Cricket is a bat and ball game played by two teams of eleven people, on a large oval field with the action focussed on the pitch near the centre of the field. Professional cricket is not a spectator sport for those short of time - depending on the format, a game can last from 1½ hours to 5 days.
|“||Cricket is the greatest thing that God created on Earth. Certainly greater than sex, although sex isn't too bad either.||”|
—Harold Pinter, British playwright
Cricket is usually played in the summer. In tropical climates, where there is less difference between "summer" and "winter" but often a sharp division between wet and dry seasons, the sport is usually played in the drier period. The game is somewhat weather dependent, as the play changes when the ball gets wet. "Rain stopped play" is an unfortunately common event in some locations. Bad light can also mean that play ends early.
Cricket is played outdoors on a large circular or oval field. The main part of the field is grass, mown like a lawn, in the centre of the field is the rectangular pitch, which is often mown shorter. At either end of the pitch is a set of wickets 22 yards (20 m) apart - three vertical wooden sticks with two small wooden bails placed on top. Cricket is played with a leather ball, similar in size to, but much harder than a tennis ball, and a wooden bat with a flat face usually made of willow. During the match the batsman stands in front of the wicket and "defends" it as the bowler aims for it.
A cricket match has two (or sometimes four) innings. In an innings one team bats and the other team bowls (and fields). Each innings is in turn made up of a number of overs, sometimes limited in number as in effect a time limit. An over nominally has six balls (the bowler bowling (throwing) the ball). There are generally 3 formats of cricket that are played internationally; Test, One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20. Test cricket is the longest of the three, typically lasting up to 5 days, with 4 innings being played, and no limit on the number of overs per innings, meaning that the innings continues until 10 batsmen are out (or the scheduled time expires before 10 members of the batting team are out, which often happens on the final day of a match). In ODI, only 2 innings are played, with the number of overs capped at 50 per innings, and, as the name suggests, usually takes a whole day to finish. Twenty20 is an even shorter form of ODI, which further restricts the number of overs to 20 per innings, and usually lasts about 3 hours. Collectively, ODI and Twenty20 are known as limited overs cricket. In domestic competition, the equivalent of Test cricket is known as First-class cricket, while the equivalent of ODI is known as List A cricket.
The team which is bowling selects one player to bowl and the others field. A special position to field is wicket-keeper. He stands behind the wicket, wearing protective pads, and is also the only fielder allowed to wear gloves. The remaining nine players take up fielding positions around the field — the positions are named (using terms such as "silly mid-off") and although these may seem to be random, a good captain will carefully assign the positions, and move players during the play.
At the end of each over the bowler takes up a fielding position and another player becomes the bowler, but bowls from the opposite end of the pitch. A team needs to have a minimum of two bowlers. All the fielders cross over to position themselves for balls coming in the opposite direction. Unless the batsman has just scored an odd number of runs off the last ball, this also means that the batsman changes over. It might seem simpler for the batsmen to swap ends, but the approach taken is better at evening out all the playing conditions.
The team which is batting selects two players to bat at the start of their innings. One takes up a position facing the bowler, with his bat ready to hit the ball. The other stands at the other end of the pitch. If the player batting hits the ball, he may attempt a run - this is where the two batsmen run the length of the pitch, swapping places. If the ball hits the batsman's wicket before both batsmen complete the run, then he is out and another player from his team (who has not batted) takes his place.
Cricket scoring can be complicated and so this is a simplification. The main points in a game are runs. These can be scored by both batsmen running the length of the pitch, or awarded for long hits - six runs if the ball is hit over the boundary of the field without touching the ground, four runs if touches the ground on its way over the boundary. Runs are also given for bowling errors by the other side. A half-century refers to a batsman scoring 50 or more runs in an innings, while a century refers to a batsman scoring 100 or more runs in an innings.
A batsman can technically be out (dismissed) for one of 11 causes, but in practice you are only likely to encounter 6 at the professional level:
- Bowled - the ball hits the wicket after being bowled, and knocks one of the bails off the top.
- Caught - the ball is caught by a fielder (or the bowler) without touching the ground. A batsman who is caught out by the wicket-keeper is said to have been caught behind, while a batsman who is caught out by the bowler is said to have been caught and bowled.
