How the Game is Played
Part of the reason cricket is misunderstood by Americans is that in a lot of ways it looks like baseball. A batsman in the popping crease with the umpire and the wicketkeeper behind him looks for all the world like a batter at the home plate complete with catcher and umpire. But that is where the similarity ends so to speak. Cricket is played on a field, but a "pitch" is not a pitch, but a "bowl". The ball is not thrown, but "bowled" overhand to a "batsman" or "striker", not a batter. There are more than two dozen fielding positions with odd names, yet only 11 players in the field at one time. There are more than five or six ways to get a batsman out, all with names that on the surface don't seem to relate to circumstance. By now you get the idea. The language of cricket is more confusing than the actual game. As Americans we tend to get glassy-eyed and throw up our hands. To us it seems that cricket is a lot like the British government: which is the only constitutional government in the world without a written constitution.
Try as you might to wrap your mind around that one, so it is with cricket. Just when you think you understand it, an unwritten rule or new term pops up to throw you entirely off balance. With that said, we offer an incomplete guide to the game written by Americans for Americans. We're sure we will hear from cricketers around the world and we will include their comments and criticisms as we add to this guide.
LAWS OF THE GAME
Cricket teams consist of 11 men, cricketers or players. Regular matches consist of two innings with one team at bat and the other in the field. The team at bat tries to score runs while the goal of the team in the field is to get 10 of the 11 members of the opposite team out. When the team in the field accomplishes that feat, they get their turn at bat and the opposing team takes the field. When both teams have batted it is considered an inning, which can last a considerable length of time.
Generally speaking, at the end of a two-inning game (which can last as long as five days*) the team with the most runs is the winner, but as in baseball it may not be necessary for the game to be played to its conclusion in terms of outs. If a team is so far ahead in runs after only one inning at bat, and the opposing team has had two innings at bat, the game is over and the winners are declared to have won by "innings". On the other hand, a team can be declared the winner by a number of wickets. For instance, if the opposing team has had two innings at bat and is in the lead, and your team goes ahead in runs after six players have been gotten out, your team is declared the winners by four wickets, the number of players not gotten out for the inning to be declared over.
*Five day matches are the norm for full international matche. Three and four day matches are the norm for other "first-class" matches - matches which are played by professionals. Club matches (played by amateurs) are usually much shorter - many UK amateur leagues matches last five hours (a summer's afternoon). Such matches are one-innings matches, not two innings matches.
In high-summer, village cricket matches can be scheduled to last for as
little at two and a half hours and can be played during the week.
THE PLAYING GROUND
Cricket can be played just about anywhere. The field can vary in size and terrain or playing surface...both of which must be factored into the strategy of play. The playing surface at the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford on Philadelphia's Main Line where some of the games of the 4th Annual Philadelphia Cricket Festival were contested, is actually the club's lawn tennis courts converted for cricket. Needless to say, the grass is like a putting green and even the most pathetically hit grounder can roll forever. The grounds at the Germantown Cricket Club we were told were is much the same, but Cope Field at Haverford College (the third venue for the games of the 4th Philadelphia Cricket Festival) is by comparison unkempt; the grass longer, presenting an entirely different set of fielding problems.
Back to business. At the center of the field is the pitch where much of the action takes place between the bowler, who delivers the ball, and the batsman or striker who attempts to hit it and score runs. Here's how that all works.
The pitch is 22 yards long and has wickets at each end. Wickets consist of three round, 28-inch high wooden "stumps" with grooves across the top into which are placed two small wooden "bails". At one set of wickets is the "bowling crease" which works something like a pitchers mound and at the other end is the "popping crease" which works something like a batters box. The bowler must release the ball from within the bowling crease and the batsman must keep one foot within the popping crease while at bat. If a batsman fails to stay in the popping crease he can be "stumped" which is when the wicketkeeper (catcher) uses the ball to knock the bails off the stumps for an out.
Cricket Watchers Guide
How the Game is Played
Bowler vs. Striker
The Ball & Bowling
Ins & Outs of Scoring
Glossary of Cricket Terms
Cricket in America
North American Cricket Clubs
C.C. Morris Cricket Library
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