Cricket: The Rules
Henry VIII called it “the sport of kings,” but for many cricket is shrouded in enigma. This needn’t be the case. At heart, once removed of jargon, it remains a simple game of immense depth and beauty, combining strategy, cunning, raw hand-to-hand fist fighting to the death, teamwork and even the occasional tear of sorrow. What follows is a simplified summary of the rules, as first set down by WG Grace, Lord of Wisden, in 1851.
The Basic Set-up
Cricket is played between two opposing teams. One team bats while the other fields. It is easy to tell which is the batting team, because they are wearing fenners — white woolly jumpers with two cyan stripes around the upper arm (the other team’s jumpers have two turquoise stripes). The batters play within the light green rectangle known as the crease, and each stands in front of the wicket — the small wooden apparatus at each end. Although anyone in the team may bat, usually two batters are chosen. The ball is thrown at the batter by the bowler. It is the bowler’s job to try and befuddle the batter so that he misses the ball or plays a bad shot.
How Are Points Scored?
Players gain points in the following way:
- By Runs: after hitting the ball the batter may run as many times as he likes between the two ends. Each run (there and back) equals one point on his team’s score.
- By Fours: after hitting the ball the batter may crawl on all fours between the two ends. Each completed trip scores four points.
- By Popping: If the ball ‘knobs’ the batter, a pop (two points) is added to the score.
- By Googling a Six: If the ball, after being hit, rolls along the ground uninterrupted for fifty yards (a google), the team receives six points. (Named after Reg Google, Australian wicket-keeper who was so short that he was incapable of lifting the bat.)
- By an Over: one point is scored (see below).
Lord Larry Grayson said “cricket, like chess, is won in the field,” and it is certainly true that the strategic positioning of your men on the pitch can make the difference between check and checkmate. However, it is important to remember that fielders mostly stand around doing nothing. The sometimes obscure names for fielding positions are illustrated below.
The ball must be thrown from the Knacker’s End: the end nearest which the umpire (referee) wearing the Knacker’s Hat stands. The ball bounces and the batter must attempt to hit it. If he fails to hit the ball, the following penalties apply, in order:
- First miss: umpire calls ‘maiden’ and the ball is passed again to the bowler.
- Second miss: umpire calls ‘over’ and one point is given to the opposing team.
- Third miss: umpire calls ‘bye’ and the player must leave.
Other Ways of Being Out
There are in total seven ways of being out, or dismissed:
- When the umpire calls ‘bye’ (explained above).
- When the ball is caught by an opposing fielder before it has touched the ground, but after it has been knocked by any part of the batter (including the bat) other than the extra legs (below the navel) or the eyes.
- When the player is adjudged to be wasting time (taking more than 24 hours between consecutive bowls).
- When the player hits the ball twice, unless doing it to protect his wicket or testicles.
- When the umpire calls ‘leg before wicket’. This is a complex rule, explained below.
- When player, bat and ball remain static, at the discretion of the umpire. This rule was introduced in 1983 after a cardboard cut-out of Ian Botham played for seventeen hours. (Does not apply in wet weather.)
- When the ball, after being bowled, hits the wicket and knocks it over (rare).
Leg Before Wicket
This rule was introduced when players realised that it was more productive to kick the ball rather than play it using the bat, because no-one may be caught out thereby (rule 2 above).
The following criteria must be satisfied for LBW to be called (see diagrammatograph):
- The line of the leg-stump (the path of the ball) must intersect with the player’s leg, groin or knee (a).
- The ball must bounce once before rising upwards, and must be heading towards the middle wicket, taking account of the direction it is spinning.
- The player’s groin must be facing the knacker’s edge in the case of a full toss (cock inwards, as in a).
- In the case of g, where the ball pitches (bounces) outside the edge of an imaginary line drawn between cock and knee (b), it must be following a path towards the opposite side (left (right) side from the batsman’s point of view).
- If the ball pitches inside the edge of an imaginary line drawn between top of bat and bottom of forward foot (shown back-to-front in c), player is out only if the ball goes on to hit opposite leg.
- Drawing e shows the reverse case. This is not-out because the forward foot remains within leg-stump and well behind pitch point.
- If the batsman makes an attempt to hit the ball as in d and f, and rule 6 above applies, player is out in any case.
- If the ball pitches twice, and the second pitch lands in the fourth dimension (f), rule 8 applies whether the batter attempts a knock-on, full-swipe or pixie-flick.
As you can see, LBW decisions are complex and often controversial. This is why the umpires’ deliberations often last well into the night.
The winning team is the one whose members are still conscious after five days. In the event that both teams remain conscious.