How To Play Cricket

Learn how to bet and play on cricket by reading this article.

Origins of Cricket

One of the most popular sports worldwide, cricket is also one of the most popular to play. While football usually takes all the headlines on UK soil, the summer months in particular sees bat and ball come to the forefront of viewers, bettors and players’ interests.

Before we go into detail about how to play cricket, we’re going to start by giving you an overview of how cricket works. The sport of cricket is fundamentally a contest between batsman and bowlers. The role of the batsman is to score as many runs as possible, while the bowler attempts to take his wicket. Taking a wicket means that batsman is out and the next batter comes to the pitch. The end of an innings, typically, is when ten batsman have been dismissed.

When did cricket begin? There are claims that cricket was played as early as 1301. The earliest mention of the sport was in 1550 with reference to a match on common ground in the Surrey town of Guildford.

There are also records of English villages playing against each other in some form of cricket at the start of the 17th century. By the end of the 1600’s, the south of England had organised the game, setting up rules and regulations for gameplay.

The 18th century saw this organisation go a step further. In 1797, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded, and set up at Lord’s Old Ground. The MCC introduced new laws to the game, becoming the custodian of the sport.

Over the next 100 years, the rules were refined and 1877 saw England visit Australia for what is now considered the first ever cricket Test match. Held at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia won the Test by 45 runs.

The 20th century saw the game expand dramatically. Many more countries adopted the sport, with famous cricket names coming from across the globe. The first limited overs match was held on English soil in 1963. The first cricket World Cup, staged by the International Cricket Council (ICC) took place in 1975.

The 21st century has also seen additions to the typical form of the game. Twenty20 cricket was introduced, and in the process has become one of the most popular events in the world of sport.

Ground and Equipment

The first aspect we’ll discuss in our how to play cricket guide is the ground. The playing area at a cricket ground does not have fixed dimensions – that is, there are no specific requirements for how big or long a ground has to be.

However, the ground does need to be circular or oval in shape. Any boundary around the ground cannot be more than 75 yards (69 metres) from the centre of the pitch. In first-class cricket, boundaries are generally marked with a rope, though fences can be used too.

Onto the pitch itself. The pitch is located in the middle of the ground and must be 22 yards in length. This rule applies to all forms of the game.

Each end of the pitch contains three stumps, with bails on top. Each stump spans nine inches. The bails sit on top of the stumps. If these are removed, the batsman is out. They can be removed by the bowler for a bowled delivery, a fielder for a runout or the wicket keeper for a stumping. If a batsman inadvertently knocks off his own bails, he is out.

Just in front of the stumps is what’s known as the crease. The crease is generally where the batsman stands waiting for the bowler’s delivery.

From the pitch, the ground can be divided into the off side and on side (also known as the leg side.

Let’s move on to cricket equipment. A cricket bat is generally made of willow, weighing between four and six ounces. This isn’t a strict regulation, though, and some players prefer a lighter or heavier bat, depending on their batting style.

Test match cricket uses a ball with a red leather cover. White balls are used in other forms of the game, especially in limited overs games. On occasion, a pink ball is used, particularly when a game is taking place under floodlights.

In terms of kits, Test Match cricket sees all players in their whites. In limited overs cricket, generally, coloured clothing is worn. For example, England usually wear a pale blue kit in one day games, Australia wear yellow, and so on.

Health and safety is paramount in cricket, particularly with the red ball. Helmets and gloves are a must. This rule is relaxed in the one day game, where batters can wear caps if they’re facing spin bowlers.

Cricket Rules

The following how to play cricket and cricket rules we’re going to discuss now are based on Test cricket. We will also look at other formats, which you’ll find under the relevant headings.

Simply put, cricket is a game played with a bat and ball between two opposing teams of 11 players. The objective is to score runs when batting and dismiss batsmen when bowling. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental cricket rules.

Twelfth Man

The Twelfth Man in cricket rules is an extra player who performs various roles in support of the first eleven. This could be replacing a fielder due to injury, bringing out equipment for players and bringing drinks onto the pitch. Once the game has begun, the Twelfth Man cannot perform any batting or bowling duties. Neither can they captain the side or keep wicket.

In terms of play, think of a Twelfth Man as a rolling substitute. If they come on to replace an injured teammate, the original player can retake his place at any time.

Umpires

There are two on-field umpires in every cricket match. Taking it in turns, one umpire will stand at the bowlers’ end of the pitch, with another usually standing at square leg, in line with the batsman’s stumps.

These umpires will apply the laws of the game. There are no restrictions on what the umpires can call necessarily. In general, though, the bowlers’ end umpire can spot no-balls and wide deliveries, make Leg Before Wicket decisions and more. The square leg umpire can call runouts and other forms of dismissals too.

The sport isn’t afraid to adopt new technology either. Help for the on-field umpires can come from the Third Umpire. This umpire can review certain decisions the on-field umpires have made.

