Rules of Cricket

Cricket can arguably be viewed as a predecessor sport to Baseball in the United States, although the rules of the two sports differ markedly. Cricket is completely different from baseball, although there a few similarities. Cricket, be it Test or One-Day, is fast-moving and can be extremely nerve wrecking in certain situations. Runs are scored at a much faster rate than Baseball. There are no such things as fouls in Cricket. As such, a batter in cricket can hit the ball anywhere he/she wants and run only if he/she believes it is safe to run without getting run-out (run-out in Cricket is the equivalent of not making it safe to the next base in Baseball). This is not the case in Baseball. A cricket team consists of 11 players. Teams are often made in such a way that some players are excellent batters, some are excellent bowlers (equivalent of pitchers in baseball), and some are excellent fielders.

When one team bats, the other team bowls and fields. At all times, there must be at least two batters on the ground. This is an important rule of Cricket that distinguishes it from Baseball. There is a straight stretch of area on the ground called a pitch. One either ends of the pitch, there are what we call the stumps. The stumps are nothing more than three sticks of wood standing on the ground firmly. One batter stands on one side of the pitch and the other stands on the other end. A bowler is allowed to bowl six simultaneous deliveries to a batter. A string of six deliveries is called an “Over.” Once a bowler finishes an over of deliveries, he/she cannot bowl the next six deliveries. Another player who is most likely another bowler from the same team bowls the next six deliveries. These two bowlers bowl alternate overs until the captain of the team wishes to change bowlers on any one end. Only the captain can decide which of his/her players will bowl and when. Only the captain can decide where to place his/her teammates on the field. A picture of the pitch, and stumps are shown in the picture below:

Picture is courtesy of This picture is merely used for illustrative purposes.

As can be seen above, two batters are standing on opposite ends of the pitch. The bowler had just delivered a ball from the far end of the pitch to the batter at the near-end. He is appealing to the umpire that the batter is out by “LBW – Leg Before Wicket.” This is one way of getting a batter out. Other more simple ways are discussed below. Basically, what a leg before wicket appeal means is that the bowler argues that the batsman blocked the stump behind him and that the ball hit his leg. If the ball did not hit his leg, it would have hit the stumps. This is what the bowler argues by making his appeal. A batter need not deliberately block the ball with his/her leg to be called out. Even if he/she made mistake (a wrong stroke) that caused the ball to hit his/her leg, and if his/her leg is right in front of the stumps, the umpire will rule in favor of the bowler. If the umpire rules in favor of the bowler, he/she will indicate this by lifting his/her arm straight up in the air with the index finger raised.

It is important to note that the bowler always bowls only from one side of the pitch at any one time. And the way the bowler delivers the ball to the batter is markedly different from the way a pitcher delivers the ball in Baseball. To understand this, you must understand that there are several varieties of bowlers. A fast bowler relies on the speed of his or her delivery and tries to intimidate the batter with the speed of the ball. A fast bowler can completely decimate the opposing team with extremely fast deliveries or, much to his/her disappointment, can make things easy for the opposing side. The faster the ball, the lesser the effort needed on the part of a batter to hit the ball forcefully. All a batter needs to do is nudge the ball away a little and the ball will go wherever the batter wants it to go. The fielders will find it difficult to stop the ball because of the ground speed of the ball. Medium fast bowlers also rely on the speed of their deliveries.

Medium bowlers often do not rely on the speed of the ball. They rely more on the swing and seam of the ball. Swing refers to the movement of the ball in the air. Seam refers to the movement of the ball that occurs right after the ball hits the ground. That is correct – right after it hits the ground. Unlike in Baseball, a ball in cricket is delivered such that it hits the ground once and only once before it actually reaches the batter. Spin bowlers rely on the spinning movement of the ball. It is important to note that fast bowlers and medium fast bowlers also rely on the swing and seam of the ball. As such, all bowlers have different specialties. Some try to trick the batter. Some bowlers bowl with perfect accuracy (perfect line and length) to frustrate the batter. The batter eventually goes for the big shots (since getting a single or double run appears extremely difficult) in such situations and gets out. Yet other bowlers try to tempt the batter to go for the big shots by bowling easy-to-hit deliveries. In such situations, the batter again goes for the big shots. Excellent batters go for the big shots at the right time, hit it the right way and succeed. Others succeed by pure luck or fail.

