Introduction to Cricket

Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world (after soccer), and is most popular in AustralasiaEngland, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and Southern Africa but is played in over 100 countries world-wide. It has a long history in Canada, and Newfoundland, at one point being declared Canada’s national game by John C Macdonald.

Cricket is a sport that is of the same basic form as baseball and softball – a batter hits a ball thrown to him and tries to score runs, and not get out. The following explanation is adapted from one developed in the USA that builds on the similarity between the games.

The basics

There are two teams, with eleven players each (instead of nine as in baseball). Instead of four bases, there are only two; in the middle of the field, sixty-six feet apart, called wickets. All running is between the two wickets; the ball can be hit in front, or behind… or, in any direction. Instead of rotating batting for nine innings each, each team does all its batting in a single inning.

The team scoring more runs wins the game.

The cricket ball is slightly larger than a baseball, but is as hard; and the bat is flat on one side, and wider, but of similar length.

Pitching (bowling)

Unlike baseball, where a pitcher continues until replaced, cricket pitchers (bowlers) rest every 6 pitches as their pitching rotates. The fielding team works with two bowlers at the same time.

The first bowler throws (bowls) from one wicket to the other. After six throws (balls), the catcher (wicket-keeper) moves around behind the first bowler’s wicket, bowler #2 takes over.  He bowls six balls in the opposite direction (i.e. bowler’s wicket). The two pitchers keep alternating like this, until one or both of them are relieved. Each six-ball set is called an “over“.

Cricket bowling is different from baseball pitching. The bowler is allowed to take a run-up to bowl, unlike the baseball pitcher who pitches from a fixed starting point. The bowler also has to bowl with a straight arm with their arm rotating in a windmill action, unlike the pitcher who gains most of their speed from the throwing motion. Lastly in cricket the ball is aimed to bounce before it reaches the batsman, making the condition of the ground between bowler and batsman very important.

Batting

The major difference from baseball is that batters (batsmen) can hit in any direction. The batsman can run when he chooses to, not every time he gets a hit, as in baseball.  He is safe as long as he protects his wickets with his bat (not his feet or hands) and makes no other errors. As long as the batter can protect his wicket, he is free to keep batting, and scoring, as long as he can!

The main three ways a batsman is OUT are if — :

  • Any of the three sticks marking his wicket (called “stumps“) are hit by the bowler – he is “bowled” (like being struck out, except that once is enough).
  • The ball is hit into a fielder’s hand without touching the ground, he is “caught” (like baseball’s pop fly).
  • If he is running between the wickets, and a fielder can break the wicket he is running to with the ball, before the runner crosses the “safe line” in front of the wickets, he is “run out” (like a tag, except in cricket you tag the base, not the runner).

A cricket batsman could be out on the first pitch, but otherwise would go on batting until someone puts him “out”, Some batters can stay in for hours, scoring 50, 100 runs or more!

Scoring runs

A batsman can score in cricket by hitting the ball, deciding to run, then running safely between the two wickets. A major difference from baseball is that there are two batsman in action at once, and to run, both must reach the other end safely.

Once across (from one wicket, to the opposite one) is a “single”, scoring 1 run; there and back is a “double”, scoring 2 runs; three times back and forth is a “triple”, scoring 3 runs.

A hit that reaches the fence scores four runs and a hit that flies over the fence like a home run is a six, scoring 6 runs.

If an odd number of runs are scored, then the second batsman faced the next ball. At the end of the over the batsmen stay in place, and so the second batsman faces the next ball.

Progress of play

Before the game starts, the opposing captains toss a coin, to decide who is to bat first. The game begins and two batsmen are sent in, one for each wicket (i.e. In baseball terms, the bases are “loaded” to start a team’s batting, and have to stay that way.) As one batsmen is put out, the next person in the batting order goes in. Each team is allowed 10 outs or a maximum number of overs say 20 overs ( i.e. 120 balls)  to bat. The inning is finished either when 10 outs have occurred ( i.e. 1 man is left on base, out of the 11 in the team) or when the 20-over limit has been reached; i.e. the maximum number of balls is bowled.

Now the team that has been fielding gets its chance to bat. Say the team batting first scored 120 runs. If the team batting second scores only 100 runs in its 20 overs, it has lost by 20 runs. If it reaches 121 runs for (say) only 6 outs within its allowed 20 overs, it wins the game.

How long does a game take?

At the highest level, teams have two innings each, and the game is played for 6 hours/ day for five days! Most cricket is played in a single day, and takes about as long as a baseball double-header.  In fact, this is a useful way of looking at cricket if you understand baseball:

Each team’s batting takes about as long, and has as many things happen, as a complete baseball game. This is about average. There can be low-scoring games that are over in 2 or 3 hours.

On the other hand, if both teams score 200 to 300 runs each, these very high-scoring games last seven hours… or more. It all depends on the day, the teams, the mood and the playing conditions.

More information

The top cricket web site is CricInfo – http://www.cricinfo.com.

Cricket Canada can be found at

http://www.gocricketgocanada.com

Cricket NL: http://www.canadacricket.com/nlcricket/

Newfoundland cricket history

The St. John’s Cricket club was established in the 1820s, one of the first cricket clubs in North America. Cricket was played commonly in the Newfoundland summers, with centres of activity in St. John’s, Harbour Grace, Twillingate, and of course Trinity. The heyday of the game was from roughly 1880 to 1910, when there was an active league in St. John’s and games attracted thousands of spectators. There was also an active interschool tournament. Newfoundland’s greatest ever cricketer John Shannon Munn represented Oxford University and had success against the best players in England. The game however was in decline before the first World War, and afterwards became a rarity, still played by the schools into the 1930s, but mostly replaced by soccer and baseball. There were intermittent attempts to revive the game but all faltered until Cricket Newfoundland and Labrador was founded in 2010. With a membership of around 100, there are active winter and summer leagues, and the province has had significant success in interprovincial competition, finishing as high as 2nd in eastern Canada.

Cricket in Newfoundland was been featured in the successful film “The Grand Seduction” filmed in the Trinity area.