For example, in the event of a possible runout, the on-field umpire can request the Third Umpire to take a look at the video screen of the situation.

In most cricket games, both sides get two reviews each. For instance, if an on-field umpire adjudges a batsman to have hit the ball when he dismisses for a catch, the batsman can have that decision reviewed. If the batsman is correct, his side still has two reviews. If video technology proves the umpire correct, the team loses one opportunity to review.

The Third Umpire can also be required for close LBW decisions. Usually, it’s the bowling side who request a review in this case.

Structure

To learn how to play cricket, you need to understand the structure of the game. Let’s take a look at this in more detail now, starting with Test Match cricket.

A standard Test match last for five days. If neither side has won the match by the end of Day Five’s play, the game is called a draw.

Test Matches can be finished before the Day Five deadline. In general, though, both sides will bat and bowl for two innings. The match is won by the side who have accumulated the most runs. If on the rare occasion both sides make the same number of runs, the side who have taken the most wickets are declared winners.

Before each match, the two team captains take part in the toss. Whoever wins the toss decides if their team will bat or bowl first. When you’re learning how to play cricket, take into consideration weather conditions. If it’s overcast, a team captain is likely to choose to bowl first to make use of the good bowling conditions.

There are always two batsman on the pitch at any one time. Once ten wickets have been taken, and only one batsman is left, the innings is over.

In limited overs cricket, the same rules apply, though each team only has one innings each.

Once the first team has been bowled out the other team goes into bat and then innings are alternated. However, based on cricket rules the follow-on occurs when the first batting team scores at least 200 more runs than their opponents. The leading team can then ask the other team to bat again but they can choose not to and embark on their second innings. At any stage a batting team can make a declaration to speed up a match and create a potentially winning situation.

Scoring Run

In line with cricket rules a run is scored when the two batsmen run from one end of the pitch to another. Multiple runs can be scored in this way but ones and twos are most common. In some rare instances batters could run three times from one end of the pitch to another.

Runs can also be scored from boundaries. A 4 is scored by hitting the ball across the boundary rope and a 6 is scored by clearing this rope without any bounces. There are various other scoring methods which are called extras and they are as follows:

  • No Ball – a ball declared for one of several infringements when the ball is bowled
  • Wide Ball – a ball propelled so wide of the batsmen that there is little chance of hitting it
  • Bye – runs are scored without the batsmen making contact with the ball
  • Leg Bye – runs scored when the ball hits the batsman but there is no contact with the bat

Dismissals

If you’re looking at how to play cricket, you need to understand how batsmen can be dismissed. This can happen through various different methods. When a bowler dismisses a batsman he is said to have claimed a wicket. Here are the ways a batsman can be dismissed from the field of play during the course of a match:

Bowled: A batsman is bowled when the ball sent towards him by the bowler strikes one of the three wickets and removes a bail that the batsman is trying to protect while accumulating runs. The ball can have struck the individual or the bat but not another player or an umpire and still be given out.

Caught: When the batsman strikes the ball with the bat he is given caught out when the ball is caught by a fielder before it hits the ground. The ball must be caught fully and this action can be performed by any of the eleven players on the field.

Leg Before Wicket (LBW): When a ball strikes the legs of a batsman without being hit with the bat, the umpire can declare LBW f he believes the ball was going to hit the wickets. If the ball hits the batsman outside the line of the stumps on the leg side not out is the decision.

Stumped: A wicket keeper can remove the bails with the ball or his hands when he is holding the ball and if the batsman is outside the batting area he will be given out due to a stumping. This method of dismissal is possible with spin bowling in particular.

Hit Wicket: If the batsman removes the bails inadvertently once the bowler has begun his action he can be declared out.

Handled The Ball: A batsman can be given out for handling the ball on purpose to change its direction. This is an extremely rare form of dismissal.

Hit The Ball Twice: Hitting the ball twice will result in a batsman being out.

Obstructing The Field: A batsman is declared out by willingly getting in the way of members of the opposing team.

Cricket is a complex game and unlike football has many rules to cover every facet and potential scenario. Many of the more advanced rules can be picked up during their application during the match but the basic cricket rules suffice to gain an understanding the process of playing cricket.

Match Format

Cricket is played in a number of formats which are described below and put different demands on how to play cricket:

Tests

Test matches are played between international teams over five days. A Test match consists of two innings for each side and the one that scores the most runs is the winner.

The team to bat first is determined by a toss of a coin between the two captains. The captain that calls correctly can choose to bat or bowl first.

Teams have alternate innings, though in the case of a follow-on, the first team to bat may not have to bat again. There is no limit to the amount of overs that can be bowled. Playing times are fixed but can be adjusted if weather delays curtail the amount of playing time. Tests can also be halted when the light is not seen to be safe enough for play.

County Championship

The County Championship is the name for the league structure for domestic cricket in England and Wales. Other cricket nations have similar league formats.

