A Gentleman’s Explanation of Cricket. (by blazon)

It might be fun these wintry days to look at two similar but yet very different games and compare them with an obvious emphasis on where they differ. Cricket and Baseball — it’s the similarities that make the differences so interesting.

You win both games by scoring more runs than your opponent. (Duh.) The total number of runs scored in an average baseball game is, say, about 8, and the winning margin is proportionately slender. A major cricket match (game) ended in Australia recently with about 1350 runs scored between the two sides and the winning margin — we poms were crushed — was around 150. How can this be?

Well, to start, a cricket match at the top level takes five days, not three hours. That difference in time is ameliorated slightly by each day’s play not starting till 11:00 am, ending at 6:30, and in between there’s an hour break for lunch, and later, 30 minutes for tea. Additionally, a bench player serves drinks on the field during the morning and afternoon sessions — we colonials, you know, so civilized. Still, that can’t account for the huge difference. What does is what constitutes a run.

There are not four bases to advance through. To score a run, the batter must put the ball in play and run to where the bowler (pitcher) delivered the ball. Simultaneously, a second batter who’s been waiting by the other wicket (the pitcher’s mound) must run to where the original batter was. They cross midwicket. All this must be completed before any fielder can return the ball to either of the wickets ahead of a batter. So that’s a run. Got it?

But how can one game accumulate 1300 runs? Here’s how:

There are no foul lines. The wickets are located in the middle of the ground, the batted ball is in play over a 360 degree arc, and the boundaries are, say, 150 feet distant all round. What’s more, a home run scores six, and ground ball to the boundary scores four.

Still, each batter gets only two outs over the five days, so for each team over that time frame there are a total of 20 outs. How can they possibly then accumulate such huge run totals. Can you guess?

Kudos if you did, it’s brutally simple, albeit sacrilegious to the average baseball fan. YOU DON’T HAVE TO RUN OUT A GROUND BALL IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO. Hit a ground ball straight to cover point (shortstop), for example, and what in baseball would be a routine out from Andrelton’s arm becomes just a loud NO to your partner at the other end who you wave dismissively back. THIS CAN GO ON ALL DAY.

Some batters have been known to be still not out when play resumes the next morning, though, thankfully, this is rare. In doing so they can, individually, with that one at bat, score 100 runs or more during that time. More common are 40 or 50 run individual at bats over two or three hours. By the way, you can swing and miss as often as you like, as long as the ball doesn’t hit the wicket after it’s passed you. There is no count, and no foul balls, and no umpire behind the batter. He’s down at the bowler’s end, 66 feet away, staring down at you, and there’s another one around 3rd base if you move him well into what we would think of as foul ground.

To help keep the run total within reason, here’s how a batter gets out:

• As in baseball, a fly ball being caught. This includes a foul tip.
• The batter swings and misses and the ball strikes the wicket (three sticks) immediately behind him. He’s been bowled out.
• He misses the pitch, it hits him on his padded leg in such a position that an umpire at the bowler’s end peers in and decrees it would have hit the wicket behind him had it not. This is the immortal LBW dismissal — Leg Before Wicket..ha!
• Run Out. One of the two batters in an attempted run fails to get to the other end before a fielder has returned the ball there — very baseball-like. And just like our game, with a runner trying for a double or triple, a batter can turn round and go back, and back again, trying to score two or three runs. There’s more or less the same risk/reward situation as in baseball. But remember: this is one of his only two precious outs in five days he’s risking, and there are two batters running, so when a run is attempted both are at risk — there are always two batters on the pitch at any one time, one facing the next ball (pitch), the other waiting by the bowler to see if a run may be on. Clear as mud?

There are now very abbreviated forms of cricket contests, man-made for the TV market — one-day internationals as opposed to five-day test matches. These games have just 40 overs: 240 pitches to each team, highest total wins with each batter getting just one at bat. So the run totals in these games would be less. But the same principles apply. You don’t have to run out a ground ball if you don’t want to.

Give me another one!

Next time, I’ll write about the difference between a pitcher and a bowler. In both games, a “fastball” is delivered at, say, around 90 mph. But the bowler in cricket is not allowed to bend his arm during any part of the delivery process: he must dispatch the ball stiff-armed. So how does he get it up to 90? Coming soon…

35 thoughts on “A Gentleman’s Explanation of Cricket. (by blazon)”

  1. Glavine may not have been the best pitcher in baseball, but you could argue there were times when he was the second best pitcher in baseball behind Maddux.

    And some of that time period Maddux may have been the best pitcher of all time.

  2. Wonder if cricket fanatics worry about the length of matches?

    Maddux and Glavine made for good times in Hotlanta. It was fun while it lasted.