- Leg before wicket (LBW) - the ball hits the batsman, when it would otherwise hit the wicket.
- Run out - the ball is thrown at the wicket by a fielder when the batsman is attempting to get a run, and the batsman does not have anything touching the marked piece of ground in front of the wicket.
- Stumped is a variation of run out where the wicket-keeper touches the wickets with the ball when the batsman is away from his area.
- Hit wicket - the batsman (usually accidentally) hits his own wicket while attempting to hit the ball or taking off on a run, or hits the ball into his partner's wicket. In the latter case, it is the batsman's partner that gets dismissed.
If a bowler gets three batsmen dismissed in three consecutive bowls by any method, this is known as a hat-trick, though it is quite a rare event.
At the end of their innings, a team will either be all out (10 of the eleven players having been dismissed), and their score would be said to be "155 all out", or will have scored a number of runs and have some players dismissed "155 for 7" (155 runs, 7 players dismissed). The latter result usually happens because: a) the match is for a limited number of overs, b) the team is the second to play and they have more runs than the other team scored. Cricket scores are often in hundreds of runs, unless the match is a small number of overs.
If the team batting first wins, that team is said to win by a certain number of runs. In other words, if Team A batted first and scored 200 runs, and Team B only managed to score 150 runs at the end of their innings (or the combined total of runs in both innings for Test cricket), Team A is said to have won by 50 runs. On the other hand, if the team batting second wins, the team is said to win by a certain number of wickets. In other words, if Team A batted first and scored 200 runs, and Team B scored 201 runs before their innings was up, with only 1 batsman dismissed, Team B is said to have won by 9 wickets. In Test cricket, where each team bats for two innings, if one team scored more runs in their first innings than the other did in both their innings combined, that team is said to have won by an innings and a certain number of runs. For instance, if Team B scored 300 runs in their first innings, and Team A completed their second innings and scored a combined total of only 250 runs in both their innings, Team B is said to have won by an innings and 50 runs.
Matches can also end in "ties" or "draws". Unlike most sports, in which the two terms are synonyms, these have very different meanings in cricket. A tie occurs when the two teams have scored the same number of runs and completed their allotted innings for the match. This is an extremely rare occurrence—out of over 2,000 Tests since records for such matches were first kept in the 1870s, there have been a total of two ties. A draw occurs only in a multi-day match; it happens when the allotted time for the match runs out before both teams have completed their two innings. Unlike ties, draws are quite common in multi-day matches; for example, nearly a third of all Tests end in draws.
Major playing countries
Cricket is popular in countries that have been influenced by Britain, including those that were in the British Empire. However it is much more popular in England than the rest of the United Kingdom.
Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe are full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), which makes them the only nations eligible to play in Test matches. These countries are also automatically qualified to play One-day International and Twenty20 International matches.
Cricket was first played by British troops in 1839, but the Afghanistan Cricket Board was only formed in 1995. Due to almost constant warfare of one kind or another since the Soviet invasion of 1979 as well as Islamic extremism, Afghanistan has punched below its weight, and the domestic competitions have been hit hard in the past. However, the national team has since improved dramatically, having been bolstered by players based in the domestic leagues of India and Pakistan, and was granted Test status in 2017.
Cricket is the most popular summer sport in Australia, when both Australian rules football and rugby league are in their off-season. The Australia team played its first match in 1877. For historical reasons the series between Australia and England is known as "the Ashes" and treated as of particular importance by both sides.
- 1 Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. The largest cricket ground in the world with a capacity of 100,024 (5,000 standing). The ground opened in 1853.
- 2 Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney. Capacity 48,000, the ground has been used for a variety of other sports including the 1938 British Empire Games (the event now known as the Commonwealth Games).
- 3 Adelaide Oval, Adelaide. Seats 50,000 with standing for 3,500. The ground was established in 1871.
- 4 Brisbane Cricket Ground (The Gabba), Brisbane. The first cricket match was held in 1896. The Gabba is known to be a fortress for Australia in international Tests, having not lost a single match since 1988. Being the most northern of established grounds in the country, the Gabba often hosts the first Test of the Australian summer in November or early December. Capacity 42,000.
