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The Rules of Cricket

Much like Baseball, Cricket is a bat and ball game played on a circular or an oval field.

Instead of bases, at the center of a cricket field lies a 22-yard long rectangular pitch with wickets (a set of 3 ‘stumps’ with 2 ‘bails’) at both ends.

Depending on the format of the game, teams play either 1 or 2 innings each, with team roles swapped at the end of each inning.

Roles and Objectives

There are two roles: Batting, and bowling. The bowling team has one bowler (just like a pitcher except with a run-up and a full arm motion), one wicket-keeper (their version of a catcher who stands behind one set of wickets) and 9 fielders (who are all positioned strategically by the captain).

All 11 players from the bowling/fielding team work together with the aim of dismissing the batsmen, or, at the very least, limiting the runs they score.

Batsmen try to score as many runs as possible by hitting the ball with their bats while guarding the wickets. When 10 members from the batting team get ‘out’ or the allocated match-time is up, teams switch roles.

The objective is to score more ‘runs’ than the opponent, with the team batting second aspiring to outscore the runs scored by the team that batted first.


Laws of Cricket

Cricket is one of the rare sports whose governing principles are known as ‘Laws’ rather than ‘rules.’ There are currently 42 Laws of Cricket, all which outlines every aspect possible of how the game should be played worldwide. London’s Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) owns and maintains the laws and code, which was first drafted in 1744. The latest version, which is the sixth revision of the code, was released in 2017.

Players and Officials

Although there are 11 players on either team, at any point, there are only 2 batsmen from the batting team on the field, along with all 11 of the bowling team. There are two umpires on the field who are responsible for making decisions and applying the Laws of the game.

Substitutes are allowed for injured players, but they cannot bat or bowl, and are limited to a non-influential fielding role.

Equipment and Pitch Specifications

Matches are played with a leather ball, which can be white, red or even pink nowadays. A new ball is used at the start of every inning, and can be replaced upon the fielding team’s request after a certain amount of the match has been played.

The wear and tear of the ball impacts its performance; with proper knowledge of the ball’s condition, both the batting and bowling teams can use it to their advantage at separate times.

Bats, which are required to be made of wood, have a cylindrical handle on top of a thicker, broader and meatier part of the bat, which is used to hit the ball. Wickets, which are also wooden, are equidistant from each other and topped by wooden bails.

There are bowling, popping and returning creases marked on the pitch, which are used to determine no balls and run outs. Since the bounce and spin of the ball is heavily influenced by the condition of the pitch, play is called off during rain and the pitch is covered.

Ways to Score Runs

Running Between the Wickets
Both batsmen run to each other’s end of the pitch while the bails on the wickets haven’t been displaced. Multiple runs can be scored this way.
When a batsman hits the ball beyond the end of the field (which is usually marked by a rope), they can score 4 (ball crosses boundary after bouncing) or 6 runs (ball crosses boundary without bouncing) runs.
Leg Bye
When the ball hits a batsman’s body instead of the bat and runs are scored, it is categorized as leg byes.
When the ball goes past the batsman (usually not caught by the wicket-keeper) and runs are scored, it falls under byes.
No Ball
If the bowler’s leading foot crosses the bowling crease before the ball is released, it is called a no ball. A no ball can also be called for a dangerous delivery, such as a full toss (without a bounce) that is higher than the batsman’s waist. Illegal fielding positions can also cause no balls. All no balls award one extra run to the batting team as a penalty and have to be re-bowled. In certain formats, a no ball from overstepping the crease results in a free hit in the next delivery, where the batsman receives immunity from getting out in all cases except a run-out.
Wide Ball
If the ball was bowled too wide and the batsman had no reasonable opportunity to score off the ball, the umpire can rule it a wide ball. Wide balls are also counted as extras since they award one run to the batting team and need to be re-bowled.
Lost Ball
If the ball is lost in play and impossible to recover, the fielding team has the ability to call “lost ball.” The batsman scores 6 plus however many runs they actually ran.