Domestic cricket was previously organised as one league of 17 counties with no relegation. Splitting the championship into two leagues of nine teams makes for more competitive matches because there is the incentive to move from the second division to the first division and avoid moving in the opposite direction.

Durham became eligible in 1992 to create two bands of nine teams. County cricket is played over four days and both sides have two innings. The follow-on is available with a lead of 150 runs but all other rules are akin to Test matches, including declarations, methods of scoring runs and the ways to be dismissed.

One Day International

One Day Internationals as the wording suggests are matches completed in one day between international teams. Some domestic competitions in England are played over 50 overs per side and the rules are similar for both types of match. Over the course of a ODI each team bats once and have the number of overs available limited to 50.

However, in some cases a team might lose all ten wickets before that many overs have been completed.

Various fielding restrictions apply in these matches to encourage more attacking play, including Power Plays. Any one bowler is allowed ten overs at most and when scores are tied the number of wickets lost determines the outcome.

Sometimes weather disrupts play and the winner is declared based on a formula that takes into account the number of overs bowled and runs scored. The Duckworth-Lewis method has been used frequently in this instance.

The Cricket World Cup is played with matches in which both sides bat for 50 overs at most.

Twenty20

Twenty20 cricket is the most modern form of the game and innings are played over 20 overs. Bowlers can bowl no more than four overs and the main objective is to score runs as quickly as possible.

Fielding restrictions apply over the early overs and fields are set to defend runs more than take wickets. The very attacking nature of the format means wickets will fall as players take risks they would never consider in longer forms of the game.

Matches last one evening or afternoon and many are played under lights. Twenty20 is the complete opposite of Test cricket but is hugely popular and will continue to grow with more competitions and leagues. The IPL, for example, is one of the most popular tournaments in the world of cricket.

There is also a World Cup for Twenty20 cricket and attendances and viewing figures are large. Usually the bat dominates the ball and a bowler that can keep line and length is a great asset.

Fielding Positions

Fielders are positioned around the field to prevent runs being scored and propel the ball back to the wickets when the batsman are travelling between the stumps to accumulate runs. The field is made up of the off side and on side.

The location of the fielders is influenced by the style of the bowler and the match situation. It is one of the functions of the captain to set the fielding positions but this so often done in collaboration with the bowler and other senior members of the team.

Some fielders are placed close to the wicket and their main function is to catch the ball when it is struck by the batter. The fielders further away from the wicket are mainly employed to stop runs by returning the ball or stopping the ball go beyond the boundary fence. Sometimes the ball is struck so well that the fielders have no chance of preventing a six. Catches in the outfield are difficult as the ball is often hit well into the air in an attempt to clear the boundary and record six runs with one hit.

Here is a list of the main fielding positions close to the batsman where fielders are placed to catch the ball and get the batter dismissed:

  • Wicket keeper
  • Slip
  • Gulley
  • Fine Leg
  • Leg

The main inner and outer fielding positions are displayed in this graphic which include the following positions away from the pitch and deep into the ground:

  • Point
  • Cover
  • Third Man
  • Mid-Wicket
  • Mid-Off
  • Square Leg

Positions described as deep and long involve a fielder well away from the batsmen and near the boundary. Positions described as short or silly involve fielders close to the wickets. When a bowler is running up to bowl fielders move towards the wicket so they have forward momentum when the ball is struck which makes for more effective fielding.

Run-outs are easier from a moving start compared to a standing start. Fielding is a key element of cricket and the skill and expertise of the captain influences its success or otherwise. A trade off is involved between setting a wicket taking field and one that is designed to stop runs being scored.

Batsman try to make captains set more defensive fields which are better suited to preventing runs than taking wickets. The number of wickets in hand and runs required also affect the make up of the field.

At the start of an innings when the best bowlers are in action a captain will set an attacking field as the priority is to take wickets.  However, when runs are being scored at a fast rate the captain will adjust the field to focus more on preventing runs being scored than taking wickets.

Different fields are set for different batsman depending in their strengths and whether they are left or right handed. Test match fields are totally different to field in One Day Internationals and Twenty20 cricket.

Cricket Shots

Runs are scored through a variety of shots that are hit to the onside and offside of the pitch. A drive takes the ball after a bounce, a full shot has a extended follow through and full tosses are hit without the ball bouncing. A pull shot propels the ball in line or behind the wicket and a hook involves hitting a ball at the top of the flight high and away from the wicket. A relatively new technique is reversing the bat and sweeping the ball away but this is rarely seen in Test cricket and is common in limited overs matches. The basic objective is to move the ball with the bat to areas of the field not populated by fielders. Aggressive hitting is designed to find the boundary but these shots have a big risk and reward. Some may result in a 4 or a 6 but badly timed ones will cost a player his wicket. Since the sixteenth century the sport of cricket has been a battle between bat and ball and that basic concept will never change.