- 5 Perth Stadium, Perth. Capacity 60,000. Completed in December 2017 and officially opened in January 2018, it hosted its first Test match between Australia and India in December 2018, taking over the WACA Ground's role as Western Australia's main international cricket ground.
- 6 The WACA Ground (Western Australian Cricket Association Ground), Perth. Museum M-F 10AM-3PM, tours 10AM-1PM. Capacity 20,000. The ground opened in 1893. On its day, the WACA pitch is known to be the bounciest and fastest in the world. Museum and ground tours. It was Western Australia's main international cricket ground until it was superseded by the Perth Stadium in December 2018. Min $1 donation for museum, tours $20.
- 7 Bellerive Oval (known under the current sponsorship deal as "Blundstone Arena"), Hobart. The spiritual home of Tasmanian cricket since 1987, the Bellerive is on the eastern banks of the Derwent River. The ground's dimensions are slightly longer but slightly narrower than the MCG. The pitch provides early assistance to swing bowlers but flattens out as the match goes on. The afternoon sea breeze often affects playing conditions. After the most recent development, the capacity of Bellerive is 19,500.
- 8 Manuka Oval, Canberra. The Manuka Oval hosts the Prime Minister's XI match, an annual match where a team consisting Australian cricketers picked by the country's prime minister plays against an overseas touring team. Since 2008, Manuka has held international cricket matches sporadically. Capacity 13,500.
- 9 Docklands Stadium (Marvel Stadium), Melbourne. One of the few cricket stadiums with a retractable roof, allowing cricket to be played under all conditions. Docklands has never hosted a Test Match but has held ODIs and is the home ground for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.
Bangladesh played its first international match in 1979, eight years after independence, and started to play Test matches in 2000.
England & Wales
Cricket is played in England and Wales from April to September, with the two home nations having a combined structure at the professional level. Cricket has been played here at least since 1550: the first internationals were planned as a tour of France in 1789, but abandoned due to the French revolution. The first overseas tour by an England team was in 1859 to the USA and Canada.
Home international matches are played around the country, usually at Lord's in London, The Oval in London, Edgbaston in Birmingham, Headingley in Leeds, Old Trafford in Manchester and Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
The premier domestic competition is the County Championship, with matches played over four days. There are 18 sides in the Championship, with eight in Division One and ten in Division Two. Their usual home grounds are mentioned below - these are often also venues for Test matches - but they occasionally play elsewhere within their county.
In Division One in 2019 are: Surrey (The Oval, in Lambeth, London), Somerset (County Ground, Taunton), Essex (County Ground, Chelmsford), Yorkshire (Headingley in North West Leeds), Hampshire (Ageas or Rose Bowl, Southampton), Nottinghamshire (Trent Bridge, Nottingham), Warwickshire (Edgbaston, Birmingham) and Kent (St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury).
In Division Two are Lancashire (Old Trafford, Manchester Quays), Worcestershire (New Road, Worcester), Sussex (County Ground, Brighton), Middlesex (Lords, in the Paddington-Maida Vale area of London), Gloucestershire (County Ground, Bristol), Leicestershire (Grace Road, Leicester), Derbyshire (County Ground, Derby), Durham (Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street north of Durham), Northamptonshire (County Ground, Northampton) and Glamorgan (Sophia Gardens, Cardiff).
At the end of the 2019 season, the bottom team in Division One will be relegated and the top three in Division Two promoted, so the 2020 format will be ten upper and eight lower sides. There is no relegation from the bottom of Division Two.
India is a cricket-obsessed country. In addition to having a world-class national team, India's domestic Twenty20 competition, the Indian Premier League is the richest domestic cricket tournament in the world. Games between India and Pakistan are often treated as particularly important even by casual sports fans in either country.
- 10 Eden Gardens, Kolkata. One of cricket's most iconic grounds, sometimes called "cricket's answer to the Colosseum". Second only to the MCG in capacity among cricket grounds, it holds 66,349 (down from about 100,000 before renovations for the 2011 Cricket World Cup) and is noted for having some of the sport's loudest crowds.
