The students in Jowett Walk, with their proximity to the Balliol College pitches, have been very fortunate this summer to be able to play sports on demand without having to stray more than a few feet from their campus. In addition to that, however, they have also been fortunate to be able to watch Balliol College practice and play cricket several times: it is, after all, now the cricket season. There have been reports of perplexity concerning this sport, and so, in the interests of education, what follows is a very brief introduction to a rather complex game.
On the face of it, cricket is not a particularly tricky sport to understand. Two teams take it in turns to either bat, or to field. The aim of the batsmen is to accumulate runs. When batting, two of the batting team are on the field at any given time: one stands at each end of a strip of grass mown very tightly. From one end of this strip of short-cut grass, the ‘bowler’ throws the ball down the strip in a distinct motion, made distinct by the fact that the bowler must at all times keep the throwing arm straight. The bowler is aiming in their throw for a set of three stumps of wood driven into the ground: the ‘wicket’.
It is the aim of the batsman at whom the ball (the ball, in passing, is a hard, dense red thing made of leather-wrapped wood) is being ‘bowled’, to defend these wickets from the bowler’s throw and while doing so hit the ball hard enough to score runs. If the ball makes contact with the wicket, the batsman is ‘out’, and must be replaced by another batsman from their team: when there are no more batsmen to come out onto the field, the batting team has lost, or must go out to field.
Defending the wicket from the bowler’s throw, the batsman must also attempt to accumulate runs. A ‘run’ is the unit of scoring in cricket, and is earned, firstly, when the batsman at each end of the strip is able to run past each other to take up a position on the other end of the strip, with the ball having been hit by the receiving batsman. If the ball is hit hard enough that it crosses the boundary of the pitch, marked out by a rope, the batsman earns more runs: six, if the ball did not bounce before it reached the boundary, and four if it did touch the earth before crossing.
The batsmen are out if the bowler is able to hit the wicket; if they hit the wicket themselves, with their bat; if they hit the ball and it is caught by the fielders before it bounces; and if, while running, the ball hits the wicket before they can reach a safe zone at the ends of the strip.
This was a very brief introduction to some of the basic elements of cricket: and hopefully, having read this, the students in Jowett will be able to understand slightly better, and appreciate slightly more, the sport that they watch on the sunny fields of Balliol College.