Friday, February 12, 2016

Doing the Impossible: An Explanation of Cricket

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.

When I first read that explanation of cricket it amused me, but didn't help me understand the game. Then we went to two different cricket games in Australia and now I sort of understand the game - at least well enough to follow the game and know when to cheer. I tend to think that cricket fans like to keep everyone in the dark about the game. It adds to its mystique and dare I say, elitism. 

The game really isn't that hard to understand. What had always thrown me off is that I've only watched it on tv and at no time did I realize that two batters are on the field at the same time!

Basically, in the middle of a large oval field is a long rectangle (the photo shows two, but they only use one at a time) with a couple of small wooden fences (wickets) at either end of it. The bowler (pitcher) runs like a lunatic from behind one wicket, throws the ball at the batter at the other wicket and tries to hit that wicket. The batter wants to hit the ball and not let it hit the wicket. 

Once the ball is hit, the batter runs from his wicket to the other wicket as many times as he can before the ball is thrown to a wicket - which puts him out if the ball beats him there, which is a bad thing. The second batter basically stands around waiting to run and he runs when the guy who actually hit the ball runs. They need to both do the same number of runs so that they don't end up at the same wicket.

And here was my problem with having only watched the game on tv: once the ball is hit, the camera follows the ball and guys in the field dealing with the ball. They never show the runners. Well, they do if one is close to being called out. So I never really understood what these batters were doing, because they never seemed to be running much.

Scoring is basic: Run to a wicket and get a run. Run back to your original wicket in one hit and get two runs. If the ball hits the boundary line of the oval, that's an automatic 4 runs. Hit it out of the oval and it's 6 runs.

These automatic runs help make it a great summer game. You rarely see a player run for his life. He runs, or maybe not if he didn't bat the ball very far. He maybe starts to run, but then realizes his hit is an automatic 4 or 6 runs, so he moseys on back to his wicket to await another bowl. It did surprise me that batters rarely seem to risk a run. It's almost like everyone on the field agrees that they'll all allow this one run, but don't try a second, and we'll just all take it easy because it's beastly hot out here. See. The perfect summer game.

But when does a game end? Every 6 bats is collectively called an over. The games we saw were either 20 overs each team or 50 overs. First team goes to bat, bats its number of overs and counts its runs. The second team then tries to beat that.

A player bats until he is out: catch a fly ball, the ball hits the wicket, or he doesn't make it past the wicket line before the ball does when running.

For those of you still following along, you'll have noticed that if you have a couple of good batters, they could basically bat the entire game and the other players would just be hanging around waiting for their turn in the field.

Of course, there are lots of other rules, lots of stats, lots of intricacies for the uber fan that I will never understand. But I understood enough to enjoy it and know when to clap.

However, the best thing about cricket, is that a game can last days, one day (50 overs each) or 3 hours (20 overs each), depending on your version. So there is something for everyone. 

It's a fairly relaxing game, and nice to watch on a summer day. It doesn't move terribly fast. There's lots of time to visit in between plays. The players take breaks every now and then.

Basically, there are worse ways to spend a nice summer day.

Now that you understand the game (ha!), just wait for my next post that describes some of what goes on on the field, and the rather fabulous Australian Big Bash League.

Stay tuned....


  1. Nice summary! In another life, I taught elementary school in England. I couldn't figure out all the cricket rules, so we played Ms. S's Canadian Cricket - which means I just made it up as best I could. Probably not the recommended teaching practice...

    1. Thanks! As for Canadian Cricket, you probably did the kids a big favour showing them flexibility in sport, or some such thing.