      4. Virendar Sehwag

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice, I can actually understand your explanation.

      Greetings from Minnesota, USA

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am officially a cricket widow so figured I might as well learn what the game is about since it's taken over my husband's life for the duration of the Ashes.

      This was a great explanation .... what are clever comments to make or interesting things to look out for. My husband is Australian and I am English so patronising comments are even better. He seems to think they are loads better than us but somehow didn't win?


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent!...I now think I know what a "wicket" is!...always wanted to know...thank you!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Visiting Lord's next week for T20. Thank you very much for explaining this interesting game.

      Kind Regards.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This helped me enormously, thanks. I'm a lady wanting to show interest in my new b/f's game. So now I know what he's talking about!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank u for theses explanations, it give the good basics to understand this beautiful game

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 

      10 years ago

      I quite enjoyed reading this and think it,s a great lens,keep it up and the best of luck.Cheers


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