This summer we have had an Ashes Test series. That, being translated, means that the Australian cricket team has played a series of 5 games against England. The team who wins more games gets the trophy – a very small urn said to contain the ashes of a pair of bails. (Actually we have had two Ashes series – the Australian women’s team have been playing England too.)
Cricket is the most wonderful game, but it isn’t one easily understood. The standard way of describing a game of cricket to an American is as follows:
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 all 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! Simple!
The reality is that there are two teams of 11 players. The bowling side has all 11 men on the field, one being the wicket keeper, one the bowler, and the rest fielding where they are put by the captain. The batting side has 2 men on the field, one by each set of stumps. The bowler bowls to the batsman at the opposite end and tries to get him out either by knocking the bails off the stumps, or by having the ball caught before it hits the ground. The batsmen try to get as many runs as possible before being got out by the bowler.
Cricket is played all over England (and Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies, plus numerous other places to a lesser degree). Matches consist of 1 or 2 innings – each side bats once or twice – and the innings may be restricted to a certain number of overs (6 balls = 1 over). At County level games may be 2 or 3 days, and at Test level 5 days is usual.
The thing to remember about any form of cricket is that it is primarily a game of tactics. Yes, great skill is involved for the batsman getting runs and the bowler getting wickets, but most games are won or lost on tactics – the way the captain plays the game. And the weather. Everywhere in the world the weather plays a part in the game, but nowhere more so than in England. Rain at the right time can save a game for one side, or wreck the chances of the other.
The game is controlled by 2 Umpires. Their decision is final, if not always popular. This summer’s Tests have been dogged by controversy over the role of technology in the umpiring decisions. A new system was in use, whereby the on-field umpires and the captains could get the opinion of a Third Umpire, who was sitting in front of a bank of TV screens with other electronics telling him whether the ball had been hit, and the line it was taking. Not everyone was happy with the decisions made…
But that is just Cricket…