Cricket, the popular bat and ball game that has swept the world is much more than the British version of American baseball. Although not as well known in the United States, cricket is a high intensity sport that can be a great backyard past time.
To play cricket in your backyard all you need are a few friends, wickets, bats, and some space to have a good time.
You don’t need to worry if you don’t have a stadium sized field or two teams of eleven players.
The great thing about cricket is that you can have a fun game with the space, equipment, and people that are available to you.
What is Cricket
When most Americans hear the word ‘cricket’, most people think of the small serenading bugs found in their backyards on warm summer evenings.
Few think of the sport that has taken the world by storm.
Even though it was invented in Britain, and its first international event was between Britain and the United States in 1844 in New York, cricket has found a worldwide fanbase throughout the globe.
In fact, cricket is the most popular sport in countries such as India, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Australia.
It is an intense sport made of batters (batsmen), bowlers, fielders, wickets, stumps, and bails.
How to Play Cricket
Although many people are under the assumption that cricket is similar to American baseball, the two sports are actually vastly different.
From the field set up, to the equipment, technique and terminology, there are hardly any similarities between the two, except that both are played with a ball.
Even then, cricket balls and baseballs are different.
Cricket Field Set Up
The overall cricket field is circular, with an inner oval, and a rectangular sand area within the oval.
In a professional setting, a cricket field has a diameter of 153 yards.
The space between the outer circumference of the circle and the oval is considered the outfield.
The area between the oval and rectangular sand area is called the infield.
The rectangular sand area is called the pitch.
On each side of the pitch, there are lines called creases which create a rectangular box used to determine if bowls are too wide, or when the batter is safe.
At either end of the pitch zone there is a wicket.
A wicket is composed of three stakes called stumps and two sticks on top called bails.
The two bails rest on top of the stumps and are not attached to the wood.
They are meant to be knocked down by the ball.
Cricket is played with two bats (one for each of the batters/batsmen).
Although made out of wood like American baseball bats, cricket bats are flattened on one side and concaved on the other.
Cricket bats are not allowed to be any bigger than 38 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. (lords.org)
When hitting the ball with a cricket bat, it is best to hit the ball in the area a little lower than halfway from the tip of the bat.
Unlike baseballs, cricket balls are meant to be thrown and bounced.
They are smaller, yet heavier than American baseball and are sometimes caught without the use of gloves.
Since the ball is hard and dense, it is a good idea for batters to wear pads about their legs to avoid injury from fast bowled balls.
In case of an off trajectory ball, it is also a good idea for batters/batsmen to wear helmets.
Thick gloves are also useful to protect hands while catching.
Traditional cricket is played between two teams of eleven players.
Each team takes turn either being the bowling team or the batting team.
When a team is bowling, one player is the bowler while another is the wicket keeper.
All other team members become fielders and spread into the infield and outfield.
The other team (the batting team), sends out two batters who take their place near their respective wicket while the rest of the team remains off field until their turn.
How to Play Cricket
A game of cricket start off with coin toss.
The winner of the coin toss gets to choose whether to start off being the bowling or batting team.
The batting team then sends out the first two players while the bowling team gets in position in the field.
Bowling the Ball
Once everyone is situated, the bowler (a member of the bowling side) who is similar to baseball’s pitcher, bowls the ball to a batter at a designated end of the pitch.
Unlike a baseball pitch, a bowl is a combination of a throw and a roll using a straight arm throw.
The goal of the bowler is to get the batter out, which can be done in a number of ways that will be discussed shortly.
If the bowler bowls the ball either too far to the right or the left, it is called a wide ball which doesn’t count, but the batters get to take a run.
If the ball is thrown/bounced above the waist of the batter without a bounce, or if the bowler steps too far forward or to the sides then it is called a no ball, and the throw doesn’t count.
A bowler throws about six balls (called an over) before they trade off with another teammate.
They are not allowed to bowl two overs in a row.
Fielding in Cricket
Another position Wicket Keeper.
Wicket keeper stands behind the opposite of the bowler, and acts as a catcher.
They will try to catch the balls and knock over wickets to get players out when a ball is in play.
Fielders are the remaining members of the bowling team waiting to catch a ball and throw it back towards the wicket to get a batter out.
The Batting or Batsmen Team in Cricket
The bowler will throw the ball to one batter/batsmen at the designated end of the pitch.
The batter/batsmen’s job is to defend the wicket and to score a run.
When a ball is bowled and the batter hits it, both batsmen run to the oppoiset wicket before the other team can use the ball to knock over a wicket.
If the wicket nearest the player is knocked over, than that player is out and another player takes their place.
