Many thanks to Sue for supplying the following beginners guide to the ancient sport of Cricket.  For my knowledge only extends as far as watching it at my Nan's, she loved it, or watching our local club team on a Sunday afternoon (i.e. eating lots of sandwiches and drowsing in the sun <g>), or taking part in their quiz night.

To be serious Cricket is a very old game.  For writers of historical fiction it was commonly played in the 18th century, every village had a team and local games were social highlights.  So it would be fair to assume that characters such as Horatio Hornblower etc would have been familiar with if not actively playing for recreation when time allowed.


By Sue

Cricket changes quite a lot depending on the level at which it's played, and as international playing conditions can vary from one series to another it could be very tricky to get specific technical details accurate. Since cricket is also a game that attracts detail-obsessed fanatics, it is important to accept from the beginning that *complete accuracy is impossible* - take it from one who has been following the sport for almost thirty years.

The basic outline of the game is always the same - two teams of eleven players are required, plus two umpires and at least one official scorer. If the game is being taken seriously, the Laws of Cricket will apply. These are found in Wisden, the cricketers' almanac, published annually since about 1850. Friendly games (say for example between two departments of the same firm) can be thrown together without much regard for the rules and traditions and are generally just an excuse for a booze-up. It is usual for the players to wear white but, as with tennis, this custom is being eroded; some limited-overs cricket is played under floodlights and the players wear coloured uniforms ('the pyjama game') but this is at the highest international level - club and league cricket is more traditional.

Two wickets (each consisting of three stumps and two bails) are pitched a measured 22 yards apart. The strip between them (the wicket) should be level, firm, and well-mown. Each team contains batsmen, bowlers and a wicket-keeper.

The teams toss a coin for who will bat and who will field. The wicket-keeper of the fielding team (Team A) takes up his position behind one wicket (set of stumps). He wears leg pads and gloves (the only fielding player allowed to do so) and usually also a helmet.

The object of the game is for the bowler of Team A to bowl (overarm or round-arm but *never* underarm which is now illegal) from one end of the wicket to the other and try to demolish the stumps at the other end. The batsman (of Team B) stands in front of the stumps and tries to use his bat and his leg pads to keep the ball away. If he can hit the ball sufficiently hard he can run to the other end of the wicket, thereby scoring a run (or several runs), or if the ball reaches the boundary rope he can score either four or six without having to move from where he is.

A cricket bat is made of wood, has a triangular profile and is about 4" wide The cricket ball has a cork inner and a stitched leather cover with a raised seam, and it is usually red in colour. It is extremely hard and if it hits a person at speed it can cause serious injury and even death. Tampering with the ball is illegal and one of the serious crimes in cricketing circles.

The bowler will bowl the ball six times (an 'over'), although if one of these deliveries is ruled incorrect he will be made to bowl an extra one whether or not the batsman has scored a run from it. The umpire's decision is communicated to the scorers by a series of standard signals. When the over is complete the fielders will all change position and another bowler will bowl in the opposite direction to the second batsman (who is then said to be 'on strike').

Scoring in cricket is incredibly complicated. If it becomes an important story point I'd be happy to try and help, although there are always plenty of websites where information can be obtained. The important thing to note is that a big, dramatic hit may score a four or a six. Alternatively the ball may go straight to a fielder, in which case the batsman could be caught out.

There are nine different ways to be out (to 'lose one's wicket') in cricket. The commonest are to be caught out (by a fielder), bowled (i.e. to fail to defend one's wicket) or to be run out, which in effect means that either or both of the batsmen end up in the wrong place when the ball is in the hands of the wicket-keeper. One can also be 'LBW' - 'leg before wicket' - an immensely complicated scenario involving the umpire's judgment of whether the ball *would have* hit the wicket if the batsman's leg hadn't been in the way. Trust me, steer clear of this unless it's absolutely essential; it's a minefield and causes arguments that can last for years. On the other hand if you want something to act as a source of friction between your characters, a disagreement over whether or not somebody was LBW would do very nicely. In most cases unless video evidence is available this is a question that can never be answered - and cricket accepts that although umpires make mistakes their word is law and showing dissent to an umpires is considered bad form.

Audiences and the facilities available to them will vary greatly. For club matches there will often be a few benches to sit on or people will bring deckchairs, and there might be tea and sandwiches for the players during a suitable break in the proceedings. Audience members will bring picnics. There will probably be no toilet facilities except for the players. At a county match a higher level of comfort is available; proper seats (often plastic), sometimes under cover (British weather being what it is), decent toilets and usually at least one bar and several places where one can buy food. At international level (Test Matches or limited-overs internationals) there is just *more* of everything, with areas of the ground being divided up according to the price one is willing to pay for a seat. As with any sport you get betting and drunkenness in the crowd, although sometimes in Muslim countries alcohol is not allowed in.

The Test Match playing countries are England, Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, the West Indies, Zimbabwe and (I think) Bangladesh. Cricket is also played to a very serious standard in Holland, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, Shahjah, Belize and in a lot of places that used to be British colonies. A Hollywood XI flourished for a long time in the Thirties and Forties and featured such luminaries as Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Errol Flynn , Douglas Fairbanks, David Niven and Boris Karloff. Celebrity teams often play charity matches - notable celebrity cricketers include Sir Tim Rice (who has his own team). For some reason snooker players seem to play a lot of charity cricket, so do jockeys - and particularly actors.

A final word on physical types. Obviously it varies greatly but the stereotyped wicket-keeper will be small, athletic and quick-witted. A fast bowler is likely to have a big build, may apparently be overweight, and will have a strong back and shoulders. Slow bowlers are likely to be more elegantly built and are usually intellectual types; their craft requires a strong tactical sense. A specialist batsman will be one of the fittest specimens on the team; they are usually the ones idolised by fans and are often the headline-grabbers. Some players will be 'all-rounders', who can bat and bowl *and* field to a high standard. (In the recent past Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee were probably the best exponents of this art.)

There is plenty of literature concerning cricket and the book usually recommended as having an accurate picture of a village match is 'England, Their England'. Personally however I'm very fond of the office cricket match in 'Murder Must Advertise' by Dorothy L Sayers. Cricket also features in 'Maurice' by E M Forster and in the 'Raffles' books. Cricket has been played in England since the seventeenth century, although the Laws were not formalised until the MCC came into existence; they are based at Lord's Cricket Ground in London which is still considered the world headquarters of the game.