cricket (sport)

cricket, ball-and-bat game played chiefly in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries.

Basic Rules

Cricket is played by two teams of eleven on a level, closely cut oval "pitch" preferably measuring about 525 ft (160 m) by about 550 ft (170 m). Two wickets are placed 66 ft (20.12 m) apart near the middle of the field. A wicket consists of two wooden crosspieces (bails) resting on three wooden stumps 28 in. (71.1 cm) high.

At each wicket stands a batsman. If the opposing bowler, delivering the ball from near the opposing wicket, knocks down the bails of the batsman's wicket, the batsman is retired. In delivering the hard, leather-covered ball, the bowler throws overarm but may not bend the arm, and the ball usually approaches the batsman on one bounce. After six bowls to one batsman, an umpire (there is one at each wicket) calls "over," and another bowler begins bowling to the batsman's partner at the opposing wicket. The players in the field shift position according to the batsmen.

If the batsman hits the ball with his willow paddle-shaped bat far enough so that both batsmen may run to exchange places, a run is scored. When the ball is hit a long distance (in any direction, since there are no foul lines), up to four exchanges or runs may be made. (If the ball crosses the boundary of the field on the ground, four runs are scored automatically; if it clears the boundary in the air, six are scored.) However, if the opposing team recovers the ball and uses it to knock down the bails of a wicket before the batsman reaches it, the batsman is out. A batsman is also retired if an opposing fielder catches a batted ball on the fly (as in baseball), or for any of several more technical reasons. An outstanding turn at bat may result in more than 100 runs, a "century."

A game usually consists of two innings; in one innings all players on each team bat once in a fixed order (unless a team, having scored what it considers runs adequate to win, chooses to retire without completing its order); a game may take several days to complete. Substitutions are allowed only for serious injury.

Origin of Cricket

Cricket's origin is obscure. Evidence suggests it was played in England in the 12th–13th cent., and it was popular there by the end of the 17th cent. By the mid-18th cent. the aristocracy had adopted the game. In 1744 the London Cricket Club produced what are recognizably the rules of modern cricket. The Marylebone Cricket Club, one of the oldest (1787) cricket organizations, is the game's international governing body.

Principal Modern Matches

In Great Britain the principal cricket matches are those between the universities (especially Oxford and Cambridge) and between largely professional teams representing the English counties. Among international, or test, matches (begun 1877), the most famous is that between Australia and Britain for the "Ashes." Since the 1970s the West Indies (a team assembled from several nations), India, Pakistan, and South Africa have challenged English and Australian claims to world dominance.

Recent Developments

In the early 21st cent., Twenty20, a new version of cricket with a much faster, more compressed format, emerged in India. A typical Twenty20 game lasts about three hours, in contrast to the regular cricket's customary five-day test match. Twenty20 is played by a much younger and fitter group of cricketers, whose vigorous athleticism is also in sharp contrast to the play of the older, traditional players. In 2007, 27 games were played by 12 countries in the first Twenty20 world tournament.


See Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1864–); R. Bowen, Cricket (1970); J. Ford, Cricket (1972).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Cricket: Selected full-text books and articles

Cricket and Race By Jack Williams Berg, 2001
Cricketing Cultures in Conflict: World Cup 2003 By Boria Manjumdar; J. A. Mangan Routledge, 2004
Cricket Nurseries of Colonial Barbados: The Elite Schools, 1865-1966 By Keith A. P. Sandiford University of the West Indies, 1998
Sport and National Identity in the Post-War World By Adrian Smith; Dilwyn Porter Routledge, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Cricket and a Crisis of Identity in the Anglophone Caribbean"
Culture and Global Change By Tracey Skelton; Tim Allen Routledge, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 23 "Whose Game Is It Anyway? West Indies Cricket and Post-Colonial Cultural Globalism"
Sport Histories: Figurational Studies in the Development of Modern Sport By Eric Dunning; Dominic Malcolm; Ivan Waddington Routledge, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Cricket: Civilizing and De-Civilizing Processes in the Imperial Game"
Anthropology, Sport, and Culture By Robert R. Sands Bergin & Garvey, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Understanding Cultural Performance: Trobriand Cricket"
Sport and Postcolonialism By Mike Cronin; John Bale Berg, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "'Paki Cheats!' Postcolonial Tensions in England-Pakistan Cricket"
Sport Stars: The Cultural Politics of Sporting Celebrity By David L. Andrews; Steven J. Jackson Routledge, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Imran Khan: The Road from Cricket to Politics"
Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States By George B. Kirsch; Othello Harris; Claire E. Nolte Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: Discussion of cricket begins on p. 114
Simmo: Cricket Then and Now By Bob Simpson Allen & Unwin, 2006
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