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How to Play Cricket

By Jeff Gordon

Cricket is a ball-and-bat sport, like baseball, featuring batting, running, fielding and throwing. Teams typically feature 11 players plus a substitute, deploying one bowler, one wicket keeper and nine fielders at any given time. Like baseball, the game features runs, outs and innings and is officiated by umpires. Games can last an afternoon or for several days.


The cricket ball is similar to a baseball, but it is often dyed red. Its core is cork, covered with tightly wound string. It is wrapped in leather, with the two halves sewn together with slightly raised seams. Balls have a circumference of 8.81 to 9.00 inches and they weigh 5.5 to 5.75 ounces. Wicket bats look like wood paddles, but with narrow handles. They are made of willow and attached to a cane handle. One side is flat with a slight hump on the other. The blade can be no wider than 4.25 inches and the bat cannot be longer than 38 inches.

Field of Play

Cricket is played in a large, oval, grassy space between 450 and 500 feet in diameter defined by boundaries diameter. At the center is the pitch, a lane 66 feet long. On each side there are wickets -- three stumps 1 inch around and 32 inches tall hammered into the ground -- with a "popping crease" in front of it. The stumps can be no farther apart than the diameter of a wicket ball. Two "bails" loosely connect them. Wickets are the cricket equivalent of a base.


Like a baseball pitcher, a bowler's job is to "dismiss" the batsman by putting balls past him with an overhand throw or by inducing weakly struck balls in play. Unlike a pitcher, you take a running start from behind one wicket before throwing the ball from the popping crease on a hop toward the other wicket. If you hit the wicket and knock off a bail, you record an out. Good bowlers either throw with great velocity or put a lot of spin on the ball, making it skip toward the batsman at different heights and directions. The wicket keeper is like a baseball catcher, crouching behind the wicket with a webbed glove and protective leg padding.


As the batsman you wear protective head gear and leg padding. One batsman stands in the "popping crease" in front of the wicket, much like a baseball batter, and faces the bowler as the "striker." The other batsman stands in the opposite crease, near the bowler, waiting to run as the "non-striker." The batsman must prevent the bowled ball from hitting the wickets. Ideally, you put it in play by hitting it with force. Then you run towards the opposite wicket while the other batsman runs toward your wicket. You carry your bat and try to use it to touch the crease before the fielding team retrieves the ball and dismisses you. You can keep running back and forth on overthrows. Each time both runners advance to the next wicket, a run is scored. On weakly struck balls, you can simply choose not to run and bat again.


Aside from the bowler and the wicket keeper, there are nine fielders placed strategically to catch stuck balls and return them to the wicket keeper. The fielders do not wear gloves or any special equipment. Struck balls that get past the boundary are worth four runs. Struck balls that sail past the boundary in the air are worth six runs. Your fielding task is to prevent that from happening. You can record outs by catching struck balls before they hit the ground, but the primary method for fielders to dismiss batsmen is to throw the ball off the wicket, dislodging a bail.

Game Details

Once a bowler completes six deliveries, that is considered an "over" and another bowler takes over from the opposite wicket. No bowler can work consecutive overs. Batsman stay where they were, so the striker runs and the non-striker hits. Once a batsman is dismissed, the ball is dead -- so there is no equivalent to a baseball double play. Batters who make outs leave the field and are replaced by the next batsman sent up by the captain. Unlike baseball, there is no set batting order. According to the Crickets for Parents website, innings are complete either when all but one of the batsmen are out, when an agreed number of overs has been bowled, or when the batting captain has declared the innings closed. A match consists of one or two innings by each side. In time-limited matches, the side scoring the highest aggregate of runs wins.

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