That strange sport the world plays: An AP guide to cricket

The yorker went through the gate to take out off and send the pinch-hitter back to the shed for a golden duck. What an absolute jaffa!

Got that?

If you’re scratching your head and wondering what that all means, then worry no more.

Here, The Associated Press offers a casual watcher’s guide to cricket and what you might see and hear during Sunday’s World Cup final between England and New Zealand in London.


The Basics:


The key word in cricket, with several different meanings (nobody said cricket was easy).

“Taking a wicket” means a bowler — think pitcher — has got a batter out. Broadcasters will often interrupt coverage to utter a national catchphrase in England: “There’s been a wicket at the cricket!” Take 10 wickets and the innings is over. The wicket also refers to the three wooden stumps at either end. Batters scamper between the two wickets to score a run every time they cross. The wicket can also be the 22 yards (meters) between the two sets of stumps. Expect lots of runs if you hear “good batting wicket.”


Each team (of 11 players) has one innings — not inning — at the World Cup. The captains toss a coin and the winner decides whether his team will bat or bowl first. Sunday’s toss could be very important as teams batting first usually have won at this World Cup. There are a maximum 10 wickets in each innings before the team is all out and the other side bats. A scoreboard showing 250-4 means the team has scored 250 runs and lost four wickets — four people have been dismissed out of a maximum 10. The higher the first number in a score like 250-4 (50 is very bad, 300 is very good) and the lower the second means the batting team is doing well. A 10-wicket win means a side has exceeded its opponent’s score without losing any players. Like a 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 victory in tennis.


World Cup games last 50 overs per team. There are six balls in an over. Not all teams use up all their overs, as they may lose their 10 wickets before the 50 overs have gone. Overs are also important in alternating the two opposite ends from which bowlers bowl. When the over is, well, over, it’s the turn of the batsman at the other end to face the next bowler. If no runs are scored in an over, the bowler has bowled a maiden over.


The Quirky:


If it was a “Friends” episode, this would be called “The One Where the Ball Flies Past Your Head at Almost 100 mph.” The beamer is an illegal delivery where the bowler hurls the ball at the batter’s head without it bouncing. Rare, almost always accidental and, we’ve got to say it once in this guide, just not cricket.


It’s 4 runs if a batter hits the ball beyond the edge of the field (the boundary) and 6 if he does it without the ball bouncing. At Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, batters have hit the ball out of the stadium and into the adjacent River Taff. That’s no extra runs, but you don’t have to pay for a new ball.


Not a farewell greeting to friends but part of something called “extras” that increase a team’s score by at least 1 run. If a bowler is having a bad day, the extras’ total can quickly mount up. One of the extras is called a wide — where the ball goes so far away from the batter there is no realistic chance of hitting it, however long his arms.


Beamers are bad, so play some chin music instead. Fast bowlers aim to bounce the ball so that it rises steeply around a batter’s face. Australia player Alex Carey heard some chin music when he was bloodied Thursday while batting in the semifinal against England . The ball was traveling so fast it knocked his protective helmet off. He needed six stitches but was OK.


Not an actual animal. Not really a corner. A position covering part of the field where the opposition tries to catch one of the two batters. Other strange cricketing positions include third man (on the boundary and often seen having a chat with spectators in village cricket games), first slip (who stands next to the wicketkeeper) and silly point, where the fielder stands dangerously close to the batter. Sadly, in the birthplace of Monty Python, there is no Extremely Silly Point.


The ultimate embarrassment for any batter. He gets padded up for protection, makes a long walk out to the middle of the field and then is out on the first ball. He returns to the dressing room/locker room/pavilion/shed in disgrace. Just a “duck” is where a batter lasts more than one ball but still fails to score.


Far from an adjective to describe an internet search engine, this is actually one of the hardest balls to bowl in cricket. Sent down by a spin bowler, the googly — or the wrong ‘un — bounces and turns into the batter rather than away from him. What makes it particularly difficult is that the ball comes out of the back of the bowler’s hand, so batters can’t guess in advance what’s coming their way. TV viewers will know it when they see it.


Not a cake for first-time travelers to Europe, but a superb ball from the bowler that the batter just can’t deal with.


Lord’s is the global home of cricket and will host the World Cup final in the leafy St. John’s Wood area of northwest London. Classy neighbors over the years include former Beatle Paul McCartney. Batters who score a century (100 runs or more) at the ground get their name forever inscribed on The Honours Boards .


Teams are made up of bowlers, batters and “allrounders” who are good at both. All 11 players field when the other team is batting. And all 11 may have to go out and bat, even the bowlers. A pinch-hitter is a player who comes in earlier than expected and lets rip in search of quick runs, the classic sound of leather (ball) on willow (bat).


Hoping to claim a wicket, bowlers aim the ball at three vertical sticks known as stumps with two horizontal bails across the top. Each stump has its own name — leg stump is the one nearest a batter’s leg, middle stump is — surprise, surprise — in the center, and off stump is the other one. There are two sets of stumps, one at each end. “Stumps” is also used to say that play has ended for the day in a longer version of the game.


In cricket, it’s best to keep the gate shut. It is the gap between the batsman’s bat and pads that bowlers try to locate if they try to hit the wickets. Close the gate, though, and you are in danger of the ball hitting you on the pad and being given out lbw (leg before wicket), one of the many modes of dismissal in cricket.


Nickname for former (extremely) fast West Indies bowler Michael Holding, known for an elegant run-up to the stumps before changing the atmosphere altogether with a ferociously hostile delivery. Batters in those days — the 1970s — did not wear helmets and the sensible ones were rightly terrified. Survive against Mr. Whispering Death and up next could be “Big Bird” Joel Garner, who took a “five-for” (five wickets) in the 1979 final against England.


Was the word spawned by cricketers from Yorkshire in northern England? Its origins are still up for debate, but there is no doubting what it is. The yorker is a ball bowled that hits the ground near the batsman’s feet at the crease. Batsmen can do little more than block it. It makes some lose balance and fall over. Others miss it altogether and hear the sound of the ball hitting their stumps.


Church reported from Shrewsbury, England.


More AP cricket: and—Sports

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