Pretty difficult rules (at least for newbies), endless variations and specific, separated, but at the same time incredibly large group of fans. Cricket is one of the most enigmatic sports. Supporters say that anyone can learn to understand, enjoy and ultimately love it. Opponents accuse it of being boring. Where lies the truth? Find out by reading this article, another part of OneHash’s beginners guide series.

  • What are differences between cricket’s various formats?
  • How batting differs from fielding and bowling?
  • Where cricket's one billion fans come from?

What is cricket?

Cricket is a bat-and-ball sport played by two competitive side with 11 players each, one being the batting team, while the other is the fielding team. Cricket game is usually played on a ground, a large expanse of flat grass, often circular or oval in shape and surrounded by a boundary marker flags. In the middle of the oval there is a “pitch”, a strip of rock-hard earth covered by very short grass and wickets.

To play a game of cricket you need the bat and the ball. This sport’s object is to score runs when at bat and put out or dismiss the opposition team’s batsman when in the field. The ball is delivered from one end of the pitch to another by a bowler. The team that got the higher number number of runs, wins.

There are basically three broad types of the most important cricket competitions that vary in terms of playing time:

  • The longer form, called first-class cricket, take place over three to five days. The highest international standard of first-class cricket is test cricket. Each nation holds its own domestic first class competition.
  • Limited overs cricket, also known as One-Day cricket is the shorter one that lasts for - yeah, you guessed it - up to one day, about a couple of hours. Cricket World Cup is played in this format every four year.
  • The shorter and the newest version of cricket is Twenty20 cricket, often shortened to T20, in which game is completed in about three hours.

That’s all from the most important basics, so now let’s go deeper into this sport. Maybe starting with a small historical overview.

It's nice being introduced, don't you think?

British colonialism symbol - cricket history

While cricket’s exact origin is unknown, the discipline for sure developed in Great Britain. Most likely the name of this sport was derived from the Old English word “cryce”, what according to Samuel Johnsons’s Dictionary meant a stick. Cricket history began around the 16th century in Weald, an area of dense woodlands and clearings in south-east England. This sport has evolved into a leading one in England throughout the centuries and has been brought to other parts of the world due to English colonialism. It’s surely the most British sport ever, as well British colonialism symbol due to its extreme popularity in former territories of the British Empire.

History of international cricket is kind of compound. The earliest cricket match between the two countries - United States and Canada - took place on 24 and 25 September 1844 in St George's Cricket Club's in New York. Nevertheless, the first cricket test match, format with the longest duration and considerably highest standard, took place between 15 and 19 March 1877. England faced Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia won by 45 runs.

Cricket 101

Bat. Cricket bat is the stick used to hit the ball. The bat should measure up to 38 inches in length and 4,5 inches in width. It can’t be lightest than 1 kg and heavier than 2,5 kg. The bat is one of many aspects that differs cricket from baseball. In cricket bats are wide and flat, while in baseball narrow and round. What’s more is that cricket bats have two components: a cylindrical handle and a blade, baseball bats on the other hand are one-piece.

Ball. Maybe one of cricket’s most iconic elements, thanks to its expressive red colour (It’s worth mentioning that in many one day cricket matches a white ball is used instead in order to remain visible under floodlights). Cricket balls are round in shape and quite heavy, about 160 grams. They also have a circumference between 22.4 and 22.9 milimetres. Cricket balls are made generally from distinct materials in type of cork, string and leather.

Cricket Ball

Ground. Large, roughly 150 meters and 130 meters across field. Cricket grounds are generally oval in shape, bu there are other varieties of its shape: sometimes they are perfect circles, sometimes elongated ovals and some grounds even have irregular shapes with little or no symmetry. Cricket is unusual among major sports, because there are no official rules for a fixed-shape ground of this sports.

Pitch. Central strip on the cricket ground, part of the field where the batsman and bowler play. 20 meters in length and 3 meters in width rectangle in an international standards. The pitch is marked at both ends with wickets, three wooden stumps with two wooden bails resting on top. Both bowler and batsman have their own wickets. Bowlers have as well a bowling creases, a place inside which they should remain while releasing a ball. Pitch’s surface is flat and covered with extremely short grass that is removed near the end of the pitch.

Wickets. As mentioned before, wickets are three upright wooden poles called stumps that are hammered into the ground. They remind somehow of a small wooden castle. Two wooden cross pieces, known as bais, are placed on the top of those stumps, linking each to the one beside. The set of three stumps and two bails is known as a wicket. One is designated for the batsman and the other for the bowler. Player on the batting side scores runs by running between the wickets. For a batsman to be dismissed, his wicket needs to be put down. More of this in rules section.

Wicket being hit by a ball. Source: Sportskeeda

Creases. Lines drawn or painted on the pitch mark creases. Creases are an areas that help determine legal plays in very different ways for both fielding and batting side. They define the area for batsman and bowlers to operate.

Innings. Every cricket match consists of periods called innings, in which one team bats the ball and the other tries to field. Its amount depends on the game’s scenario. Each team has either one or two innings during the game. In some games all eleven players of the batting side are in a turn to bat, but the innings can end way before batsmen even have a chance to bat. It’s caused by various reasons, inseparably related to the game's events.

Umpire. Equivalent of referee in other sports. Umpires decide the hours of plays, which ball will be used during the game and hour or duration of game breaks. They check players and ground equipment regarding to standard requirements: lines, creases, wickets and players bats, helmets, gloves etc. All of this before the game, during the game itself they basically give calls on controversial actions that need arbitrations.

