How To Play Cricket

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

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Origins of Cricket

Cricket is a team game and the national summer sport of England. Football is the main national sport but during the summer recess cricket gets more coverage and media headlines. The sport is played in domestic leagues in several countries that are mainly current or past members of the British Commonwealth who understand how to play cricket. International cricket brings together a small number of nations who play each other in various formats of the game. The sport of cricket is fundamentally a contest between batsmen and bowlers. Batsmen who know how to play cricket are trying to score runs while bowlers are trying to prevent runs and remove batters from the field of play.

There are some claims that cricket was played as early as 1301 but the earliest mention of the sport was in 1550 with reference to a match on common ground in the Surrey town of Guilford in England. At the start of the 17th century there are records of English villages playing against each other in a version of cricket. It had become organised in the south of England by the end of the century. In the 18th century cricket was played for betting purposes and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787 and was based at Lord’s Old Ground. The MCC introduced the laws and became the custodian of the sport. Over the net 100 years the rules were refined and in the summer of 1876-77 England visited Australia to play what later was defined as the first ever Test match. Cricket expanded in the 20th century with other Commonwealth countries adopting the sport. The first limited overs match took place in England in 1963. The International Cricket Council (ICC) staged the first cricket World Cup in 1975 and in the current century Twenty20 was introduced as a new format.

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Ground and Equipment

The playing area at a cricket ground does not have fixed dimensions but must be circular or oval in shape. However, any boundary cannot be more than 75 yards (69 metres) from the centre of the pitch. Boundaries which mark the outer limits of the playing area can be marked with a rope of fence. The bowling and batting takes place on the pitch located in the middle of the ground and is 22 yards in length which is fixed and the same for each form of the game. Three stumps span 9 inches at either end of the pitch and these wickets are the target for bowlers. The bails sit on top of the stumps and at least one must be removed to dismiss a batsmen. The crease is the area populated by the batsman when he is poised to hit the ball or avoid it having been dispatched by the bowler from the other end of the pitch. The ground is divided into the leg side and off side depending on whether the batter is right or left handed and the areas nearest and furthest away from the bat.

The implement that the batter uses to score runs and protect his wicket is called the bat. It can 38 inches long at most and is made of willow. The bat weighs between 4 and 6 ounces but this is not a strict regulation and some players prefer a lighter or heavier batting tool. The ball used in Test matches has a red leather cover but white balls are used in other formats especially during night matches under floodlights. Test match cricket is played in white kit but coloured clothing is worn in One Day Internationals and Twenty20. Various players wear gloves and helmets at their discretion. The umpires wear long white coats over normal clothing.

Cricket Rules

How to play cricket and cricket rules described are for the purest form of the game which is Test cricket. There are variations for the other formats which are referred to under the specific headings. Put simply cricket is a game played with a bat and a ball between two teams of 11 players. The objective is to score runs while batting and dismiss the opposition’s batsmen while bowling. Here are some fundamental cricket rules:

Twelfth Man  

The twelfth man as part of cricket rules is an extra player who performs various functions in support of the first eleven, such as fielding and bringing out equipment and clothing to his teammates when required. However, that player cannot bat, bowl, keep wicket or captain his team but can field. The original player can rejoin the match at any time.


Each cricket match requires two umpires whose role is to apply the laws and make decisions which are relayed to the scorers. These two officials stand on the ground during play and in high profile televised matches a third umpire makes decisions based on video evidence. His input is required when the on-field umpires cannot rule because there is insufficient evidence to the naked eye to make a call.


As part of cricket rules Test cricket spans two innings for each side. A match is won by bowling out the opposition twice and accumulating more runs. There is no limit to the number of overs in Test cricket and how to play cricket. Play is restricted to five full days. The toss determines who bats first and the batting team aims to score runs while the fielding team tries to dismiss ten players. Batting is done in pairs so once 10 players have been dismissed the 11th member of the team cannot bat alone.

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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 Runs

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. After that more runs can 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


In cricket a batsman who knows how to play cricket can dismissed 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 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 on the full and this action can be performed by any of the eleven players on the field or the 12th man.

Leg Before Wicket (LBW): When a ball strikes the legs of a batsman without being hit 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 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.

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.

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:


Test matches are played between international teams over five days. In some cases the match has a rest day after the third day but other Test matches take place on five consecutive 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 but in some cases when the team that bats second are well behind on runs they bat again at the discretion of the team that batted first. If all four innings cannot be completed the result of a Test match is a draw. 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.


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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 formerly organised in 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. From 2017 Division One will have eight teams and Division Two will have 10 and to make this adjustment only one team will be promoted at the end of the 2016 season but two will move the other way. Despite doubts about the viability of county cricket and poorly attended matches the leagues provide a good stepping to Test match cricket and have a role to play in the sport.

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


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. There is now 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.

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