"I'm in the team – can you come and watch me play?" If you will be sitting by a cricket pitch this summer, mystified by the antics on the field in front of you, this is the book for you. Not only will it help to explain what is going on from the spectator's viewpoint – it will also raise you several notches in your loved one's esteem. After reading this book you will be able to talk knowledgeably about spin and swing bowling, off drives, knocking in, and know the difference between a googly and an off-break. You might even enjoy the matches much more as a result. Just as well because they can take up a whole day at junior level, or up to five days for a Test match. The author, a mother who has spent many seasons at her sons' playing fields, provides a complete guide to the intricacies of cricket for all those supporters to whom predominantly male sports are a complete mystery. She also includes valuable advice on supporter etiquette and preparing cricket teas as well as dealing with the inevitable washing mountain. This book is for all bemused supporters, male and female, who loyally turn out to cheer in all weathers.
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Cricket Made Simple
Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.
This book is dedicated to that hardy band of supporters: mothers, fathers, partners and grandparents who bravely sit outside in what is euphemistically known as ‘summer’ in the British Isles, to support their youngsters or partners as they play the totally baffling game that is ... cricket.
As the final book in our trilogy, this book is also dedicated to artist, sculptor and illustrator Amanda Stiby Harris who sadly passed away in June 2015 just before this book was completed for publication. This series of books would have been far less entertaining without her input and the author will always be grateful for her support and assistance in their preparation.
The author would like to thank the following for their assistance in bringing this book to the reader:
Caterham School, where she watched her young sons learn the game of cricket and without whose support her original book would never have been written, especially John Moulton, former House Master at Caterham School and cricket umpire, whose early advice ensured the accuracy of the information contained in both this and our previous books.
Zoe Chambers and Daphne Sales, without whom the author’s knowledge of a cricketing mother’s life would not have been complete.
Geoff Knight, for his invaluable help in reviewing the revision in 2013, to ensure all the latest developments in the game were captured for the new supporter.
And last, but never least, my late father, without whom my interest in cricket would never have been kindled in the first place, and my sons Gareth and Alan, for giving me a reason to sit by boundaries and learn to love this great British game. I would especially like to thank my husband David whose support throughout the process of preparing all three books has been unwavering. I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without his help and support.
‘Keep your bat and pad together, Jenkinson, I’m sure your father isn’t paying nine thousand pounds a term to have you flashing at balls outside the off stump. What do you mean, “it hurt”? Of course it hurt, it’s a cricket ball, it’s supposed to hurt!’
Many of you picking up this small tome will wonder why anyone would choose to play a game that requires them to wear protective padding all over their legs, hands, arms and head; is played with a ball that really hurts if it hits them hard (which it frequently will) and also requires them to stand out in the open air regardless of the temperature for most of the daylight hours, frequently without a clear result to either side.
I just hope if your son or daughter (or perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend) has persuaded you to come along and watch them play, this little book will give you a bit more of an idea of what is going on and help you gain greater enjoyment from watching matches in the future.
If you’re a young cricketer, just learning the ropes in your first season, you might also find some of the information I provide useful: placing a field; what kit to use and how to care for your kit – all this is covered at some point in this book. If nothing else I hope you’ll be amused by my take on this wonderful game.
Throughout the book you will find website references and we have provided the full links to these at the back of the book. The web links are also available on our website:
Hopefully you will have already seen cricket in some form or other, either on television, at a school playing field or in a local park. The pundits tell us it is synonymous with the sound of leather on willow and hot summer’s days spent relaxing in the semi-rural atmosphere of a cricket ground, but for the purposes of this book, let’s assume that you actually know nothing whatsoever about the game.
For many cricketing supporters it will always be remembered for freezing temperatures, pouring rain, damp sandwiches, tepid tea and hours and hours of sitting, just waiting for something exciting to happen.
You may recognise some of the famous names from the cricketing world, Ian Botham, Freddie Flintoff, Shane Warne, Alistair Cook et al. If you already have some understanding I apologise for the introductory detail but hope you will find something to amuse or enlighten you on these pages.
Back in the 1970s, some wag produced an explanation of first-class cricket for foreigners, that ran:
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.
When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!
Confused? You may well be, but hopefully I’ll be able to clarify at least some of this explanation in the pages that follow. I certainly hope that my small book will provide a better explanation for anyone new to the game of cricket, and I will do my best to make the information really easy to understand.
Cricket has been played in some form or other by both men and women since the 14th century, and the game is played to a very high standard by girls and women in the 21st century. Indeed the number of girls and women playing has doubled in the last few years and there are currently over 700,000 playing regularly across the UK alone.
