1. Cricket Basics

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Cricket is a team sport played with bat and ball, in an open ground, between two teams of 11 players. The game, sometimes referred to as the "gentleman's game", is popular mainly in the countries of the Commonwealth. Cricket originated in England in the 1300s and became a mainstream sport four hundred years later. Today, cricket is administered by the International Cricket Council (ICC) headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (25.25 55.3 http://icc-cricket.yahoo.net/) The laws of cricket are set by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London, United Kingdom. (51.5294 -0.1727 http://www.lords.org/mcc/about-mcc/)

There are three main forms of cricket played at the international level – Test cricket, One-day international (ODI), and Twenty20 (T20) cricket. The Twenty20 format is a relatively new version, introduced in 2004. International cricket matches are some of the most widely watched matches in the world after football (soccer) commanding a viewership of over a billion.

Note: The players, umpires and scorers in a game of cricket may be of either gender and the Laws apply equally to both. The use of pronouns indicating the male gender is purely for brevity.

Overview

The object of the game is to score more runs (points) than the opposing team. Runs are the scoring units in cricket. A match is divided into innings. During an innings, one team bats while the other team bowls and fields.

E.g. A scores 267 runs. B must make 268 for a win. If B makes 267, it is a tie. Anything less is a loss for B.
Note: the term "innings" is always in the plural form; and when referring to "a team's innings," it refers that particular team's turn to bat, i.e. batting innings. The use of the word innings will henceforth only refer to a team's batting innings.

The team which is batting aims to score runs, either to set a total or chase a target set by the opposition. The bowling team tries to limit the runs scored by the batting team and at the same time to get the opposition players out – dismiss them, so that they cannot bat further in the innings.

Test cricket consists of two innings per team, played over five days; while ODI and Twenty20 consist of a single innings per team. In Twenty20 and ODI matches, after the completion of both innings, the team that scored the most runs is declared the winner. In Test cricket, the winner is declared after totalling the net runs scored by the two teams in their two batting innings. If both teams have scored the exact number of runs, the match is a tie. If the innings cannot be completed before the allotted time for the match expires, the result is a draw in Test cricket, or no-result (N/R) in an ODI or Twenty20.

Players

Each team consists of eleven players. Depending on his primary skills, a player can be classified as a specialist batsman or bowler. A balanced team usually has five or six specialist batsmen and four or five specialist bowlers. A player who excels equally in both fields is known as an all-rounder. One player of the team that is currently bowling takes up the role of a wicket-keeper – a highly specialised fielding position.

The batsmen are entrusted the task of scoring runs with the bat. Bowlers bowl – hurl the ball to the batsmen by bouncing the ball before them. Bowlers, by bowling intelligently, have to try and reduce the runs scored by the batsmen, with the aid of fielders.

Each innings is divided into overs – an over consists of six consecutive deliveries bowled by the same bowler. A bowler cannot bowl consecutive overs. In one-day cricket, an innings is of 50 consecutive overs that lasts for 210 minutes (Three and a half hours). In Twenty20 cricket, an innings is of 20 overs that lasts 75 minutes (One hour, fifteen minutes).

The playing field

[Graphic: The cricket field]
  • The cricket field showing the pitch
Since cricket was played before the advent of the metric system, all dimensions are measured in imperial units with approximate metric equivalents.

The cricket field consists of a large circular or oval-shaped grassy ground. The dimensions are not fixed and the radius varies from 450 feet (137 m) to 500 feet (150 m). In most stadiums, a rope demarcates the perimeter of the field. This rope is known as the boundary.

At the centre of the ground, where play happens, is a rectangular clay strip usually with short grass called the pitch. The pitch measures 10 × 72 feet (3.05 × 20.12 m).

Pitch could mean:
  1. Pitch (n): The central playing area
  2. To pitch (v): The spot on the pitch where the ball lands or is intended to land

Wicket

[Graphic: The wicket]
  • The wicket consists of three stumps and two bails

At each end of the pitch, three upright wooden poles called stumps, are hammered into the ground. Two wooden crosspieces, known as bails, sit in grooves atop the stumps, linking each to its neighbour. The set of three stumps and two bails are collectively known as a wicket. One end of the pitch is designated the batting end where the batsman stands, and the other the bowling end, where the bowler runs in to bowl.

"Wicket" could also mean:
  1. Wicket (n): The 3 stumps & 2 bails
    e.g. Has the batsman hit the wickets?
  2. Wicket (n): The pitch
    e.g. Does the wicket have any grass?
  3. Wickets (n): Batsmen who are out/not out
    e.g. How many wickets have fallen? /
    How many wickets are left?
  4. To take wickets (n): To get batsmen out.
    e.g. How many wickets has the bowler taken?

Creases

Lines drawn or painted on the pitch are known as creases. Creases are used to adjudicate the dismissals of batsmen and for scoring runs.

The stumps are aligned on a crease drawn across the width of the pitch. This line, known as the bowling crease, is 8 feet 8 inches (2.64 m) in length. The two bowling creases are separated by a distance of 22 yards (20.12 m).

[Graphic: The pitch]
  • The pitch is the central playing area

Inwards of each bowling crease and parallel to it, at a distance of 4 feet (1.22 m), is another crease. These two are the popping creases, though the one at the batting end is more commonly known as the batting crease. The length of the popping creases is considered infinite, but is extended for at least 30 yards (27 m) on either side of the pitch.

Perpendicular to these creases are drawn two parallel lines centred on the wicket known as the return creases. They are 8 feet 8 inches (2.64 m) apart, and extend backwards from the popping creases to a length of 8 feet (2.44 m)

Umpires and officials

Two on-field umpires preside over a match. One umpire stands behind the stumps at the bowling end facing the batsman, and adjudicates on most decisions. He is officially known as the bowler's-end umpire but often referred to simply as the umpire, as he is responsible for most of the on-field decisions. (This article will follow this practice.)

The other, the striker's end umpire, commonly known as the square-leg umpire will stand near the fielding position called square-leg, which offers a side view of the batsman, and assist on certain decisions.

In all professional matches, the two umpires may refer a decision by forwarding it to an off-field 'third' umpire, who has the assistance of television replays. An off-field match referee ensures that play is within the Laws of Cricket and the spirit of the game. In all matches, a reserve umpire is kept on hand for emergencies.

An official scorer who records the match details such as runs, batsman dismissals, and time is also appointed.

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