By Kyle Jones
If I started telling you about the World Cup that occurred last summer, you’d probably assume I was telling you about the FIFA Women’s World Cup. And, in most cases you’d be exactly right.
As a soccer fanatic, and an American, I was enthralled by the US Women’s National Team’s success in the premiere tournament of the sport. But, the women weren’t the only ones having a World Cup this past summer.
Just across the English Channel, spanning the length and width of Great Britain, the Cricket World Cup had its day in the sun.
But, what the heck is cricket? Honestly, I’m still trying to answer that question myself.
I started watching cricket during my spring break of 2019, when my cable provider offered a free trial of a channel that only aired the Indian Premier League.
I sat for hours watching nothing but cricket, stopping only to fulfill basic needs like food, water and trips to the restroom. I studied the game, became fascinated by it, learned the rules, understood the excitement and found what may be one of my new favorite sports.
But, what the heck is cricket?
When people say cricket is like baseball, they’re not entirely wrong. There’s a player with a bat and a player who throws a ball at them. There are innings, and you can be called out.
But that’s just about as far as the similarities go.
For starters, the game is played in innings, but they’re not called “first inning, second inning, etc.” Instead, cricketers say “first innings” or “second innings.” An innings ends after 10 outs. Yep, that’s right, 10!
There are two batsmen on the field for the batting team at one time, each standing on opposite end of what’s called “the pitch.” Instead of standing in front of home plate, batsmen stand in front of three stumps, connected by two bails, called a wicket.
Those two batsmen stay on the field until one of them gets out. Then, the one who is out leaves and the next person in the batting order replaces him.
The team in the field consists of 11 players. The bowler, much like a pitcher in baseball, delivers the ball to a waiting batsman. He runs up, then throws the ball straight-armed over his head. The ball takes one hop off the pitch, at which point the batsman tries to hit it.
If the batsman hits the ball there are a few things that can happen:
If the batsman hits the ball outside of the infield area, they can run to the other side of the pitch, switching sides with the other batsman as they do so. This would count as one run, and batsmen can run back and forth to score more runs until the fielding team gets the ball back into the infield.
For example, a speedy batsman could run across the pitch, back to his original position and then back across. This would count as three runs.
A team can also be awarded a run for an improper delivery by the bowler. This could be a delivery that is dangerous, too wide, or bounces twice, among a list of other violations that would take up an entire column.
Similar to baseball, cricket has a way to score multiple runs without having to run too much. A “home run” of sorts.
In cricket there are two kinds of these home runs. First, a ground ball to the boundary (cricket has a small, speed-bump-esque, boundary instead of a fence) is called a Four. Naturally, it’s worth four runs. Second, if a batsman hits a fly ball over the boundary, that’s called a six. Like the name implies, it’s worth six runs.
Sixes are some of the biggest momentum swingers in cricket, but definitely not the biggest. That title belongs to the taking of a wicket (cricketers usually shorten this to “wicket”).
But, what the heck is a wicket?
Well, a wicket is “cricket-speak” for an out. Remember, each team has 10 outs per innings, and those can be hard to come by. For this reason, you’ll see cricketers celebrating wickets more than any other event in the sport … except winning of course.
So, how do you take a wicket?
There are 10 different ways of taking a wicket, though five are pretty rare. Let’s start with the most common ones:
If a delivery hits the wicket behind the batsman, that wicket is taken and the batsman is out. This is where the term “wicket” got its name, as “bowling the batsman out” is the most common way of taking a wicket.
If a batsman hits the ball into the air, and that ball is caught, a wicket is taken and the batsman is out. This method of taking a wicket is similar to baseball, except cricketers have to field balls bare-handed.
If a delivery hits any part of the batsman’s body, and the umpire rules that the delivery would have hit the wicket if not for the body part being there, a wicket is taken and the batsman is out. This is called a leg-before-wicket (lbw for short).
This is perhaps the hardest method to understand. But thankfully, replay review has made the process of identifying an lbw easy.
Another method of taking a wicket is if a batsman is run out. Similar to tagging out a baserunner, if a batted ball is thrown back to a stump before a batsman reaches it, that batsman is out.
The final, most common method is called stumping. If a batsman leaves his batting area, known as a crease, to hit a ball and the wicket-keeper is able to catch the ball and hit the wicket, the batsman is out.
You rarely see this one. So rare, in fact that even I haven’t seen it.
There are five uncommon ways of taking a wicket:
A batter is considered retired if they leave the field without the umpire’s consent. A batter is out if they hit the ball twice, hits his own wicket or obstructs the field. Finally, a batter can be ruled out if they willingly take more than three minutes to get ready for the next delivery.
So, we know how to score and we know how to get out, but there’s still one more question:
What the heck is cricket?
At the moment, there are three types of Cricket, though a fourth kind is set to debut in England next year. They are One Day International (ODI), Twenty-Twenty (T20) and Test. The new one is called The Hundred, but I won’t get into that one because I haven’t watched it.
The most popular form of cricket is T20. This form consists of two innings, one for each team. Each innings consists of 20 Overs; each Over consists of six deliveries. That’s 120 deliveries per innings! Of course, as with any form of cricket, an innings can be ended if one team takes 10 wickets.
T20 is the form of cricket that most professional cricket leagues play. The Indian Premier League, Carribean Premier League, as well as the Australin Big Bash League all play T20 style. This is because the matches are relatively quick, compared to other forms of the game.
A regular T20 match only runs about four or five hours, while an ODI could last up to 10.
Speaking of ODI, these matches are only played between two national teams. This is the form of cricket that was used during last summer’s World Cup. This form consists of two innings, one for each team. Each innings consists of 50 Overs, six deliveries per Over. That’s 300 deliveries per innings! As mentioned before, these matches last all day, hence the name One-Day-International.
The final form of cricket, what many would say is the game’s truest form, is the Test match.
This is the one you’ve heard about; the infamous form of cricket that takes an entire week to play.
Each team has two innings. There is no limit to the amount of Overs played. The only rule is that both teams must have the chance to bat in two innings within the five-day playing period.
For example, India and South Africa played a Test match that started on October 18. India won the coin toss and chose to bat. In their first innings, India scored 497 runs. India had nine wickets taken before declaring. When a team declares, they end their innings early to make sure they have time to get the other team all-out.
The South Africans scored 162 runs in their first innings, and had all 10 wickets taken. Because South Africa trailed by more than 200 runs after their first innings, India ordered South Africa to immediately play their second innings, instead of bowling to India again. South Africa only scored 133 runs in their second innings, for a total of 295 runs, and India’s batters never had to bat a second time.
That match lasted four days.
Cricket never has a true offseason. As soon as the T20 leagues end their seasons, ODI and Test season ramps up. Much like soccer, very rarely is there a break.
This leads to year-round excitement and fun.
My advice: watch the Indian Premier League or the Australian Big Bash League for your T20 fix. These leagues have the best players, the most action and the best teams. For ODIs, you can’t go wrong with England or New Zealand, and the USA ODI team is making a name for themselves. Finally, for Test matches, nothing beats India, who have some of the best players and the best fans.
So, what the heck is Cricket?
It depends on which type of cricket you’re talking about, but if you have a little patience and take a bit of time to understand what you’re watching, it can be one of your favorite sports too.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org