Cricket for the Confused

Yahoo! Contributor
Visit Britain

Although cricket was Britain's national sport more than a hundred years before soccer (ahem, football!) came along, and despite the fact that it is played by millions of children and adults across at least four continents, it is still seen as weird, and perhaps even comedic, by North Americans. "What's up with playing for five days in white pyjamas?" they say. "What is a wicket? And please explain to me what this whole 'leg before' thingy means?"

Having lived in Canada for more than 12 years, it is not uncommon for me to have the "explain Cricket to me" conversation with people including — friends, colleagues, stray dogs and complete strangers in a coffee shop. I usually start that discussion by reciting the rules that were printed on an old tea towel that my mother had when I was a child. They started with something like this:

There are two teams. One team is in and the other team is out. The team that is out has to try and get the team that is in out. And team that is in, has to score runs and try not to let the team that is out get them out.

I get blank faces in response, as you can imagine.

The oldest form of the game is indeed played over a five-day period, at least for International matches. However, the modern-era game, with its more attacking and aggressive style (trust me on this), rarely goes that long. And anyway, the game stops for lunch and tea breaks for both players and spectators — complete with cucumber sarnies and Earl Grey tea of course — so each day effectively includes about six and half hours of play. This includes the time it takes to "sledge" opponents and shout "Howzat!!" a lot. Still confused?

Let's start with the "One Day" game format. There are two teams of 11 players. At the start, one team bats and one team bowls and fields. Each team bats for approximately three hours, trying to accumulate as many "runs" as it can by tonking the ball all over the ground. The fielding team tries to limit them to as few runs as possible while trying to get the batting team "out."

Then they swap and do it all over again. The team with the most runs at the end of the day wins.  We can delve into the different game scenarios in future blogs, but for now, here is your terminology guide to cricket's quirky terms:

An over: six deliveries / balls bowled by a player. So, a "50 Over" game in effect means each team has 300 pitches to try to score runs. There, a baseball link!

A wicket: a bowler is credited with a "wicket" when he gets a batsman out.

Leg before wicket or LBW: the batsman is out because the ball hit his leg and if his leg wasn't there, the ball would have hit the three wooden stumps behind him (confusingly, also called the "wicket").

Sledging: this is where you taunt your opponents with witty repartee — usually on the topic of the player's hairstyle or dress sense — to try and put them off. There are books written about the best sledging — honest!

Howzat!: this is a condensed version of saying "How was he?" or "how is that?" Back in the day, this would have been the bowler politely asking the umpire if he thought his opponent was out. Nowadays, it tends to be the whole team screaming "Howazeeeeee????" in unison mere inches from poor umpires face.

A Googly: I have no idea.

Part II Coming soon….

by Matt Goff