One of the biggest sporting events of the year is going on right now, and hardly anyone in the United States knows.
The International Cricket Council World Twenty20 (ICC T20 World Cup) is taking place in Sri Lanka. Cricket is extremely popular in former colonies of Great Britain, and over a billion people worldwide are expected to watch the T20 World Cup this year. Although the United States has a national cricket team, the sport is not on the radar of most Americans. If you’ve heard anything about cricket, you’ve probably heard it takes a long time to play (which is not entirely true) and maybe a weird term or two, like “googly”. Here’s ten terms you should know about one of the world’s most popular games.
Twenty20 (T20) cricket is a relatively new form of the game, designed to appeal to modern audiences. Other types of cricket can take days to finish, which is hard on spectators at the grounds and at home. First created by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003, T20 cricket is a game between two teams, one innings each, with 20 overs maximum. A typical T20 game takes between three to four hours, with a single 10-20 minute intermission, giving cricket a duration similiar to other popular professional sports.
Just like baseball and softball, an innings is the basic unit of cricket game play. In a single innings, one team is at bat and the other team is on defense. When they switch, it is still an “innings”, not a “half-inning” as in baseball and softball. The word “innings” is both singular and plural. Sometimes, what Americans would call a half-inning in cricket is called a “frame”. An innings isn’t over until 10 out of 11 batters are out.
The batsman is the player trying to hit the ball. In cricket, two men at at-bat at a time, although only one is pitched to at a time. They continue to bat until they make an out. Like baseball, some players specialize as superior batsmen. A good batsman can score dozens of runs in an innings.
Think “pitcher”. Like batsmen, some players specialize as bowlers. There are a large number of specialty pitches, speeds and techniques used by bowlers to get the batsman out.
In baseball, the wicket keeper would be the catcher. His primary job is to catch balls pitched by the bowler. If he fails to catch the ball, the batsman can attempt to score runs called “byes”. If the batsman tips the ball and the keeper catches it, he is out, making the wicket keeper the most likely player on the field to record an out this way. He is also the most highly specialized player on the defensive field, rarely called on to play any position other than keeper.
An over in cricket is similar to what Americans would call an at-bat in baseball. An over consists of six legal balls in a row. There are a lot of ways for a no ball to happen, most commonly because the bowler stepped out of the popping crease (think, pitcher’s mound, except it’s flat) or failed to bounce the ball before it reaches the batsman. Once a bowler completes an over, he must allow another player to take his place, the fielders switch ends, and the new bowler pitches to the other batsman.
On each end of the batting area are three sticks with sticks across the top. The upright sticks are called stumps, and the cross sticks are the bail. The wickets are roughly analogous to “bases” in baseball. One term Americans have probably heard, a “sticky wicket”, has nothing to do with the wicket at all. That refers to a wet pitch, which can be more difficult to play on.
An out in cricket is similar to baseball. If a batter is out, he has to leave the pitch and another batsman takes his place. If the bowler hits the wicket and knocks the ball loose, the batter is out. If the batter hits the ball, but a fielder throws it back in and hits a wicket while the batsmen are running (there are always two batsmen in play at a time), the batsman closest to that wicket is out. If the batsman hits the ball but a fielder catches it before it bounces, the batter is out. And if a batsman knocks his own wicket over (by running into it while trying to hit the ball, for example), he is also out.
The batting team scores a run when a batsman puts the ball in play and the two batters run across the pitch and change sides. Batsmen are allowed to run back and forth as many times as they dare to risk. Unlike baseball or softball, batsman are not required to run when they hit the ball. So if a batter makes a weak hit, he and his mate are not compelled to risk an out.
A type of pitch where a right handed bowler puts clockwise spin on a pitch to make the ball bounce into the batsman. It is a particularly difficult pitch to hit if the batter isn’t expecting it. Other types of pitches are a “leg break” (away from a right-handed batsman), “top-spin” (causing the ball to drop quickly) and “flipper” (causing the ball to drop slowly).