Cricket’s seen in the US as an English sport – a slightly silly game for England’s upper classes, too louche and lazy to play proper baseball.
But it’s far from being a sport that divides the poor from the rich and the idle from the industrious; in fact, it’s as widespread and unifying as they come.
Whether it’s played on a small village pitch or it’s an international match watched by 9 million people, cricket’s a team game that brings communities together.
It’s a game that’s having a renaissance in America, too, with teams springing up all over the place to play the game that’s the crown of the UK countryside, the passion of Pakistan and the jewel of Jamaica.
Maybe you’re over baseball and you want to get into something that’s as social as it is sporting, as skilful as but slightly more sedentary than baseball? Cricket could be just the ticket!
What you’ll need:
You’ll need a team of at least eleven players to compete – and one substitute in case someone gets injured (the balls you’ll be playing with are bigger than baseballs, but just as hard).
Your team should have at least two people who are proficient ‘bowlers’ (pitchers), as well as a ‘wicket keeper’ (catcher).
You’ll take it in turn to be ‘batsman’ (batter) and will need pads for that role to protect vulnerable shins. The wicket keeper needs gloves and pads.
As well as players, you’ll want balls, stumps (the wooden sticks used at each end of the wicket), two people to act as umpires and one independent scorer.
And it’s traditional for the team hosting a match to lay on some sandwiches and a cup of something hot halfway through the game, so you might want to get yourself some paper plates and a tea urn…
How to prepare for a season:
You need a fair level of fitness to play – though speed isn’t perhaps as important as in a baseball game, endurance certainly is.
You might be called on to be on your feet for quite a few hours so it might a good idea to pick up a treadmill from somewhere or buy an exercise bike from UK store Argos to strengthen your legs and get your stamina up!
As a team, you should be practicing at ‘nets’ once a week – similar to practicing for baseball in batting cages. A soft structure with three walls – like a large tent – is usually constructed to one side of a team’s pitch so they can practice bowling (pitching) and batting into it. You’ll be honing your skills, and it’s a chance to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
How to play:
There’s a lot of tradition and terms surrounding cricket which can make it seem more complicated than it actually is. The basics are: a cricket pitch has a circular boundary, in the centre of which is the ‘square’ (actually a rectangle). This contains the 22-yard ‘wicket’, a straight, clear stretch – a bowling/ batting area (the ‘crease’) is situated at either end – both with ‘stumps’ (three upright sticks, with two sticks balanced atop them, called bails).
A batsman guards one of the ends while his teammate guards the other, from which the bowler throws – overarm and at the ground, so the ball bounces up towards the batsman – and when the ball is hit, ‘runs’ are scored by both batsmen running between the wickets.
Runs can also be scored by hitting the ball off the pitch – four runs are awarded if it bounces out of the boundary and six if it flies out straight off the bat.
As far as getting a batsman ‘out’, similar rules to baseball apply: if the ball is caught off the bat, they’re out, and the wickets act almost as bases (if the fielding team manage to tap them while the batting team are running between them, the batsman is out) but they’ve got more power:
A batsman can be dismissed if he accidentally knocks the bails off the wickets, or can be judged to be out if the umpire believes that he has obstructed the wickets from the ball with his leg, rather than his bat; this is known as ‘leg before wicket’ or ‘LBW’.
Some handy phrases:
Golden duck: When a bowler manages to get a batsman out on his first attempt at batting. The term ‘duck’ is short for ‘duck’s egg’, because that’s what the 0 on the scoreboard looks like!
A century: When an individual batter manages to get one hundred runs. If you’re really good (or the other team is really bad) you might even get a double or triple century.
Sticky wicket: A pitch in bad condition, usually after bad weather (be it too try, too wet or too anything). It makes bowling hard as the bowler can’t predict which direction the ball is going to go in after he’s bounced it.
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