- 12 Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali, near Chandigarh. Capacity 25,000.
- 15 M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. The excruciating heat and humidity of Chennai makes it one of the toughest places to play cricket in the world. Capacity 38,000.
- 16 M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. Bangalore is known for its high-scoring games, especially in the limited overs formats. Capacity 40,000.
India is in the midst of a cricket construction boom, with at least three grounds seating at least 50,000 in various stages of construction as of 2016. One of these, in Ahmedabad, will replace the MCG as the world's largest cricket ground, with a capacity of 110,000. The others, in order of capacity, are in Gwalior (60,000) and Mullanpur, near Chandigarh (50,000).
As in rugby football, a single team represents the whole island of Ireland. Cricket arrived in Ireland in the early 19th century, and the national team's first match was in 1855. It was granted Test status in 2017. Many Irish people are not even aware of their national cricket team and enthusiasm is certainly less widespread than for Gaelic Games and rugby football.
Cricket is first recorded as being played in New Zealand in 1832, and the first game by a New Zealand team (against New South Wales) was played in 1894. The first Test match was played in 1930.
- 18 Basin Reserve, Wellington. Established in 1868 with a capacity of 13,000, The Basin Reserve is New Zealand oldest cricket ground and is the only that has "Historic Place" status. Houses the New Zealand Cricket Museum. International matches in Wellington are also held in the Westpac Stadium.
- 19 Seddon Park, Hamilton. Known for its "village green" atmosphere, allowing spectators to have a picnic while watching the game. Capacity 10,000.
- 20 National Stadium, Karachi, ☏ +92-21-34821219. Capacity 34,228.
- 21 Qadhafi Stadium, Lahore. Capacity 27,000 and is the home of the Pakistan national cricket team.
Cricket in South Africa was traditionally associated with the Anglo-South African community, but since the fall of Apartheid, it is increasingly enjoyed by South Africans of all backgrounds.
- 22 Centurion Park (SuperSport Park), Centurion. One of the most family-friendly grounds in the country, thanks to its extensive grass banks. The capacity of 22,000 is completed with modern stands at the north end.
- 23 Kingsmead (Sahara Stadium), Durban. Mere blocks from the Indian Ocean in the centre of Durban, this traditional venue, holding 25,000, combines grass banks and modern stands. Notably, when South Africa hosts a Test series, the Boxing Day Test is usually held here.
- 24 Newlands, Cape Town. The picturesque Table Mountain and Devil's Peak overlook the cricket ground in the coastal South African city, making it one of the most beautiful sporting stadiums in the world. Newlands has a capacity of 20,000.
- 25 Springbok Park (Mangaung Oval), Bloemfontein. Large sections of the stadium have grassy banks where you would see groups of people cooking up a barbeque. Capacity 20,000.
- 26 St George's Park, Port Elizabeth. South Africa's oldest Test ground, having first hosting a Test match in 1889. What sets St George's apart from the other grounds is its lively brass band in the crowds that plays throughout the day and creates a fantastic atmosphere.
- 27 Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg. The largest cricket ground in the country by capacity, holding 34,000. Nicknamed "The Bullring" due to its design and the imposing atmosphere by the partisan crowd created against visiting teams. The ground's altitude of 1,800 m (5,900 ft) means the air is thinner. As a result games at the Wanderers are often high scoring.
- 28 Galle International Stadium, Galle. The 16th-century Galle Fort built by the Dutch towers over the ground, making it one of the most scenic in Sri Lanka to watch cricket. Capacity 35,000.
The West Indies team represents Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, US Virgin Islands.
- 29 Arnos Vale Stadium, Kingstown, St Vincent. Capacity 18,000.
- 30 Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. Capacity 15,000.
- 31 Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados. Capacity 28,000. One of the most historic cricket grounds in the West Indies. Cricket was first played at the Oval in 1882 and the first international touring side from England played here in 1885. The West Indies played their maiden Test at the ground in 1930. One reason for these firsts was Barbados' easternmost position within the Caribbean, which made the island a port of call for visitors across the Atlantic. Kensington Oval hosted the final of major tournaments held in the West Indies, including the 2007 World Cup and 2010 World Twenty20.