However, much of this book describes boys’ and men’s cricket and I apologise if the girls feel I don’t pay sufficient attention to their role in the current game. Rest assured that no slight is intended, it’s just that my level of expertise lies in supporting fathers, boyfriends, husbands and sons rather than mothers, wives, girlfriends and daughters. The information I provide will apply equally to both sexes playing the game, so I hope you can mentally convert he to she and him to her whenever you need to. I have tried to include the fairer sex in my descriptions on a regular basis, but I can also quote from the Spirit of the Game that is now enshrined within cricket’s laws:
‘The use, throughout the text, of pronouns indicating the male gender is purely for brevity. Except where specifically stated otherwise [this book] is to be read as applying to women and girls equally as to men and boys.’
So here we go with our guide for new supporters and spectators. According to Wikipedia (the modern equivalent of the philosopher’s stone) ‘cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on a field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible, while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the runs scored by the batting team. A run is scored by the striking batsman hitting the ball with his bat, running to the opposite end of the pitch and touching it down behind the crease without being dismissed. The teams switch between batting and fielding at the end of an innings.’ A simple and in some ways quite detailed description, but still probably as clear as mud to anyone who has never played the game.
I can add, as my basic introduction, that cricket is a game of skill and strategy played between two teams of players. Each team takes its turn to bat and score runs while the other team bowls and fields and tries to dismiss the batsmen. Each turn is called an innings.
If at any time in the book you feel you want more detail than I have supplied, I can certainly recommend the BBC’s online sports information and Wikipedia, as well as the traditional cricket websites of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC). You’ll find website links to several useful sites at the back of the book.
Before I head off into the details, I’d like to start with some cricketing history to set the scene for you.
Researching the history of cricket has proved to be somewhat baffling, with lots of differing ideas on the origins of the game. I have, however, done my best to pull the basic facts from a myriad collection of sources and hope they are as accurate as possible.
The game is generally believed to have originated in England among shepherds using their crooks as bats, and the earliest wickets may well have been narrow sheep pens. There are also pictures in existence of women playing a game like cricket as early as the 1300s. The earliest men’s games that were officially recorded (interestingly from law court records) were played in southeast England in the 1550s. Initially a single wicket was used, as it still is in ancient games like stoolball that continue to be played in southern England.
Originally bats were curved, rather like hockey sticks or clubs. Straight bats were only introduced in about 1780, as initially all bowling was underarm and until the 1760s the ball was merely rolled or skimmed along the ground to the batsman. After this it was pitched and finally from the 19th century players bowled as they do today. Initially this was done with a round arm action but then the modern overarm bowling technique was developed. It was these changes that led to the introduction of the straight bat to cope with the now bouncing ball.
The structure of the ball was also fixed around this time. It was traditionally made of cork covered with red leather. The most popular ball now describes itself as being ‘a superb quality hand stitched 4-piece construction with a 5-layer quilted centre. Waxed and finished and with a cover made from selected first grade alum tanned steer hide with fine linen stitching.’ Making a modern cricket ball requires great skill and dexterity and the construction remains extremely complicated to this day.
There are many other interesting and indeed curious suggestions for the beginnings of cricket. There is a picture which is kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, depicting mediaeval monks playing a game in a field. One brother is bowling to another who is attempting to hit the ball with his cricce (a staff or crutch). This is thought by experts to be a game of ‘club-ball’, a forerunner of cricket, but it could of course simply be a picture of some monks having a bit of a laugh in the middle of a field! Certainly academics are divided even on the derivation of the word cricket, some thinking it Saxon, and some determined that both the word and the game itself are Flemish.
The history of cricket matches is kept by Wisden, the chronicler of the game, whose annual almanac gives details of cricketing records and the results of all matches played. Published every year since 1864, the latest edition contains coverage of every first-class game in every cricket-playing nation and gives reports and scorecards for all Tests matches and one-day internationals too.
The birthplace of modern competitive or professional cricket is generally agreed to be the Hambledon Club in Hampshire. Some of that club’s members went on to form the White Conduit Club in London in the mid-1780s and this then changed its name over time to become the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). It all started when the club’s groundsman, Thomas Lord, laid the first club ground in Dorset Square in London. Subsequent movements of that turf by Thomas Lord finally resulted in the establishment of Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood in northwest London, which is the current home of the MCC, and also Middlesex County Cricket Club.
In Thomas Lord’s time the pitch was prepared before a match by allowing sheep to come in and graze on the grass. However in the mid-1800s the club acquired its first mechanical mowing machine and then appointed its first official groundsman in 1864.
The first recorded match played by women took place at Gosden Common, Surrey, on 26th July 1745. Around 1807, a lady cricketer named Christina Willes is said to have introduced the round arm bowling style – thought to have been necessary to avoid catching her bowling hand on her skirts! So the ladies have had a major influence on the development of the game since its early days and the first official club for women, the White Heather Club, was formed in 1887.
The early laws of cricket were pretty basic and included the prescribed length of the pitch (22 yards), the use of two stumps (just one at each end of the pitch), underarm bowling and four balls to an over.
These days there are 42 laws (a number that has remained constant for some time despite a major review in 2000 – more on this later). Most have clauses and sub-clauses within them and they cover such matters as time wasting; umpires; substitutes; the rolling, sweeping, mowing, watering and marking of the pitch; the tea interval (a vital element for all cricketing supporters); dead balls and unfair play. The laws are readily available online at
They remain a serious guide to how the game should be played, running to over 150 pages of detailed guidance and instruction. Indeed the MCC now includes a detailed question-and-answer section for players or officials who wish to check any aspects of the laws. Within the online edition you will find videos explaining details of the laws, so there’s no excuse for not knowing the laws these days.
I can’t describe the history of cricket without introducing you to The Ashes, the Test cricket series that has been played between England and Australia since 1882. It is one of the most celebrated rivalries in international sport and it is currently played biennially, at alternating venues in England and Australia. It is named after a satirical newspaper obituary article published in The Sporting Times in 1882 on the occasion of the first loss to Australia on English soil. The obituary stated:
In affectionate remembrance of
WHICH DIED AT THE OVAL
29th AUGUST, 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances.
N.B. The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
The English media then dubbed the next tour to Australia (UK winter 1882–83) as the quest to ‘regain The Ashes’, and so the story continued. During that 1882-83 tour to Australia, the then England captain, one Ivo Bligh, was presented with a small terracotta urn containing ashes as a memento of the tour, which England won. The ashes are thought to be the remains of a bail ceremonially burned to create them. Considered a personal gift by Bligh, the urn was eventually donated to the MCC by his widow, and it remains in their museum to this day. Replicas of the urn are often raised in celebration of a victory of The Ashes Test series, but the actual urn is never used in this way.
As is often the case in cricket history, the story of The Ashes urn is full of contradictions, but this is the generally agreed version. There are many excellent books and websites on the subject of cricket history (see the links pages at the end of this book) and if your interest has been kindled by this book, do search them out in your local library, bookshop or online.
Cricket is popular across the planet. Having started out in former British Empire countries such as Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and southern Africa, it is now played right around the world. See the table below showing all the members of the ICC in 2015.
East Asia-Pacific (11)
Full members (10)
Associate members (38)
Papua New Guinea
United Arab Emirates
Affiliate members (57)
Affiliate members (57)
Turks & Caicos Islands
Isle of Man
Before getting into more details of the game itself, here are a few words and phrases that you will come across in this book, whose explanation early on might make the subsequent text slightly easier to understand. The list is not comprehensive and there will be some terms that we’ll explain later in the book, but I hope it will help you get started on your pathway of discovery. You will find a link to a full online cricket glossary at the end of the book.
The Playing Area
Small moulded sticks placed on top of stumps at the beginning of a match; one, or both, of which need to be dislodged for a batsmen to be out bowled, stumped, run out or hit wicket.
The edge of the playing area, usually marked by a white line, rope or low fence. Also the description applied to a ball that crosses the field boundary and scores four runs.
The area of the cricket ground closest to the pitch (see the basic diagram of a cricket ground on the previous page).
The crease is officially defined as the back or inside edge of the crease markings. These white lines mark the area in front of the wickets in which a batsman may safely bat and within which a bowler must bowl to avoid his delivery of the ball being deemed a no-ball (see the plan of a pitch on the next page).
These marks include the popping or batting crease, the bowling crease and the return crease.
The area of the field closest to the pitch.
An area of the cricket ground set aside for practice, with high netting surrounding the pitches to allow batsmen and bowlers to practice without having to chase the balls all over the field. Some nets are in fixed areas at the edge of the cricket ground. Others are portable nets that are put up over a pitch marked on the ground whenever a practice session is needed. This is common on large county grounds.
That part of the field of play between the square and the boundary edge.
The 22-yard (20.12 m) strip between the two wickets, ten feet (3.05 m) in width, being defined as five feet either side of an imaginary line joining the two middle stumps. Large county grounds will have several pitches marked out and will switch between them from match to match, using several pitches over the course of a season.
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