Story: Cricket

Page 1. What is cricket?

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Based on participation and spectator interest, cricket is New Zealand’s leading summer game.

The mysteries of cricket

Cricket is often confusing to those unfamiliar with it. Its rules are referred to as ‘laws’. They are subtle and complex, and often expressed in unique terminology. Cricket is also obsessed with statistics, and the ways they are formatted and abbreviated can be mystifying. Fortunately there are a number of good glossaries and beginners’ explanations available online.

What is cricket?

Cricket is a game of skill and strategy played between two teams of 11 players. Each team takes its turn to bat while the other team bowls and fields. Each turn is called an innings.

At any given time there are two batsmen: one striking (facing the bowler) and one non-striking. They stand at opposite ends of the pitch in front of the wickets (or stumps). The pitch is an area of play 22 yards long (20.12 metres).

The striking batsman uses the bat to prevent a bowled ball hitting the wicket, and if possible hits the ball away from fielders, giving both batsmen time to score runs. To score a run for their team, the batsmen run past each other to the other ends of the pitch, swapping places. Hitting the ball to, or over the boundary of the playing field earns multiple numbers of runs (‘fours’ and ‘sixes’).

The main ways the opposing team dismisses the batsmen, putting them ‘out’ and stopping them scoring runs are by:

  • bowling them (hitting their wicket with a bowled ball)
  • catching a ball the batsman has hit, on the full (without letting it bounce)
  • leg before wicket (the ball hits the pad directly in front of the stumps)
  • running them out – putting down their wicket while no part of a batsman’s body or bat is behind a line (the crease) at the end of the pitch
  • stumping them – the batsman moves outside their crease and misses the ball, and the wicketkeeper removes the bails while holding the ball and before the bat is re-grounded.

Each innings continues until either 10 batsmen have been dismissed or the batting side declares the innings finished. At the end of the game, the team with the most runs wins.

There are several ways cricket results are expressed. For example, if the side fielding last wins, the result is expressed as a win by however many more runs they scored than the opposing team did, or by an innings if the winning team scores more runs in one innings than their opponents did in two completed innings.

If the team batting last wins, the result is expressed as a win by however many wickets they had left to fall. In this context ‘wicket’ refers to an individual batsman’s turn. When a batsman is out, he has ‘lost his wicket’.

If neither of the teams completes their innings twice the result is a draw.

Normally, and always in first-class and test matches, both teams can bat twice. In one-day cricket each team has one innings of 50 overs. An over is a unit of six legitimate balls bowled by one bowler. In Twenty20 cricket each team has one innings of 20 overs.

Two umpires ensure the match is conducted in accordance with cricket’s 42 laws.

How to cite this page:

Don Neely, 'Cricket - What is cricket?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 April 2024)

Story by Don Neely, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Apr 2016