Cricket 101: An Explanation of The Englishman's Game For Novices

A batsman tries to score runs by hitting the ball being tossed by the bowler. He can score a few ways; by hitting the ball into the field and running between the wickets or he can get 4 runs if he gets the ball all the way to the boundary on the ground or, he gets 6 runs if he gets the ball over the boundary without it hitting the ground.

Cricket 101: An Explanation of The Englishman's Game For Novices

Cricket Game Being Played | Image Credit to Chennette from Flickr

The last time I played cricket was probably a pick-up out-a-man game about twenty years ago. And even though we were using a tennis ball rather than a proper, rock hard cricket ball, it was still a bit disconcerting trying to hit a ball being hurled at me at incredible velocity with a bat. I do not play cricket anymore.

As a man who grew up on an Island where cricket was played regularly, I still don’t understand the true intricacies of the game. The basic concept, I get. But the details and nuances have somehow escaped me. So I did a bit of research to educate myself. Hopefully it would help you as well.

What is cricket?

The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins. The game is played on a circular or oval field with boundaries. At the center of the field is a pitch where most of the action takes place.

There is a lot of action going on in a cricket game. Actually I think a game is called a match. And you have to know a few things in order to follow and understand the games.

The teams take turn at batting. Each turn is called an inning.

A batsman tries to score runs by hitting the ball being tossed by the bowler. He can score a few ways; by hitting the ball into the field and running between the wickets or he can get 4 runs if he gets the ball all the way to the boundary on the ground or, he gets 6 runs if he gets the ball over the boundary without it hitting the ground. Then there are things called byes, and leg byes, and no balls, and wides, etc. Not important for this discussion.

Now, the bowler is who tries to get the batsman out. He can do this in several ways. He can hit the wicket, or stumps as they are called, with the ball directly. Or if the ball hits the batsman’s leg before it would have hit the wicket he is called out. (This is LBW: Leg before wicket). If the batsman hit the ball in the air and a fielder catches it, he’s out. He can also be run out (Something about hitting the stumps while the batsman is running between the crease or something like that. This will take too much out of me to explain so I’ll move on).

Each bowler bowls 6 balls in a row. This is called an over. There are of course exceptions to this. Some matches have limited overs. Some go on for days with each team playing two innings each. Fun!

Ok when I started this I thought it would have been quite easy to explain this gentleman’s game but I guess not.

In addition to the batsman and the bowler there are fielders who each occupy a different position on the field. The wicket keeper plays behind the wicket. His job is to catch or stop any ball that gets by the batsman. I’ve heard of positions on the field with the following names but I have no idea what or where they are.

There are slips, gully, cover, extra cover, deep extra cover, mid-on, mid-off, square-leg, and two positions which I think only a crazy man or a highly skilled athlete would occupy--silly mid-on and silly mid-off. This player is positioned about 5 feet away from the batsman who is swinging a wooden bat as hard as he can at a rock hard cricket ball and this silly man in this silly position is trying to stop this with his bare hand. What a silly game, indeed.

A few more things you need to know before you head out to the game. A bouncer is a ball that the bowler bounces short on the pitch so it bounces high enough to brush back and intimidate the batsman. The man in the coat on the field is the umpire. When he sticks his finger in the air he’s not giving you the finger. He’s calling the batsman out. There is something called a googlie. It is supposed to be an unhittable ball. I can’t explain it to you.

I hope you realize that I don’t know much about the game of cricket. So if you see me at the game I am just there for the lime looking out for a wicked googlie.

Play on.

Editor's Note: Theo Semper is an Associate Editor with MNI Alive: Global Caribbean Media