Cricket is a team sport that originated in 16th century England. It is played by 2 teams of 11 members each on an oval field of somewhat indeterminate size.
The purpose of the game is to score the maximum possible number of points, called “runs,” in a given period of time or units of play called innings (the s is part of the word both in its singular and plural form).
Cricket originated in England and has spread to many countries that are now or were once members of the British Commonwealth. Today it is the official or unofficial national sport or most popular sport in England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and a number of Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, and Jamaica. Instructions and leagues are available for both genders and virtually all ages. Most national cricket groups sponsor programs for children as young as six, with adaptations that make play safe for the youngsters. The first women's cricket match was played in 1745 between two teams from Bramley and Hambeldon. The international governing body for both men's and women's cricket is the International Cricket Council, with headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The origins of cricket are uncertain, although some historians believe that some form of the game may have been played as early as the Saxon era (about the fifth or sixth century) by children in rural England. The first specific reference to the sport comes from a trial held in 1598 in which the plaintiff refers to a sport called creckett which he had played more than half a century earlier. Written records over the next two centuries provide a number of mentions of cricket-related events, such as the first cricket match held outside of England (in Aleppo, Syria, in 1676), the first match between two English counties (Kent and Surrey in 1709), the first written rules for the game (1727), the first known version of the Laws of Cricket (1744), the first match between Oxford and Cambridge (1827), the first international match (between Canada and the United States in 1844), the first test match (between Australia and England in 1877), the first test match in the West Indies (1927), the first five-day Test in England (1948), and the first World Cup (1975). The first organization formed to supervise cricket activities in England, and later throughout the world, was the Marylebone Cricket Club (widely known just as MCC), established in 1787. MCC continued in this role for more than 200 years before its international responsibilities were assumed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1993 and its domestic responsibilities, at the same time, by the Test and County Cricket Board. MCC continues to hold a copyright for the rules of cricket, however, for which it provides revisions from time to time. Today cricket clubs and leagues exist in virtually every part of the English-speaking world. The ICC World Cricket League was formed in 2007 to provide a venue in which cricket clubs from nations around the world could compete with each other. As of 2017, the league consisted of teams from 95 nations divided into eight divisions. League members are regarded as a step below the best cricket teams in the world, who are eligible to play in international test matches.
Cricket is played on a circular or oval-shaped field of variable dimensions, usually of the order of 450 to 500 feet in diameter. The circumference of the field is called the border. The field itself is further subdivided into three parts, the outfield, an outer ring of the field; the infield, an oval-shaped ring within the outfield; and the close infield, at the center of which is the pitch. The pitch is the area at which action begins. It is a rectangular area that is 22 yards long and 10 yards wide. At opposite ends of the pitch are stumps, a set of three vertical stakes on which are mounted two cross sticks. These arrangements are called wickets. Each end of the pitch is marked off into rectangular sections that designate areas in which the batter and bowler are permitted to stand, the batting crease (also known as the popping crease) and the bowling crease.
Play starts when a member of the fielding team called the bowler stands at one end of the pitch and throws the ball at the wicket at the opposite end of the pitch. The bowler's objective is to strike the wicket, and the batter's objective is to prevent that from happening by hitting the ball. The game then continues by the accumulation of runs and outs. Runs are scored in one of two general ways. First, any batted ball that reaches a boundary is automatically worth four runs, while any batter ball that leaves the playing field on the fly is worth six runs. Second, a run is scored when the batter hits the ball and is able to run the length of the pitch, touch the area behind the wicket, and return to the batting position. Except that the partner must, at the same time, run for the nonbatting wicket to the opposite end of the field and back to the original position. Runner pairs can also attempt to score two (or three or more) runs on a single batted ball by making the return trip two (or three or more) times. A batter is not required to try to make a run after hitting a ball. If the ball is hit close to a member of the fielding team, the batter may choose to remain in the batting crease and wait for the bowler to throw again.
A second way of scoring runs involves infractions of cricket rules. Runs scored by this method are called extras. The four types of extras are:
Extra runs are added to scored runs to get a team's final score for a match.
Each innings in a cricket match consist of a certain number of overs. An over consists of six legal deliveries by a bowler. After bowlers complete six overs, they are replaced by another member of the fielding team. The bowler then takes a position as a defensive player. After each over, the batting team switches ends of the field, with the bowler then throwing from the previous batter's position, and vice versa. An innings is completed in one of four ways. First, a team may score some certain number of runs. Second, some predetermined number of overs (usually 50) have been bowled. Third, ten of the 11 possible batters have been dismissed. (Ten, rather than 11, because one member of the batting team is always in the nonstriker position.) Fourth, a team captain may declare that the innings is over (usually for some strategic reason).
The design of a cricket match depends on its prestige. The most important matches are called test matches. They take place among nine recognized
world class national teams and last five days. Each day is divided into three two hour sessions with breaks for lunch and tea. A test match ends when all four innings have been concluded, whether the scored is tied (a rare occurrence) or not; the team batting last overcomes the other team's score; the team that batted twice still trails the team that batted once; team has expired; or the field is no longer suitable for play to continue. Test cricket is the highest form of first class cricket, a form of the sport defined by the ICC as a match of three or more days between two national first class teams, as judged by the official governing body in each country. Most first class cricket matches are between teams from the same country, although they may also involve games between domestic teams and visiting international teams. The category below first class cricket is one-day cricket, in which both teams are allowed one innings consisting of some set number of outs, usually 50, 55, or 60. The team that scores the greater number of runs is the winner.
The clothing worn by cricket players tends to be fairly traditional and distinctive. Players wear white sweaters and trousers in test matches, perhaps embellished with a neck stripe of their team's color. In one-day cricket matches, players tend to wear any type of colored clothing. Necessary field equipment consists of the wicket and ball, which is traditionally red in color, although balls of other colors have also been tried. A white ball is often used in one-day events because they are often played at night, and a white ball is easier to see under artificial lights. The wicket keeper wears gloves, kneepads, and groin protection, while the batter wears a batting helmet, gloves, and leg protection. All players may wear special cleated shoes that allow them to have a firm grip on the grass.
As with most sports, truly outstanding players almost certainly begin with certain genetic advantages that make them great players. Bowlers, for example, often have the ability to project the ball at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. No training program can provide that skill to someone who does not have it naturally. Batters must be able to catch sight of, track, and hit a ball traveling at such speeds, a hand-eye skill that may also be difficult to teach in its entirety. Still, cricket players, like all athletes, can benefit from a number of basic exercises that will help them maintain and improve whatever natural talents they may have. Some of these training exercises include:
The most common types of injuries in cricket occur as the result of a rapidly thrown or batted ball coming into contact with a person's body, resulting in bruising, fractures, broken teeth, concussions, and similar injuries. The most common location of cricket injuries in adults is in the upper body, followed by injuries to the lower body and to the head. By contrast, the most common site of injuries among children is in the head and face, followed by the hands and fingers. Research among Australian cricketers found that the five most common injuries reported were hamstring strain, lower back pain, side strain, shoulder pain, and sprained ankle. A major contributing factor to these injuries was simply remaining on the playing field for extended periods of time (up to seven hours), during which strenuous physical activities were performed over and over again.
As in most sports, the risk of injury can be reduced significantly if players undertake a planned program of training and preparation.
See also Concussion ; Fracture .
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David E. Newton, AB, MA, EdD