As mentioned, there must be at least two batters on the ground at all times from the batting team. To score a single run, batters on both ends of the pitch must run to the opposite end. To score a double run, the two batters must run back and forth twice. For a triple-run, thrice. And so on. Note that both batters MUST run. If only one batter runs and the other does not, the run does not count. And if one batter runs and gets to the other end while the other batter does not run, the running batter will be declared out. Thus, unlike in baseball, communication is vitally important on the field between the two batters. Any miscommunication will lead one or both batters to get run-out. Eye contact between the two batters is also very important.

If the batter facing the delivery hits the ball far enough from the hands of a fielder and believes it is safe to score a run, he/she must signal to the batter on the other side that they must attempt to score a run and start running. Usually, the batter who hits the ball signals to the other batter by saying “Yes!!!” or “Yeah!!!” or “Let’s move!!!” or just “Run!!!” If after completing one run, if the fielder still has not got a hold of the ball and the batters believe they must attempt another run, they must signal each other again and continue running. Note that if it stops at one run, that means the batters have switched sides. As such, the next delivery from the bowler will go to the new batter who just arrived at the batting end from the other end of the pitch. At no time are batters allowed run on the surface of the narrow stretch of area called the pitch. They must run on the side of the pitch and take care not to damage the pitch with their foot. If they run on the surface of the pitch, they will be given a warning by the umpires (referees). If they continue to do it after a specified number of warnings, the runs will not be counted. In fact, further violation of this rule will cause the umpire to deduct runs from the team’s total.

Similarly, bowlers must stop right before the pitch when they deliver the bowl. Bowlers are not allowed to enter the surface of the pitch. If they keep ignoring repeated warnings and continue to enter the pitch, they will banned from bowling for the entire match. There is what we call “four” and “six” in cricket. A four represents four runs scored by a batter in one single delivery. If a batter hits a ball hard enough that it hits the ground at least once and goes past the boundary line at the ends of the cricket ground, this means that that batter scored a four run without ever having to physically run between the two ends of the pitches. A Six is similar to a home run in Baseball. A six represents six runs scored by a batter in a single delivery. To score a six, a batter must hit the ball in the air hard enough that it goes past the boundary line without ever touching the ground. That is the highest number of runs that can ever be scored in a single via a batter’s individual effort.

There is what we call a no-ball in Cricket. A no-ball represents a bad delivery from the bowler that is not counted. There is what we call a crease on either ends of the pitch. It is time I give you the name we have in Cricket for the two ends. The two ends of the pitch are called wickets. The crease is a limit-line. A bowler must not step over the line while delivering the ball. If he/she does step over the crease, the ball is not counted. It is a no-ball. However, this only means that the bowler has to bowl another extra delivery in place of the no-ball. The batter is completely within his/her right hit the no-ball and score runs. Who indicates that a delivery is a no-ball. The umpire indicates that a delivery is a no-ball by holding his/her arm out sideways. If the batter notices in time that a delivery is a no-ball, he/she can go for the big shot (four or six) without any worries. At no time can a batter can get out when a no-ball is delivered.

How can the fielding/bowling side get a batter out? It is simple. The bowler must trick, tempt, or frustrate the batter. Or, alternatively the fielders should take advantage of a miscommunication between batters while trying to score a run. But, how exactly does a bowler get a batter out. There are many ways. The bowler could bowl a really good delivery that really perplexes the batter, goes past the batter and hits the stumps. If the ball hits the stumps and causes the bails on top of the stumps to fall, the batter is “bowled” out. Bails are nothing more than two small pieces of wood that are placed on top of the stumps. If the bowlers bowls a tempting delivery and causes the batter to go for a six, which means the batter hits the ball in the air, there is an opening for getting the batter out. The batter could hit a bad shot causing the ball to straight up in the air and falling right in the hands of a fielder. In such a situation, the batter is “caught” and out.

Similar to a catcher, we have what we call a wicket-keeper behind the batter facing deliveries in Cricket. The wicket-keeper must ensure that he stops deliveries that go past the batter and does not hit the stumps by catching the ball. If the ball goes past the wicket-keeper, the batters are allowed to attempt a single, double or triple (runs). If the ball goes far past the wicket-keeper goes beyond the boundary line, the batting team is awarded four runs. If the ball pitches on the ground and goes way above the head of the wicket-keeper, it is deemed the bowler’s fault. Thus, it is deemed a no-ball. If such a ball goes past the wicket keeper and crosses the boundary, the batting team is awarded five runs (one penalty run constituting the bowler’s fault and four runs for the fact that the ball crossed the boundary). A wicket-keeper is also a fielder. This means that if a delivery from the bowler touches the edge of a batter’s bat and lands safely in the hands of the wicket-keeper, the batter is deemed “caught behind” and out.