Cricket umpire in action. Source: Zee News

Rules of the game

Here our article got into sharp turn, because the rules of cricket are kind of specific, with a lot of dependencies and features that are hard to understand at first glance. Nevertheless, this sport is regulated worldwide by The Laws of Cricket. They were invented in 1744 and since then have been modernized to this day. Currently there are 42 Laws which regulate the way how cricket games should be played. You can find and get to know all of them here.

We will, however, focus on four main aspects of cricket game:

Batting and scoring runs. When the team bats, its two players go to the middle of the pitch with both main aim to run from one ground’s end to another and to protect the stumps behind them from the ball. Batsmen and his side can score runs in four ways:

  1. Off the bat. Batsman strikes the ball into areas of the ground in order to score runs. When the batsmen make it to the opposite site completely, he is rewarded with one run. When the ball touches the ground before going to the boundary lines, then four runs are added to his team’s account. When the ball doesn’t touch the ground and fly over boundary line or demarcated area, batsmen gets six runs.
  2. Byes or leg-byes runs. Ball flies without even touching batsman’s bat or body - runs in those situations are called byes. The batsman doesn’t hit the ball with the bat, but the ball touches his body - this is a leg-bye.
  3. No ball. When the bowler bowls from the wrong place, in the wrong way (when ball is declared dangerous or bounces more than twice before getting into batsman) or when his colleagues stands in illegal positions. Batsman can hit and score a run of no ball and if he does it, then he and his teams gains one run each
  4. Wide ball. When, according to umpire, the ball is too wide or too high for the batsman to hit, then umpire calls a wide ball situation. The batting team scores a run, as a penalty for the bowling team.

Dismissal also known as getting out. There are ten ways the batsman can be given out of the game. “Wicket” situation occurs when the bowler gets the batsman out of the game. Batsman gets dismissed in those situations:

  1. Bowled. Ball hits the batsman’s wicket.
  2. Caught. Batsman hits the ball, but the fielder catches it before the ball has hit the ground.
  3. Leg Before Wicket (LBW). Pretty self-explanatory. The ball hits the batsman’s legs before hitting the wicket.
  4. Stumped. Wicketkeeper puts down his wicket while he is out of his crease and doesn’t try to score a run. It harms the batsman who gets dismissed in this situation.
  5. Run Out. No part of batman’s bat and body is grounded the popping crease while the ball is in play.
  6. Hit Wicket. Batsman hits his wicket with bat or body while the ball is in play or while he sets off for the first run.
  7. Handled the ball. Batsman willingly touches the ball with his hand that is not touching the bat.
  8. Timed out. The batsman passes the three minutes period for preparing to strike the ball when his team’s previous batsman has been dismissed.
  9. Hit the ball twice. Batsman hits the ball more than once with his bat and then he’s out. Nothing to add here.
  10. Obstruct the field. Batsman tries in any method (word or action) to obstruct or distract the fielding side.

Bowling. Main goal of bowler is to bowl the ball as hard for the batsman to hit as it’s possible. Bowler delivers balls into action to get batsman out or restrict the number of batsman’s runs. Bowlers may bowl the ball in fast, slow or spin manner.

Fielding. Positioning and collecting the ball after it was hit by the batsman. Main goal of fielding is to limit the number of batman’s runs and to get him dismissed by catching the ball in flight or outrunning him. Players that take place in this part of the game are called fielders or fieldsmen. This section is so extensive that it’s way better to point out all of fielding positions by an image. The one like here:

Cricket’s fielding position. Source: Cricket Academy

Worldwide professional cricket

While this sport is played across the world, it is not the whole world that lives by and admires it. Only twelve nations can play test cricket (most of them being former British Empire territories) and not many more sends its teams to the World Cups in one-day cricket and T-20 cricket. Here it is the primary twelve, framed in an alphabetical order:

  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • England
  • India
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa,
  • The West Indies
  • Zimbabwe.

International Cricket Council (ICC) is the global governing body of cricket. Founded as the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 by representatives from Australia, England and South Africa, renamed into the International Cricket Conference in 1965 and took up its current name in 1989. It has twelve Full Members and 93 Associate Members. ICC is responsible for appointing umpires and sets professional standards of this discipline.

The ICC logo: Source: ICC

The ICC is responsible for organisation of main tournaments, the most important being Cricket World Cup. The most anticipated one is played in one-day cricket. Cricket World Cup started its history in 1975 in England. Since then there has been eleven editions of that tournament. Cricket World Cup 2019, the 12th edition of the show, approaches between May and July of 2019. Australia won this tournament four times, making this nation the most-titled at the World Cup. Aussies are as well champions from 2015 edition.

Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League stand as the highest-quality club tournaments in world cricket. Those two leagues give opportunities for the world’s best players to get the world’s best salaries and take place in the world's best club rivalry. It also gives players that didn’t fit to their nation’s best 11 to show their talents at the world stage. Both leagues are played in T20 formula.

Global context of cricket. Will it surpass football?

Few significant words at the end: what’s with cricket’s popularity? Is it a sport that attracts masses of people? Absolutely, but it attracts masses only from specific, geographical group. Nielsen Sport’s global market research commissioned by ICC proved that cricket has over one billion fans and 300 million participants globally. ICC Chief Executive David Richardson stated as well that 90 percent cricket’s fans come from the Indian sub-continent alone.

The ICC’s market research. Source: ICC

The worldwide cricket doesn’t stop, however, on what has been achieved. The ICC has a long term ambition to overtake football as the world’s favorite sport, with four years strategy that started in 2019. Is it pretty brave but understandable from cricket’s officers to aim higher than football or is it pretty detached from reality?

If you read the entire article, then answer this question by yourself and maybe even try to bet on cricket or at least learn how to bet on cricket. We just gave you hints and the most needed information about this sport. As beautiful as enigmatic.

This article is part of our beginners guide series that also contains: