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The mysteries of cricket revealed: Part three

Rob Stares

Bats, balls, and the death of a prince - our cricket guide comes to a gruesome end

Cricket explained

THIS week, we focus on the batsman - the position most people aspire to. Be warned, it’s not always as fun as it sounds – it’s possible to be injured. You’ll also be pleased to know that there are plenty of baffling words in this section, too. Enjoy!

A traditional game of cricket requires two batsmen to be at the wicket during the whole game. One batter faces the bowler at one end of the wicket, while the other batsman waits their turn at the other end. As we’ve said before, the batsman’s job is to protect their stumps and score as many runs as possible during the game.

Once the fielding team have dismissed all but one of the opposition batsmen, the two teams swap over. Each team has two attempts to score as many runs as possible, called an ‘innings’, with the total scores from both innings’ combined to see who is the winner.

Although it may seem that some cricket games drag on for days with no end in sight, they are usually limited to a certain amount of overs per day. In traditional cricket matches the limit is 90 overs, whereas in shorter games such as Cricket20 or one-day cricket, the number of overs can be as low as 20.

There are regular intervals too, with teams that play a full-day session stopping for both lunch and tea.

They stop for lunch and tea in cricket? That’s so British!

Well, they need to eat at some point! Don’t get ‘tea’ confused with tea that you drink – they’re not all eating jam tarts and sipping Earl Grey – tea is another term for dinner.

Because of the length of the game, a batsman has to think about what sort of game they are going to play. In a 90-over game, are they going to go all-out for a quick high-score, or be patient build up a big total over the whole day? Luckily for us, there are plenty of silly names and terms to get to grips with.

They have silly terms in batting too?!

Of course they do – it’s cricket! Although they do use a pretty straight-forward term to describe how good the batters are on their team: ‘Top order’ describes their best batsmen, ‘Middle order’ is for those who are solid all-rounders, and ‘Lower order’ or ‘Tail’ describes those who are probably more skilled as bowlers or wicket-keepers. Using the term ‘Terrible’ was probably seen as too harsh…

When a batsman is playing defensive shots, the terms are pretty straight-forward. ‘Leave’ and ‘Block’ are self-explanatory. However, when you move on to the attacking shots, things appear to get a bit more complex.

Don’t let all the terms put you off, though. If you look at all of the ‘Drive’ descriptions, they are describing which way the batsman will commonly aim to hit the ball. The ‘Hook’ and ‘Pull’ describe how the batsman would have to hook the ball around to hit it in that direction. The ‘Glance’ and ‘Cut’ allude to how the ball will have been ‘glanced’ off the bat, as opposed to being fully hit.

Any other odd words I should listen out for?

The two main words are the ‘Nightwatchman’ and a ‘Duck’. The ‘Nightwatchman’ refers to a batsman from the lower order who is sent out in place of a higher order batsman near the end of the day.

Their job is to stay ‘in’ during the latter stages of the day when tiredness, nerves or bad light may cause a better batsman to get dismissed.

The worst name to hear if you’re a batsman is a ‘duck’. The ‘duck’ refers to a player who is dismissed without scoring any runs. Just imagine the shame of heading back to the stands with a big fat ‘zero’ next to your name!

What kind of ball do they use?

In professional games, the cricket ball will be made of cork covered in leather. The two halves of the ball are stitched together, creating the ‘seam’ around the centre. Traditionally, the ball is red, although for night-time matches a white ball is common.

The typical cricket ball usually weighs in between 155 – 163 grams, and costs up to £70. As a result, it’s very rare that they’re used outside of a cricket field because of their price – and the damage that they can cause to people!

It sounds like it’ll hurt if you’re hit…

We’re not going to lie – it hurts like hell. There have been isolated incidents of people being killed in cricket matches over the years – one of which was alleged to be Frederick, Prince of Wales, back in 1751. If it sounds a bit unlikely, it’s because it probably is. It’s commonly believed that Frederick actually died due to an abscess in his lung. Gruesome.

Does it cost a lot to start playing?
No. You can buy a basic cricket set from Sports Direct for around £10. All you need is some space to play (preferably a field, maybe a beach) and some friends. Enjoy!

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