Often spin bowlers bowl in such a way that it causes the batter to step out of his/her crease. The crease also applies to batters. At no time should a batter be out of his/her crease. To complete each single, double or triple run, batters must clearly and completely cross the crease by touching the ground past the crease with their bat or running past the crease. If a batter is out of his/her crease at any time, the fielding side can get the batter run-out by throwing the ball at the stumps. If the ball hits the stumps on the side of the batter who is out of his/her crease and causes the bails to fall, that batter is out. If spin bowlers cause a batter to step out of his crease to hit the ball, there is an opening to get the batter out. If a batter steps out of his crease, tries to hit the ball and misses the ball, the wicket-keeper can catch the ball and brush off the bails on top of the stumps with the ball. In such a situation, the batter is deemed “stumped” and out. It is entirely possible that the expression “I’m stumped” became common usage in the English language because of Cricket. Although Americans use this word equally as much as the English do, I highly doubt that most Americans are aware of the true origin of the word.

In One-Day Cricket, the a result occurs within the day. Most One-Day Cricket matches are 50 over matches. This means that the bowling side gets to bowl only 50 overs and the batting side faces only 300 deliveries (50 times 6). Any single bowler is allowed only ten overs for an entire 50-over match. One-Day matches may be day matches or day-night matches. As per the laws of Cricket, a day match cannot proceed beyond the day. It must start during the day and end before sunset. Even if a cricket stadium is equipped with floodlights, floodlights will not be turned on in a day-match. Thus if the fielding team wastes too much time and drags a match by talking unnecessarily between deliveries, the captain of the fielding side will be warned. If this is repeatedly done after a number of warnings, the captain will be banned for the next few matches. There is no more than one inning in One-Day Cricket. The team with the most runs at the end of the 100 overs (50 each) wins the match. If the team that bats first and bowls second wins the match, the winning result is declared this way: England beats Australia by 34 runs or West Indies wins by 53 runs. If the team that bowls first and bats second wins a match, the winning result is declared by giving primary importance to the wickets left (in this instance wickets refers to the number of batters left not-out). For instance, if 3 out of 11 batsman are out in a team and that team wins, the winning result is declared this way: West Indies wins by 7 wickets (10-3; note that although there are 11 players in each team, this is the way to calculate the number of wickets left).

In Test Cricket, there are unlimited overs. The match goes on for five days. There are two innings in Test Cricket. A Test Cricket match can be drawn. It need not necessarily have a definitive winner. It is now time to note three very important facts in Cricket that separates it from Baseball.

1) In Cricket, once a batter is out, he/she is out for the entire inning and can never come back until the next batting inning starts for the team. This essentially means that a batter can never come back in a one-day match, since there is only one inning in a one-day match.

2) All eleven players are allowed to bat for the batting team

3) The bowling team need to get only 10 batters out. They need not get all 11 batters out because…

4) At all times there must be two batters on the pitch representing the batting team. A pair is essential to score a run.

If ten batters are out, that means only one batter is left not-out. This batter is left without a partner. This in turn means the batting team can no longer score a run. Also, while a bowler bowls only from one side of the pitch, the second alternating bowler bowls from the other side. Thus, if a batter touches the ball in the sixth delivery of a ball and does not score a run, he stays where he is. The bowler has finished his over. Another bowler bowls the next over from the opposite end of the previous bowler. This would mean that this “other” bowler bowls to the previous batter’s partner. If ten batters are out, the 11th batter has no partner. Thus, the “other” bowler will have no one to bowl to. All three stumps are clearly in plain sight to the bowler as well. As such, the cricket rules have evolved to end the inning when 10 batters are out. Thus only 10 pair of batters bat during any one inning. This is true for both Test and One-Day Cricket.

If there are unlimited overs, that would mean there are unlimited deliveries for the batter to face and for the bowler to bowl. So, how does the batting side ever end its inning? There are two ways this can happen:

1) The fielding side gets the batting side all-out (all-out constitutes getting 10 batters out).

