A Bug it is not! - A Cricket Primer

The Basics

  • There are TWO teams, with eleven players each (instead of nine as in baseball). Instead of four bases, there are only two; in the middle of the field, sixty-six feet apart...
    all running is between the two bases... the ball can be hit in front, OR behind... or, in ANY direction. Instead of rotating batting for nine innings each, EACH team does all its batting in a SINGLE inning . The team scoring more runs wins the game.

Pitching (Bowling)

[NOTE: Unlike baseball, where a pitcher rests every 10 or so pitches when the BATTING rotates, cricket pitchers rest every 6 pitches as their PITCHING rotates.]

The fielding team works with TWO pitchers at the same time.

  • The first pitcher throws from one base to the other. After six throws, the catcher moves around behind the first pitcher's base, pitcher #2 takes over. He makes six throws in the opposite direction (i.e. towards the starting pitcher's base).  The two pitchers keep alternating like this, until one or both of them are relieved.

* [[ IMPORTANT: Each six-pitch set is called an "over", and pitchers are called "bowlers" in cricket. So, to say "Doe bowled seven overs", is saying Doe threw 42 pitches, in (alternating) sets of six. ]]


  • The MAJOR DIFFERENCE from baseball is that batters can hit in ANY direction.  Also, THE BATTER CAN RUN WHEN HE CHOOSES TO, NOT every time he hits the ball, as in baseball.  He is safe as long as he protects his wickets WITH HIS BAT (NOT his feet or hands) and makes no other errors.
  • As long as the batter can protect his base, he is free to keep batting, and scoring, as long as he can! The batter (or "batsman") is OUT only if : any of the three sticks marking his base (called "wickets") are hit by the pitcher --he is "bowled" (like being struck out, except that once is enough). OR, if: the ball is hit into a fielder's hand without touching the ground, he is "caught" (like baseball's pop fly).  OR, if: he is running between the bases, and a fielder can touch the base he is running to,
    before the runner crosses the "safe line" in front of the wickets, he is "run out" (like a tag, except in cricket you tag the base, not the runner).

    So: A cricket batter could be out on the first pitch, BUT would go on batting until someone puts him "out"; Some batters can stay on base for hours, scoring 50, 100 runs or more!

Scoring Plays

  • A batter (or "batsman") can score in cricket by hitting the ball, deciding to run, then running safely between the two bases.  Once across (from one base, to the opposite one) is a "single", scoring 1 run.  there and back is a "double", scoring 2 runs. three times back and forth is a "triple", scoring 3 runs.
  • A hit that reaches the fence scores four runs. and a hit that flies over the fence is a sixer, scoring 6 runs.

Progress of Play

  • Before the game starts, the opposing captains toss a coin, to decide who is to bat first... or second.  The game begins.
    TWO batters are sent in, one for each base (they are called "batsmen" in cricket).  (I.e. the bases are "loaded" to start a team’s batting, and have to stay that way.)
  • As one batter is put out, the next person in the batting order goes in.  In the USA, each team is allowed 10 outs OR a maximum number of overs....say 40 overs ( i.e. 240 pitches)... to bat.  The inning is finished EITHER when 10 outs have occurred ( i.e. 1 man is left on base, out of the 11 in the team),OR when the 40-over limit has been reached.
  • After one team finishes batting, there is a tea (actually, sandwiches, beer and pop) break. Now the team which has been fielding gets its chance to bat.
  • Say the team batting first scored 120 runs. If the team batting second scores only 100 runs in its 40 overs, it has lost by 20 runs.

    BUT.. if it reaches 121 runs for (say)only 6 outs within its allowed 40 overs, it wins by 4 "wickets" ( meaning, the number of outs it had left when it passed the first team's score).

How Long Does it Take?

  • In the USA, a typical cricket game takes about as long as a weekend baseball double-header. In fact, this is a useful way of looking at cricket if you understand baseball:
    Each team's batting takes about as long, and has as many things happen, as a complete baseball game. A typical cricket game in the USA might take 5 to 6 hours. This could consist of 4 to 5 hours of actual play, and the rest of the time for lunch, tea, refreshment breaks and other pauses.  This is about average. There CAN be low-scoring games that are over in 2 or 3 hours...On the other hand, if both teams score 200 to 300 runs each, these VERY high-scoring games last seven hours... or more.

    It all depends---on the day, the teams, the mood and the playing conditions.

    For Further Reading

    Visit this site for an extensive writeup: http://bama.ua.edu/~cricket/learncricket.htm

    So far, we have explained cricket using mostly baseball terminology. If you want to learn the language that cricketers really use, click on A List of Technical Cricket Terms to see how they talk about cricket !

    For a look at the equipment used in cricket, click on A First Look at Cricket Equipment.

    If you now understand the basic rules, Click on Beyond the Basics: A Look at Cricket Strategy to learn more about how the game is played.
    (Thanks to Deb K. Das)