  3. Not sure how interested the folks here are in the HOF voting, but as of today, Repoz’ HOF vote counting gizmo is up and running at BBTF. Maddux is still 100% and Glavine is still well on pace to join him on the podium in Cooperstown.

    First line in the results below mark the cut off for induction (after Biggio). The second line marks the cut off for staying on the ballot for next year (5% vote required.) Don Mattingly and Sammy Sosa are both in danger of falling off the ballot in 2014. Jack Morris will be off the ballot either by being voted in or by losing eligibility after his 15th year.

    Updated: Dec. 30 – 12:50 ~ 71 Full Ballots ~ (12.5% of vote ~ based on last year)

    100 – Maddux
    98.6 – Glavine
    87.3 – F. Thomas
    81.7 – Biggio
    73.2 – Piazza
    64.8 – Bagwell
    64.8 – Jack (The Jack) Morris
    54.9 – Raines
    45.1 – Bonds
    43.7 – Clemens
    42.3 – Schilling
    32.4 – Mussina
    23.9 – L. Smith
    22.5 – Trammell
    16.9 – McGriff
    15.5 – E. Martinez
    12.7 – Kent
    12.7 – L. Walker
    9.9 – McGwire
    8.5 – R. Palmeiro
    7.0 – S. Sosa
    2.8 – Mattingly
    1.4 – P. Rose (Write-In)

  4. Tom Glavine was the best pitcher in the NL in 1991. Roger Clemens was better in the AL. He trailed only Greg Maddux in 1998 in the NL. Again, Clemens was better in the AL. Al Leiter had a good year that year too.

    If the question was “was Tom Glavine as good as Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux” the answer is an obvious no. But the question was about Curt Schilling. Schilling was never really the best pitcher on his team, much less in his league. His best year was the year he was Randy Johnson’s caddy in Arizona.

    Tom Glavine is clearly better than Curt Schilling.

  5. Blazon, what a fantastic post from an unexpected source. Would be great if you could illuminate the basics of rugby for us next.

    Think I loved and respected about Maddux and Glavine as opposed to the power pitchers is how they achieved their level of success without winning the ‘genetic lottery’. Only so many people in history have the structure to be able to pitch 95+mph long term, but everybody has the ability to out think their opponent. When you have done it as long as Maddux and Glavine did, it is clearly not luck but a mastery of every single tool at their disposal.

    Ultimately, I can look at Clemons and Ryan and marvel at what they can do that I cannot even fathom. What Maddux and Glavine did however, anyone should be able to do, and that is the true genius behind both men. I can’t get sucked into a debate on who is better, since they both did as much with as little (relatively speaking) as anyone.

    As an aside, do yourself a favor and pick up John Feinstein’s “Living on the Black”.

  6. The question of bestness is obviously as much a question of sequencing as it is of goodness. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson both peaked at exactly the same time, which is just kind of too bad. Glavine and Maddux peaked at the same time. By the time Johan Santana and Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander (and maybe Felix Hernandez) became “best” in the sport, there were fewer other Hall of Fame-quality pitchers that they had to contend with.

    The list of should-be and could-be Hall of Fame pitchers at or near their peak in 1999 is sort of mind-boggling: it includes at least Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Schilling, R. Johnson, Clemens, P. Martinez, K. Brown, M. Mussina, and, if you grew up on Long Island, A. Pettitte. And, oh yeah, Mariano Rivera.

  7. @3
    the 5 day games referred to are not typical of everyday competitive cricket – they are international(test) matches between the six or so countries who play the game with some passion…that’s essentially England and its old colonies…Australia/New Zealand/South Africa/West Indies/India/Pakistan…no North America you’ll note, something must have gone wrong there!

    Within a country the games played between its clubs that would approximate to our 162 game regular season here are 3 day affairs with proportionately lower scoring…a fan would usually only be able to go to one of those three days, not take in the whole game, for practical reasons…so it’s not that unlike a day at the old ball park here for him.

    thanks…rugby? i don’t know, i would fear the wrath of the SEC about to fall on me in this venue! But it’s funny how just like cricket/baseball there is so much in common between the two games but a couple of really basic differences…forward vs. lateral passing and the fun starts not ends when the man with the ball is brought down… vive la difference!

  8. Four? How about five? Mike Piazza is creeping up there close…

    Updated: Dec. 30 – 4:10 ~ 73 Full Ballots ~ (12.8% of vote ~ based on last year)

    100 – Maddux
    98.6 – Glavine
    86.3 – F. Thomas
    82.2 – Biggio
    74.0 – Piazza
    64.4 – Bagwell
    64.4 – Jack (The Jack) Morris
    54.8 – Raines

  9. We won’t know how many ballots come back totally blank until they don’t show up, so that’ll knock all the numbers down a large chunk, I would think. Biggio’s in the danger zone, and anybody below 75 percent now probably has very little shot. Glavine is looking better than I thought he’d be, though.

