Cricket is a sport played by two teams of eleven players. A bat-and-ball game, it bears some similarity to baseball and rounders, although there are enough differences to make it rather unfamiliar to aficionados of those two sports. Cricket was developed in England and to this day is played in great part by England and its former colonies: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and a combined West Indies team also compete at the game's top level. Cricket is one of the most popular sports not to be included in the Olympic Games.
Like other bat-and-ball games, cricket revolves around the contest between a batsman and a bowler: the bowler tries to bowl the ball past the batsman to hit the wicket which the batsman defends, while the batsman tries to strike the ball far enough so that he can run from one end of his pitch to the other, a distance of twenty-two yards20.117 metres
1 chains, scoring one run for each time he is able to do so. The bowler is supported by a team of ten strategically-placed fielders, including the wicket keeper, who lurks behind the wicket to collect the ball if the batsman misses it. Batsmen take the field in pairs, one at each end of the pitch.
Forms of cricket
At professional level, there are three main forms of cricket:
- Traditional matches: In these matches, each team bats twice, which takes several days. International matches (known as test matches) last up to five days, while at lower levels, such as English county cricket, matches may last up to four or three days. If both teams have not finished their two innings at the end of the allotted time, the match is drawn. If they have, the team that scores most runs is the winner. If play cannot take place due to bad weather, the time is simply lost from the match, leaving less time for the innings to be completed and making a draw more likely.
- One-day matches: These matches last a single day, in which both teams have to bat for a certain number of overs (groups of six balls) - usually 40 or 50 overs each. If a team loses all its wickets before batting its allotted overs, those overs are not bowled and the team loses the opportunity to score runs from them. When both teams have batted, the team with the most runs wins. A draw is not normally possible, since bad weather will be compensated for by reducing the number of overs batted by one or both teams; certain algorithms are used to calculate a fair runs total for teams who cannot fit in all their overs. However, a tie (both teams score the same number of runs) is a possible if fairly unusual result.
- Twenty20: This is the most recent form of cricket. A game takes around three hours, in which each team bats for 20 overs. The shortened time span makes this form of the game more similar to watch to football or baseball, and also makes wickets less valuable, encouraging players to go for risky, high-scoring shots. Twenty20 games are often jazzed up with all sorts of other modern razzmatazz to give them more pizzazz in the eyes of younger fans and fans of other sports.
Cricket scores are measured in runs, scored by the batting team when it is their turn to bat. The basic way to score runs is for the batsman to use his bat to strike the ball after it is bowled, and then run to the other end of the pitch before the fielders can get the ball back. At the same time, the other batsman runs to switch places with him. If the ball is hit far enough, two or more runs may be scored from a single ball in this way.
If the batsman hits the ball all the way to the boundary of the field, four runs are scored. If it reaches the boundary without bouncing, six are scored, but this is risky to attempt since if a fielder catches the ball before it bounces, the batsman is out. Fours and sixes are collectively known as boundaries, and are scored without the batsmen physically having to run between the wickets the appropriate number of times.
In addition to runs scored with the bat, additional runs can be scored from lapses by the fielders. These are known as extras, and are added onto the batting team's total without being credited to one particular batsman. Extras include:
- No balls: If a bowler puts his foot too far forward while bowling, or bends his arm, or breaks certain other rules, a no ball is called. Another ball must be bowled in the over, and the batting team receives one run.
- Wides: If the ball is bowled too wide for the batsman to reasonably hit, a wide is called. Another ball must be bowled in the over, and the batting team receives one run.
- Byes: If the batsman does not hit the ball but the wicket keeper fails to catch it properly, the batsmen may run anyway if they have time; any runs scored in this way are called byes. If the ball goes past the wicket keeper and all the way to the boundary (as can often happen when fast bowlers are bowling), four byes are scored.
- Leg byes: If the batsman does not strike the ball with his bat but it comes off his leg or some other part of his body, he can still run if he has time. Runs scored in this way are recorded as leg byes.
In a typical innings, with all eleven batsmen having batted, it is normal for a team to amass a few hundred runs. At international level, less than 200 is a rather weak score, and anything over 400 usually puts a team in a commanding position.
Sir Donald Bradman, an Australian test cricketer between 1928 and 1948, averaged 99.94 runs per test match over his career, nearly twice the second-best batsman. He was knighted for his contribution to the game, the only Australian cricketer receiving that honour.
Traditionally, cricket players wear whites - a white shirt and trousers, and a pullover or sleeveless pullover depending on the weather. In more modernistic forms of the game - certain one-day competitions and Twenty20 - players now wear outfits in team colours, as they do in other sports. Squad numbers on the backs of players' shirts are another recent innovation of indeterminate purpose.
In addition, batsmen wear padding to protect them from impact by the hard cricket ball, including gloves, large leg pads, thigh pads and a helmet. Wicket keepers also wear gloves, pads and often a helmet, and sometimes a fielder in a close position may wear a protective helmet as well. This helps to ensure that no one gets hurt too badly when struck by the ball.