Once all players have been taken out, or 50 overs have been completed, the inning is over.
Scoring in Cricket
There are several ways to score in cricket:
- If a batter hits the ball past the outer boundary without it bouncing, the batter is awarded 6 points
- If a batter hits the ball, but it bounces before going past the outer boundary, it is worth 4 points
- Both batters run the length of the pitch at the same time, but in opposite directions without becoming out. (Each completed run equals one point)
- A bowler bowling wide balls or no balls, causes the other team to get a run.
The winner is the team with the most runs once both teams have had a chance to bat.
Getting ‘Out’ or Dismissed in Cricket
The bowling team’s aim is to get as many batters ‘out’, or ‘dismissed’ as possible so they can’t score runs.
There are 11 ways a batter can get dismissed:
- Bowled- The bowler bowls (tosses and rolls) the ball past the batter and hits the stumps of the wicket, causing the bails to fall down. If the bails do not fall down, it doesn’t count as a dismissal.
- Caught-The batter hits the ball, but one of the fielders catches it before it hits the ground.
- LBW (Leg Before Wicket)-The bowler bowls the ball at the batter, but it hits the batters leg before it can hit the stumps. It only counts as a dismissal if the ball would have hit the stumps.
- Run Out- A batter hits the ball, but the fielders are able to get it and knock over the stumps before the batters can reach the other end.
- Hit Wicket- The batter accidently hits the wicket when they try to hit the ball with their bat.
- Stumped- When the batter steps out of the batting crease while batting, the wicket keeper can knock down the wicket.
- Obstructing the Field- The batter tries to keep the fielders from getting the ball by blocking it.
- Timed Out- A batter doesn’t take to the field in the allotted time.
- Handled the Ball- If the batter tries to stop the ball from hitting the wicket with their hand, they are out.
- Hit the Ball Twice- The batter intentionally hits the ball twice with either his bat or body. However, it doesn’t count if they are defending the stumps.
- Retired Out- A batter is injured or unable to play so they request to be switched out. This does not count against the team as an official dismissal.
Once all eleven members of the batting team are out, sides switch and the fielders become the batters and vice a versa.
Once both teams have had a chance to bat, the game is over.
Now that you know all of the ins and outs of cricket, you can modify it to fit your circumstances.
To play backyard cricket all you need are bats, a ball, and something to serve as a wicket and batting creases.
Keep in mind, some form of protective equipment is highly recommended.
Simple Backyard Cricket Setup
If you don’t have a cricket arena don’t fret, a simple backyard lawn or cement pad is fine for a cricket field.
Designate where you want your pitch to be using tape, chalk, or paint to designate the batting creases, and the boundary.
DIY Cricket Wickets
At each end of your pitch area, place two wickets.
Although there are several retailers that sell cricket equipment, you may want to make your own.
A wicket can be anything that supports something that can be easily knocked down.
Some ideas for DIY wickets include:
- Cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other
- Empty paper towel rolls that can support a box or piece of Styrofoam
- Pool noodles that can be cut and used as stumps, supporting small cardboard boxes or something else that can fit across them
- Oatmeal containers
- Soda bottles
DIY Cricket Balls
Depending on the area that you are playing, you might want a ball that won’t break surrounding objects.
There are several options for DIY cricket balls:
- Tin/aluminum foil balls wrapped in rubber bands
- Styrofoam balls
- Paper balls covered in tape or rubber bands
- Basic rubber balls
- Tennis balls
- Golf balls
Remember, whichever ball you choose to use, it has to be able to bounce.
DIY Cricket Bats
If you are using a softer ball, there are lots of fun options for alternate and do-it-yourself cricket bats:
- PVC pipe with cardboard attached
- Short kayak paddles
- Paint stirrer sticks with paper plates
Backyard Cricket Rules
Although space may be limited, you can still follow most of the traditional rules of cricket with a few alterations.
When playing a smaller version of cricket, divide all players into two teams (you will need a minimum of two people, a batter and a bowler).
If you have a small amount of players, you can have one wicket instead of two, and make the batter run to a designated spot across the pitch and then back again to have a run count.
Rotate between batting bowling, depending on how many people you have on each team.
Once one team is done batting, switch sides.
Determine where the boundary line so that if someone hits the ball they can be assigned the appropriate amount of points.
Start a Cricket Tradition
It’s easy to see why cricket has found such a large following throughout the world.
From packed stadiums to simple backyard set ups, cricket can be found everywhere.
If you are looking for a great way to teach kids cooperation, good sportsmanship, and the love a sports go out and grab some wickets and a bat or two and play your own game of cricket today.