- 32 Providence Stadium, Georgetown, Guyana. In 2006, the Providence replaced the most historic Bourda, which was the first cricket venue on mainland South America. Providence Stadium has three main stands and a grass mount that can hold 4,000 people. The overall capacity is 15,000.
- 33 Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Capacity 20,000.
- 34 Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Capacity 20,000.
- 35 Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Factory Rd, North Sound, St Peters, Antigua (halfway between Saint John's and the airport). Capacity 10,000. Replaced the historic and popular Antigua Recreation Ground from 2007 onwards. The stadium retains a Caribbean charm with terraces on the sides.
- 36 Harare Sports Club, Harare. Capacity 10,000.
- 37 Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo. Established in 1890, the ground mainly has grass banking surrounded by picturesque trees providing shade to the spectators. QSC held its first Test match in 1994. Capacity 13,000.
Other playing countries
The ICC has a total of 102 member countries. In addition to the 12 full members listed in the previous section, there are four affiliate or associate member teams (Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, United Arab Emirates) which are granted One Day International status. This allows them to play One day international and Twenty20 matches with full members.
Cricket is first recorded as being played in Montreal in 1785. Canada played the world's first international match against the United States of America in 1844, and this continues as an annual event.
- 38 Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club Ground. Room for 4875 spectators.
Kenya played as part of an East Africa team until 1989.
Cricket was first played by British troops in the early 19th century. The game became popular in the 1870s, and the national team first played in 1881.
- 39 VRA Cricket Ground, Amstelveen, Amsterdam. Room for 4,500 spectators.
Cricket was first played in Scotland in 1785. In the 1980s Scotland played in English domestic games as a "county", leaving this to join the ICC in 1994.
- 40 Grange Cricket Club Ground, Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Home of the Scottish national team. The first international match was held in 1999, although the history of the ground goes back to 1832. The ground spectator capacity is 3,000.
Thailand are an emerging but rapidly developing nation in women's cricket. Since officially being recognised as a sport by the Thai government in 2008, the game has grown has spread across the country. In 2019, Thailand achieved a record 17-match winning streak in the Twenty20 (T20) format and qualified for the 2020 T20 World Cup, their first global tournament.
United Arab Emirates
Cricket is a popular sport in United Arab Emirates largely due to the presence of South Asian expatriates in the country and host various competition by different nations. Pakistan regularly use cricket stadiums in the country for their domestic as well international cricket matches.
- 42 Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah. Sharjah's heyday was in the 1990s when it constantly held multilateral ODI tournaments. Although the games held at the ground was never implicated, the match fixing scandals at the turn of the millennium tarnished Sharjah and its use started to wane. It has reemerged as an international cricket stadium, either as a neutral venue for Pakistan and its opponents or for inter-associate games involving the UAE. Capacity 16,000.
- 43 Central Broward Regional Park, Lauderhill, Broward County, Florida. The only American cricket stadium certified to have international cricket status. Multiple matches of the Caribbean Premier League are played here every season. The West Indies, New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka have all played international games at Central Broward Regional Park. Capacity 20,000.
Other cricket sites
- 1 Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame, Bowral, New South Wales, Australia, ☏ +61 2 4862 1247. Based in the town where cricket legend Don Bradman played the game during his childhood, the museum has exhibits on the origins and history of the sport throughout the ages.
- 2 MCC Museum, London, United Kingdom. Located in the famed Lord's Cricket Ground, the spiritual home of cricket, this museum is known for being home to The Ashes urn, which gave its name to the series of Test matches played regularly between England and Australia.
- 3 Blades of Glory Museum, Pune, India. Private museum showcasing a collection of cricket memorabilia autographed by some all-time greats such as Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar.
- 4 West Indies Cricket Heritage Centre, St. George's, Grenada. Houses an amazing range of Caribbean cricketing memorabilia and photographs across all eras.
- The Cricket World Cup is a ODI tournament held every four years. The next one will be held in India from 9 February to 26 March 2023.
- The Ashes is series of 5 Test matches that is played between Australia and England, with each country taking turns to host the series.
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