Explaining cricket and it’s terminology is akin to lecturing about quantum mechanics or the string theory in particle physics.
Cricket is a sport synonymous with England. Just like Rugby it has influenced the world. General terms like “It’s not cricket” means that it is not sporting behaviour. To “bowl a maiden over” does not mean you have scored in a nightclub, assuming a maiden still exists in such establishments. Yet a “maiden” is a virgin. It means that out of six balls bowled, no runs (points) were conceded.
Unless an individual has ever played cricket it is unlikely that they will understand it. Unlike football or tennis where the rules of the game are reasonably simple – cricket will baffle the greatest armchair enthusiast. Cricket is a legacy of British influence around the world. It is played all over. In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, even the USA, and all regard it’s rules and phrases as a common language.
For the uninitaited here is an overview. A failure to understand is not a reflection on an individuals intelligence. A cricket match is contested between two sides each of eleven players. When one side is “in” the other side is “out”, and it is the job of the “out” side to get the “in” side out. This is achieved by dismissing the batsmen on the “in” side by several methods.
When a side is batting it is called an “innings”, and will last as long as each batsman can hold his wicket. the wicket is what the batsman must protect at all costs – if someone says “you’re on a sticky wicket” it means your position is precarious. Unless that is, if they hold their innings for quite a long period and score an extremely high number of runs, in which case the captain will “declare” or “forfeit” the remainder of his innings. It’s a tactical decision, and he is hoping the opposition will not be able to match his side’s number of runs in the available number of overs. Failure to declare can result in the match drawn, even though one side has more runs than another. In business, If your boss says he’s” holding his wicket”, it means he has control of the situation and he’s not going to declare.
When a batsman is bowled out, a new batsman goes in. When both sides have been in and out, they do it all over again, and this is called the second innings. If your boss suggests you have more than one innings, there is hope for you yet.
Eventually, if all goes to the wire, only one batsman will remain, who will not be allowed to bat on his own – he’s the last man standing. This last man, however, may not necessarily be the eleventh or last man who went in to bat. Indeed, the last man standing could have been one of the first men in, if he was never out. If your boss says you are the last man in, the chances are you are doomed.
Still with it? Right. Time for some explanations. Two innings per side will occur in international test matches. A test lasts for five days. Up to five tests can be played over several weeks, called the First to the Fifth Test respectively, when the event is hosted by one country, whose opponent is another (the tourists). Whilst many matches may result in a grand trophy, England and Australia play each other every two years for a small urn of cremated wooden bails from 1882 -The Ashes – which is a prize more sought than any silver or gold cup.
The length of a cricket match is dependent on the number of overs per side. That is the number of balls the bowlers are permitted to bowl. There are six balls to an over. Therefore if a match is limited to ten overs per innings, (in “one-day” cricket, for example and county games) then after sixty balls have been bowled, the innings end, regardless of how many wickets are left (if any).
Wickets in this case are the number of batsmen who have not come to the crease (or left the pavilion), which is the demarcation line from the stumps where the batsman is allowed to hit the ball or defend his wicket, and also the last point for the bowler to execute his delivery. If the bowler steps over the crease after his approach run, then it’s a “no ball”, and a score (or run) is given to the opposing side. If a bowler successfully bowls his over without any runs being scored by the batsman, then he would have bowled a “maiden over”.
The stumps are three 28inch high pieces of wood which comprise the wicket, with a total width of 9 inches, and balance two small wooden objects known as the bails. There are two wickets, one at each end of the pitch, which is 22 yards long from stump to stump with each wicket defended by a batsman. The bails must dislodge from the stumps for the batsman to be out.
In the surrounding oval shaped playing field, with a diameter of roughly 160 yards, stand the fielders of the side which is “out”. With the exception of the wicket-keeper (who crouches behind the batsman’s wicket being bowled at) and the bowler, there are nine fielders who can take up positions from “Silly Point to Square Short Leg (very close to the batsman), Silly Mid Off and Silly Mid On (midway between the length of the pitch), and Long Off to Deep Fine Leg (boundary cover), as well as another possible 25 positions, and all with equally odd names.
It is their job to prevent the batsmen from hitting the ball sufficiently for them to run between wickets, or hit the ball to, or over the boundary thereby scoring an automatic four or a six. The fielding side can either prevent this by catching the ball whilst in flight (caught out), or retrieving the ball from the ground and returning it by aiming it at the wicket, in the hope that it will reach its target before the batsman returns to his crease (run out or “stumped”).
The batsman can also be bowled out by the bowler if his ball hits the wicket, or even be given out if the ball hits his leg, which is called LBW (leg before wicket). The wicket-keeper is the batsman’s nemesis, and is ever keen to knock off the bails at any opportunity after catching the ball when it flies past the wicket – always in the hope that the ball clipped the bat or the batsman strayed outside his crease.
Over the course of a match, the ball (which is red, extremely hard, made of layers of core cork and leather, and must strictly weigh between 5.5 – 6oz) cannot be changed unless under the strictest laws of the game. A ball should last the complete innings and at least 80 overs in test matches.
This prolonged use can affect the properties of the ball and influence its flight. Consequently a bowler will polish his ball on one side by rubbing it around his groin area, or on the sleeve, which results in the characteristic red stains on his whites (trousers). Polishing it in this fashion can determine the “swing”, and some bowlers will spit on the ball prior to polishing. Ball tampering is a serious offence in cricket, and any form of physical interference, other than spit and polish, is forbidden.
The match is won by the side which scores the highest number of runs over the two innings in the set number of overs, and on the aggregate over the five tests, regardless of whether all players have had their day at the crease.
And now the big question. What is a googly? It’s a ball bowled by a right-arm spin bowler, designed to confuse a right-handed batsman by appearing to spin from leg to off, but actually spins in the opposite direction. Hence the term “to throw a googly”, meaning to confuse or upset an opponent, either in sport or business.
Finally, a batsman is only called out if the umpire says so. And he won’t say so, unless he’s asked. How’s that? That’s right! “Howzat” is the challenge to the umpire in order to get his reaction, and he will raise his index finger if it’s a good call. If anyone sticks up a middle digit in response to his decision then he’ll likely be dismissed, because that is, along with all other forms of ungentlemanly conduct, certainly not cricket!