The bluffer’s guide to summer cricket

November 24, 2015
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Now that another year of procrastination is over, summer is the opportune time to watch test cricket like a pro with your cricket-touting buddies. You’ll finally understand why this so-called gentleman's game has grown men shouting like tortured souls. While the test series between Australia and New Zealand has one match left, there’s still a three test series against the West Indies after. That means plenty of time to learn some buzzwords and cricket laws. Below are some common questions cricketing noobs ask that will get heads shaking - and which you should avoid at all costs.

How come the scores are fractions?

The scores display how many wickets lost for how many runs scored. For example, 6/150 means the fielding and bowling team has taken six wickets (or dismissed six batsmen), while the batting team has scored 150 runs. Sometimes, broadcasters decide to swap the two figures around (e.g. 150/6), but they mean the same thing.

How come they’re all wearing white?

Test cricket’s white apparel signifies tradition and the sport’s gentlemen code of conduct. Neil Robinson also points to the utilitarian value of white attire: it’s best to reflect the sun’s glare to help players, since they’re basically sunbathing for seven to eight hours every day for up to five days every match. Not all uniforms are white; England and New Zealand are, but Australia is cream. So, if you still need help, peek hard enough to tell the teams apart.

Why do the fielders and bowlers shout like a bunch of tribal men at the umpires?

This barbaric-like behaviour is called an appeal - the method used by the fielding team to ask an umpire to dismiss a batsman. For example, one common way of dismissing a batsman is to bowl so that the ball nicks the bat (‘faint edge’) on the way through to the keeper (or slips). Sometimes, the noise of the nick is so quiet that the fielding team needs to appeal to the umpire to confirm.

“Howzat” is the clichéd way of appealing, but no one really bothers with that anymore. Appeals have mainly become long, loud, ungracious and wordless cries akin to what you’d hear from some B-grade horror movies. This appeal exemplifies it best.

If a bowler already bowled the ball, then how come it’s a ‘no ball’?

A ‘no ball’ is basically an illegitimate bowl of the ball. There are a few types, but the most common is a foot fault similar to tennis. At the bowler’s end of the wicket is a white horizontal line; as the bowler steams into bowl, a part of their front foot must be behind this line when the foot lands. Should the whole front foot land in front of this line, it’s deemed to be advantageous to the bowler and, thus, a no ball. A no ball results in the batting team getting one run to its tally.

What’s a four and a six?

A four and a six are boundary runs: when a batsman hits the ball and it touches the boundary of the field. A four is scored if it rolls along the ground or if it bounces before hitting the boundary. A six is scored if the ball is hit over the boundary on the full. Boundaries can also be scored from overthrows by fielders, or if a fieldsman catches the ball but lands or touches the boundary.

Please explain LBW to me

LBW stands for ‘leg before wicket’, and is considered one of the most difficult pieces of sports jargon to understand. If the ball hits a batsman’s leg pad or thigh without hitting his bat first, then the bowling and fielding team can appeal to the umpire to decide if the ball would’ve gone on to hit the stumps and dislodge the bails. The ball must pitch (bounce) on the offside of the batsman or pitch in line with the three stumps. When you see the fielding team appeal for an LBW, expect to see the broadcast team use Hawk-Eye to overlay the replay with some augmented-reality visuals, which Stephen Fry has tested with rigour.

Toby Vue

Toby is a Master of Arts (journalism) student at Charles Sturt University. He tweets at @tobyvue.

Image: Chris Brown, Flickr Creative Commons license