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Cricket Rules - The basics

Aim

The aim of cricket is simple - score more runs than the opposition. But the game is played in two different formats and in some games it's possible to get a draw even if you don't score as many runs as the opposition. Confused? It's not that difficult. Those sorts of results only happen in the longer version of the game, played over anything between two and five days, when both teams have two innings. If the team batting last aren't bowled out then they can still draw the match if they've not scored as many runs as their opponents. The game is played on a large field, although most of the action takes place on a specially prepared area known as the pitch or the wicket. At opposite ends of the pitch are the wickets or stumps which the batsmen have to protect.

The players

Cricket is played between two teams of 11 players. The fielding team have all 11 players on the pitch at the same time. Nine members of the fielding team can be positioned around the pitch depending on where the captain wants them. The other two members of the team are the wicketkeeper and the bowler. The bowler delivers the ball, overarm, aiming to get the batsmen out. Two batsmen bat at any one time, standing at opposite ends of the pitch. The batsman facing the bowler is the "striker". One run is scored each time the batsmen cross and reach the crease at the opposite end from which they started. Although all 11 players have the chance to bat, the team are "all out" when 10 wickets have fallen as the "not out" batsman is left without a team-mate at the other end of the wicket. A team doesn't have to be all out for an innings to close. If a captain feels their team has scored enough runs, they can bring the innings to a close by making a "declaration". Teams also have a "12th man" who acts as a substitute fielder if one of the first 11 are injured. However, the 12th man is not allowed to bat or bowl.

The ball

The inside of a cricket ball is made of cork while the outside is made of red leather. The leather is then stitched together around the centre and this area being called the seam. This seam is slightly raised and it's this area which fast bowlers use to hit the pitch when it bounces. With a little help from the pitch, the angle of the delivery will (hopefully) change direction and cause lots of problems for the batsman. Ever since coloured clothing was introduced in one-day matches, a white ball is used instead of a red one.

Umpires

Two umpires officiate the game on the field of play, but at international level there's also a third umpire on the sidelines and a match referee. One umpire stands behind the stumps at the bowler's end of the pitch, while the other umpire stands at square leg. The umpire at the bowler's end makes decisions on lbw decisions, no-balls, wides and leg byes. The square leg umpire will judge stumpings and run-outs. The batsmen should be given any benefit of doubt. This means that if an umpire is unsure about a decision, then the batsman should be given not out. The umpires change position at the end of each over. Only an umpire can give a batsman out after an appeal from the fielding side. If a batsman stands their ground and no appeal is made by the fielding side, then they shouldn't be given out by an umpire. The umpires indicate no-balls, byes, leg-byes, wides, boundaries and sixes to the scorers, who keep a running total of the runs scored. The third umpire uses replays to rule on run-outs, stumpings, whether a ball has hit the ground before being caught or when it's unclear if the ball has crossed the boundary or not. However, the third umpire can only rule if the decision is referred to them by the umpires out on the pitch. The match referee rules on disciplinary matters. If a player shows disagrees by arguing with an umpire about a decision then the match referee can fine the player in question.

Toss Starting the Game

The two captains toss a coin for the right to choose whether to bat or bowl first. The captain who wins the toss will take a number of factors into consideration like the pitch, weather conditions and the form of his side. Play changes end after each over. An over is six deliveries bowled by one bowler. When an over is completed play switches to the other end and continues like this throughout the game.

Duration

A match will normally be played with each side having one innings in a limited overs game or with both sides batting twice in a game played over a number of days. Test matches are played over five days, while County Championship matches in England are played over four days. Limited over cricket involves both sides bowling the same amount of overs to score their runs from, with the winner being the team that scores the most. In most first class competitions each side will receive up to 50 overs, but in schools cricket it is normally a lot less. However, if, for example, a team is bowled out after 40 overs in a 50 over match, the other team still has the full 50 overs in which to beat their score. Play in Test matches is usually split into three two hour sessions, although a minimum number of overs to be bowled in a day is also usually agreed between the sides before a series begins. A 40-minute lunch break is taken between the first two sessions of a day's play, with 20 minutes being allowed for tea after the end of the second session.

Pitch and weather conditions

On a humid, cloudy day, the ball is more likely to move in the air or "swing", as it's known in cricket. Those sort of conditions are most commonly found in cooler countries like England and New Zealand. "Greener" wickets with more grass on and a more damper surface are found in these countries and they help the quicker bowlers as they help movement off the seam. The bowler will try and keep the seam of the ball in as upright a position as possible so that it makes good contact with the wicket when it pitches. When the ball hits the pitch, the seam will react with the ground and create "movement off the seam". Drier pitches in India and Pakistan are far more helpful to spin bowlers. The pace of these pitches is a lot slower, giving a spinning ball more time to grip and "turn off the pitch". But on these surfaces the bounce of the ball is far more inconsistent. Play will be stopped if it rains or if there's bad light which may make batting conditions dangerous.

Pitch dimensions

The size of the field on which the game is played varies from ground to ground but the pitch is always a rectangular area of 22 yards (20.12m) in length and 10ft (3.05m) in width. The popping (batting) crease is marked 1.22m in front of the stumps at either end, with the stumps set along the bowling crease. The return creases are marked at right angles to the popping and bowling creases and are measured 1.32m either side of the middle stumps. The two sets of wickets at opposite ends of the pitch stand 71.1cm high and three stumps measure 22.86 cm wide in total. Made out of willow the stumps have two bails on top and the wicket is only broken if at least one bail is removed. If the ball hits the wicket but without knocking a bail off, then the batsman is not out.


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