Ways to Dismiss a Batsman

If the ball hits the striker batsman’s wickets, dislodging the bails, they are adjudged out. This can happen with or without touching the batsman’s body or bat. If another player or the umpire were to touch it, it would be not out.
If the batsman touches/hits the ball and any player from the fielding team catches the ball before it hits the ground, the batsman is adjudged out. This means the bowler, wicket-keeper and all other fielders can catch the ball before it bounces and dismiss the batsman. If the ball misses the bat and strikes the body before someone catches it, it is not an out unless the ball hit the batsman’s glove.
Leg Before Wicket
If the batsman fails to make contact with the ball and only his body prevents it from striking the wickets, the fielding team can make an appeal to the umpire for LBW. 3 conditions need to be met: Contact with the body first, ball was not pitched outside the stump on the leg side of the batsman, and the ball would have struck the wickets. In the event that the ball was pitched outside the line of off-stump and the batsman was attempting to play a shot, then it is ruled not out.
If the batsman has stepped outside of his batting crease while not attempting a run and the wicketkeeper, with the ball in his hands, dislodges the bails, the batsman is adjudged out. This decision is usually made by the umpire standing on the leg side of the batsman, as they are in a better position to make the call rather than the umpire standing at the bowler’s end.
Run Out
If the batsman, in the process of attempting to score a run, has no part of his body or bat on the ground beyond the popping crease when the fielding team dislodges the bails off the stumps, the batsman is adjudged out.
Hit Wicket
In the event that the bails get dislodged off the wicket by the batsman’s body or bat after the bowler has released the ball, the batsman is declared out. This is also valid if the striking batsman does this in the process of starting to run between the wickets for the first run.
Handling the Ball
If a batsman purposely touches the ball with his hands, which are not holding the bat, without the permission of the fielding team, he is declared out.
Hitting the Ball Twice
If a batsman purposely hits the ball twice without either the fielding team’s permission or for purposes other than protecting his wickets, he is declared out.
Obstructing the Field
A batsman who purposely obstructs the fielding team by word or action is declared out.
Timed Out
A batsman who comes on to replace one who has been dismissed has 3 minutes after the dismissal to be ready at the crease to face the bowler. A failure to do so results in the incoming batsman getting declared out.

Important Terms:

  • Over: A bowler bowls an over – a set of 6 balls – from one end of the pitch, after which another bowls an over from the other end of the pitch. The different formats of Cricket all have different number of stipulated overs, either limited or unlimited, that need to be bowled by the fielding team.
  • Duckworth-Lewis: For matches that are interrupted due to bad weather, lighting issues, or other unforeseen circumstances, a set of mathematical formulas and rules are applied to reset the targets and shorten the duration of the match.
  • Follow On: In a 2-innings match, if the team batting second puts up a score on the board which falls short of the opposition’s first innings score by 200 or more runs, the opposition team can require the team batting second to bat again right away without swapping roles.
  • Declaration: A batting team’s captain has the right to declare their innings closed at any stage when the ball is dead. It is a tactical move to save time and force the opposition to bat earlier.
  • Super Over: In limited overs cricket, super overs are used as tie-breakers. Each team gets to bat one over and tries to outscore the other.
  • Fair Play: Often lauded as a gentleman’s sport, Cricket has laws dedicated to eliminating instances of unfair play. Some of these include ball tampering (illegally messing about with the ball to gain an advantage over the batting team), time-wasting, distracting the batsman and dangerous bowling such as beamers (full pitched balls that are higher than the batsman’s waist and can cause serious damage).

How Decisions Are Made

There are two on-field umpires: one at the non-striker’s end and one at the striker’s leg-side. These two umpires, responsible for ensuring that the Laws of the game are upheld, make all the decisions and inform the scorers of the same.

There is a third umpire off the playing field who is responsible for making video-review based decisions.

When the two on-field umpires are unsure about a decision or a call which is too close to make, they refer it upstairs to the third umpire who reviews it through slow-motion replays and other technology.

The third umpire then relays his decision to the on-field umpires, who inform the players of the same.

Results of a Cricket Match

Simply put, a Cricket match is won by the team who scores more runs.

If both teams scored an equal number of runs while batting, the match is deemed a ‘tie’ in limited overs cricket. A tiebreaker/eliminator may or may not be played to determine a winner, depending on the tournament or competition.

In unlimited overs Cricket, the team with more runs over the 2 innings combined reigns supreme.

There is also the possibility of a match being declared a ‘draw’ in the event that time runs out before the completion of all innings.

Across all formats of the game, umpires have the ability to abandon the match due to bad light or weather that would make further play impossible.

All efforts are made, however, to resume play, even if it means shortening the duration and altering targets using the Duckworth-Lewis method.

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