Yes, that’s the game that reminds those of us from the States of Baseball, only it takes longer and they have a break for tea-time. Well we manage to go to the 5th day of a “test match” this past Sunday, South Africa vs. England, and learned a bit so here is the official Tobias crash course to Cricket. I do warn you, this explanation is a bit “elementary” but it has been reviewed by a Cricket lover and has passed although some of words I’ve used are a little more baseball oriented than cricket oriented.
The game begins with one team in the field and one at bat, just like baseball. The pitch, where the batting takes place, is in the center of the field with the fielders scattered all around. At one end of the pitch is the bowler, who runs up and throws the ball at the batter on the other side of the pitch. Simple enough, right? Well now it gets complicated.
When the bowler/pitcher bowls the ball he’s trying to hit the “wickets” (think bowling pins, although there are only three) which the batter is trying to protect. If the one of the wickets is hit, then that batter is out and a new batter takes his place. Ten outs to an inning, you always bat through the order…no more and no less. A batter could literally be out there all day long…that’s why they take the lunch and tea breaks.
The batter, is of course, a batter and is trying to hit the ball when it is hurtled at him. If he hits it out of the park his team receives 6 runs, if it rolls to the back wall, then it is 4 runs. A pop fly that gets caught by a fielder, that’s a “wicket” which is means the batsman is out. If he hits it for a “base hit” its up to him if he wants to run or not. He can run to the other end of the pitch for a single run and keep doing that as long as he’d like. He just needs to make sure he, and the other batsman, are behind the wickets when the ball gets back. If a fielder hits the ball to those wickets, then that batsman is out…which is why he can choose to run if he wants to or not. Wait, did I mention before that there are two batsmen?
Well there are, one at each end of the pitch. The bowler is is at one end of the pitch and bowls to the batter at the other end. If the batsman score a run (base hit) and switches sides with the other batsman, the bowler doesn’t move. Now the bowler will be facing the other batsman but the same rules do apply, the bowler/pitcher is trying hit those wickets or get the batsman to hit the ball in the air to a fielder who can catch for a “pop-fly” wicket. Whoever is batting is in danger of getting a wicket, or getting out, there is a such thing as a double play.
Then there are the bowlers themselves. In baseball, a single pitcher might pitch for an entire game, or at least most of it. When you have a game that is played for up to 5 days straight this really just doesn’t work. Instead a single bowler goes for only 6 pitches at a time (unless they throw the cricket equivalent of a ball in which case a the batter gets a free run AND the bowler has to throw an extra pitch) and then a new bowler is called to pitch from the other side of the pitch. Two bowlers can switch off taking turns all day long if they’d like but any of the 11 fielders (same guys go up to bat when the inning is up) can bowl and only the 11 fielders can bowl. One set of 6 pitches is called an ‘over’ and a day is defined as 90 overs, or 550 pitches.
So how does this game last 5 days? Some matches are limited to 20 or 50 overs, and these matches last for a mere 3 hours or one day respectively. In these shorter versions of the game, batsmen try to hit the ball just as they would try to hit it in baseball…as much as they can. They want to score runs quickly and so they take chances. The test match we attended only requires that each team have two at-bats, or two innings. If both teams don’t complete their 2 innings in the 5 days, then the match is a draw. If they finish early, the match ends early. Since that’s a lot of time, scores tend to run high into the hundreds.
Stay tuned for Cricket Part II- our cricket game experience.