Basics of the Game
Cricket is a bat and ball sport with some passing similarities to baseball. It is played by two teams of 11 players who traditionally dress all in white, and is controlled by an umpire. One team bats while the other team bowls and fields.
The field of play is traditionally oval-shaped and the cricket pitch within it is 22 yards long and 10 feet wide. At each end there are three poles or stumps stuck in the ground, which are topped with two small horizontal sticks called bales. This is called the wicket.
While the bowler attempts to hit with his ball, the batsman's job is to defend his stumps while also attempting to hit the ball to score runs. The winning team is the side with the most runs for the fewest players out.
Cricket equipment has come a long way since shepherds purportedly hit stones with their crooks for entertainment. Cricket balls are made of cork and stitched leather and have pronounced seams which can affect the flight and bounce of the ball. The bat has a flat striking surface and is traditionally made of willow, although other materials are also used. Batsmen wear leg guards, padded gloves and a helmet while the wicket-keeper, who stands directly behind the batsman, wears catching gloves, leg guards and a helmet. Cricket shoes are usually spiked for traction. Most male players also wear a groin protector called a box.
A point in cricket is called a run and, as the name suggests, is scored when a batsman runs from one end of the pitch to the other. Runs can also be scored by hitting the ball to the boundary of the field. If the ball travels from the bat to the boundary without hitting the ground, six runs are awarded. However, a batsman hitting a ball to the boundary that hits the ground first earns his team just four runs.
Pairs of Pairs
Unlike baseball where only a single batter is in play at any one time, in cricket, two batmen are in and stand at opposite ends of the pitch. Although only one player is facing the bowler at a time, if the batsman facing the bowler runs, his non-batting counterpart must also run, each to the opposite end. If an uneven number of runs is scored, the batsmen change ends. Balls are bowled in groups of six, called overs, and two bowlers each take turns bowling an over, from alternating ends of the pitch.
The bowler's main job is to get the batsman out. He can do this in several ways including hitting the batsman's stumps with the ball or hitting the batsman's leg if it is directly in front of the stumps, a score that is referred to as leg before wicket, or LBW. The batsman can also be caught out if a fielder catches the ball after it has been struck, but before it hits the ground; or can be run out when the ball is struck or thrown against his stumps while he is off his mark, which is called the crease.
When the opposing team thinks the batsman is out, they shout "How's that?"; and the umpire then makes the final decision to uphold or deny the appeal. If out, the batsman walks off the pitch to be replaced by the next batter. Once 10 batsman out of 11 are out, the teams swap over.
Duration of Play
Cricket matches can last a few hours or several days depending on the format being played. Some matches are limited by the number of overs that will be bowled while other matches involve several innings. Cricket matches traditionally involve a midplay break, which is usually called tea, a reference to the refreshment served during this time. Play can be stopped because of bad weather or poor light that, in multi-day events, means that play will resume the following day.