A Civilized Game

If you want to learn Cricket, perhaps because you are jet-lagging and just about *anything* out in the sun will suffice, do this: find the local village green with a friendly game and have a seat with the team that’s batting. They’ll explain it all to you and, best, you may not have to buy any beer at all, not a single pint!

For the team in the field, it’s all about maintaining control of the ball. If you control it, the other team can’t score any runs. In that sense, Cricket is a lot like American baseball.

The Brits have a term they use to say that something is all messed up. I heard it several times last week.

“It’s a cock-up!”

And in Cricket, the rules for batting and scoring runs are very British. They are a “cock-up.”

First the lad holding the wide, almost flat-faced bat – he’s the “striker” – is there to defend the “stumps”, the wicket. If the “bowler” (pitcher) throws the ball and knocks them down, the batter has failed.

With a very good bowler who can throw all sorts of pitches (er, bowls), the striker can be hard pressed to do this. At times, the best he can do is deflect the ball or maybe stop it, but no more than that. This will defend the wicket but, sadly, no runs are scored.

To score runs, the striker has to not only defend the wicket but, more so, knock the ball into an area of the field where the fielding team cannot recover it, or can’t do so very quickly.

While the ball is out of their control, that’s when runs can be scored.

Good strikers will hit the ball into un-populated areas of the field and send the fielders scrambling to recover it. Meanwhile, back at the wicket, the bats-man runs back and forth (counter to the alternate bats-man who, up to this point, has had nothing to do but wait) from one wicket to the other, touching the ground each time. When both bats-men successfully cross the “pitch” (the area between the two opposite wickets) and touch the ground, a run is scored.

As long as they successfully touch ground and don’t get caught between the wickets by the returning ball, they are safe and can continue racking up runs as long as they can.

The fielders are, of course, attempting to recover the ball and stop the scoring of runs. They do this by throwing the ball and knocking down the wicket. If either of the strikers is not safe, when the wicket is knocked down by the ball, the play is stopped and that final run is not counted.

Watching the game in the village green, I absorbed this much along with several pints and I also remember there is something about six outs, innings (always with an “s”), another meaning to “wicket” that had something to do with how the game is measured in terms of length, and that if the ball is struck and rolls out of the playing field, that counts as four runs, and if it does so completely in the air, that’s six, and you don’t need to run those four or six.

After that, however, it’s all a Guinness blur.

Still, with everyone in white, you have to use a red ball and that looked rather civilized, too.

And the local clubs have short rain delays where everyone retires to the pub on the edge of the green.

Very civilized.


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