2) The batting side bats extremely well and long enough that they feel comfortable with the runs that they scored. In this situation, the captain of the batting team “declares.” Declaration is an indication that the batting side is done batting and are confident with the runs that they scored. As such, they are calling on the opposing team to take their turn in batting. Note that the captain of the batting side is never on the ground unless he himself is one of the batters. Two batters from the batting team might be batting while the captain is in the pavilion. The pavilion is a small section in the stadium near the seats where the crowd/fans/spectators sit. The batters on the ground will be anxiously looking at the pavilion waiting for any signals from the captain when they believe the captain may come out anytime to declare. When it is time to declare in the mind of the captain, the captain comes in sight of the batters, waves at the batters and calls them inside the pavilion. The batters understand the command given to them and notify the umpires. The umpires note the score and stop the score for the batting team at this point. Everybody heads to the pavilion. The batting team now comes out to the field as the fielding team. The fielding team now becomes the batting team and sends two of its batters out to the field.

If a team scores say 600 runs during an inning in a Test Cricket Match while the opposing side scores only 400, the fielding team is officially in trouble. If a team has a lead of 200 runs or more over the opposing team at the end of an inning, this team need not bat first in the second inning even though it batted first in the first inning. It can force the opposing team to bat first in the second inning. If during the second inning, the team that was behind at the beginning of the second inning scores less than 200 runs, the team with the lead of 200 at the beginning of the second inning has won. This team will not have to bat a single ball in the second inning. If the team that was behind at the beginning of the inning scores 300 or more and gets all-out, that would mean that the team with the lead at the beginning of the inning would need to score the difference between the total scored by the opposing team and the 600 runs it scored originally. Note that this must all occur within five days. Floodlights will not be turned on in Test Cricket and matches will be declared complete by umpires when visibility is poor.

If the team that scored 600 originally scored it in two days and asked the other side to bat starting the 3rd day, and the other team scored 400 taking the whole of the next two days; assuming that the team with 600 runs forced the opposing side to bat, it has only one day to get a winning result. If at the end of the fifth day, the opposing team is still batting, the match would be declared a draw as soon as the umpires would declare the visibility to be poor.

As mentioned earlier, One-Day Cricket matches are often 50-over matches. That may change anytime. In an effort to further increase the popularity of Cricket and receive an entry for Cricket into the Olympics, the International Cricket Council (ICC: equivalent of FIFA in Soccer) decided it was time to introduce a new version of Cricket – 20-20 Cricket. In 20-20 Cricket, each team bats/fields only for 20 overs each or 120 deliveries each. Thus the match would be much shorter and attract the authorities of Olympics. 20-20 Cricket is now being played more regularly than ever before and is “the only” version of cricket for domestic one-day matches. There is an increasing pressure on the Olympic committee from cricketers all over the world who are fighting to get Cricket an entry into the Olympics. As Cricket has a much wider international following than baseball, it is only a matter of a few years before Cricket gains an entry into Olympics. 50-over Cricket will most likely be retained (hopefully) for the World Cup.

A player of the match is often decided at the end of every match. A player of the match could be anyone from either the winning or losing team who has given an excellent performance. An excellent performance could be scoring the highest number of runs in the match, getting the highest number of wickets in the match (wickets in this sense would mean a bowler getting the most number of batters out), or both. Cricket is often played as a series. For instance, the Cricket Board of England could contract with the Cricket Board of West Indies, as per the regulations of the ICC, for a series of 5 One-Day (One-Day Cricket) Matches and three Test (Test Cricket) matches. The team that wins the most number of One-Day matches wins the One-Day series and the team that wins the most number of Test matches wins the Test Series. At the end of the series, a player of the series is often selected. The selection process for this award is similar to that of “player of the match,” except that a player’s total contributions for the entire series is considered. The selection of player of the series for the Test and One-Day matches are two seperate independent events. Wins and losses in series often affects a team’s world ranking.

Cricketers could have many specialties. A player could be an excellent batter, excellent wicket-keeper (equivalent of catcher in baseball), an excellent bowler, or an excellent all-rounder. An all rounder is a player who has possesses equally good skills in batting and bowling or equally good skills in batting and wicket-keeping. However, the latter is often not referred to an all-rounder. The term for the latter would be wicket-keeping-batsman (male cricket), or wicket-keeping-batter.