  10. The Gizmo was +/- 5 points on most of the previous inductions. Jack Morris tends to outperform the Gizmo by a little more.

  11. I’ve been finding myself in agreement with the folks arguing Mussina deserves it every bit as much as Glavine. Rather unfortunate to see so many voters hung up on the almighty “W”.

  12. Another factor you need to consider is that Mussina, when he was in Baltimore, played in a bandbox, especially left field. Chris Davis hit 53 home runs last year, but several were basically fly balls that went out in left. And Yankee Stadium was a bandbox-even the old stadium-for left-handed hitters.

    This is not intended to detract from Maddux and Glavine, of course. In fact, I think they have gotten sort of a bum rap for the playoff performances not being as good as their regular season. But, part of that is simply pitching in so many playoff games against obviously better lineups; they lost a lot of close games because the Braves couldn’t hit. (Although both, especially Glavine, did have their share of stinkers.) I would argue that Glavine’s Game 6 was more impressive than the Morris Game 7 because, let’s face it, Glavine faced a far better lineup than did Morris. And Maddux pitched a gem in Game 1.

  13. Piazza and Bagwell, just below that line, are obviously HOF caliber players and I don’t think many people could argue with their inclusion.

  14. I don’t think many people could argue with their inclusion.

    Are you aware that you’re on the internet? People will argue anything.

    Thanks, blazon, for the primer. I can now relate to my wife’s family a little more. Now, if someone would get around to posting about old Bollywood movies, that’d be swell.

  15. @15
    Don’t forget Glavine pitched more games at Fulton County (147) than Turner Field (120). Fulton-County was nicknamed “The Launching Pad” and was the most favorable park in all of baseball for the long ball. Mussina pitched 10 more games in Camden than Glavine pitched in Fulton County.

  16. Camden Yard’s park factors are a bit odd. It was very hitter friendly from ’92-’95 than it turned pitcher-friendly from ’96-’00. Odd. Did they move the fences?

  17. @18,

    Good point, although at least Fulton County did have a lot of foul territory that helped the pitcher.

  18. Thanks Blazon. As an Aussie Braves fan its always good to see some discussion about cricket. Don’t like your chances in the upcoming test in Sydney. I personally could see the shortest version of the game, 20/20 cricket having some popularity in the US, if there were any venues to play the game. The game only lasts about 3 hours!

    When trying to compare cricket and baseball I try and picture it this way. Imagine if in a baseball game, instead of 9 innings, you got all your 27 outs in one inning. Then, after your 27 outs are done, the other team comes in to bat and tries to score the runs before their 27 outs are done. And you had no substitutions, so your pitchers once they’re finished have to then field and someone else pitch who was fielding before. Would make for a very different game.

    Here’s hoping that at least 4 make it to the HOF this year, and not one as some have predicted.

  19. Camden Yard’s park factors are a bit odd. It was very hitter friendly from ’92-’95 than it turned pitcher-friendly from ’96-’00. Odd. Did they move the fences?

    No. Other, more hitter friendly fields opened, thus moving Camden Yard down the list. Part of the offensive explosion of the “Sillyball” era is due directly to the fact that from 92-2000 MLB teams opened park after park of hitter friendly confines. Oriole Park was a “hitter’s paradise” until Coors and Enron and Great American and Bank One and Citizen’s Bank opened…

  20. WAR

    job performance, rendered thus
    so progressive! what’s the fuss?
    contrarily, the need?
    there’s argument to feed
    intuition by the cuss.

  21. OP@CY was hitter friendly. Yankee Stadium wasn’t so much. Glavine pitched the first half of his career in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium – aka “The Launching Pad,” which prior to the building of OP@CY was the most hitter friendly stadium in the league by some degree. Turner Field was neutral (not pitcher friendly; neutral.)

    Moose doesn’t get that big of a park factor bump. Nor does he get a “played in the AL/AL East” bump, because again, prior to the 2000s, the NL was the stronger league and the AL East wasn’t the shooting gallery it is today. Mussina pitched against a very different AL East from 1991-1997 than the one we think of today. The biggest offenses in that division then was the Blue Jays. The Yankees didn’t become an offensive monster until 1998 or so, and the Red Sox didn’t catch up until the 2000s. By that time Mussina was pitching FOR the Yankees. (When he was pitching for Baltimore, the Orioles were the power-hitting team in that division.)

  22. Here’s all of the park factors that I can find comparing Tom Glavine and the home parks he pitched in to Mike Mussina and the home parks he pitched in. Key: YS= Yankee Stadium CY= Camden Yards TF=Turner MS= Memorial Stadium Field FC= Fulton County
    1987- FC- 1.05
    1988- FC- 1.05
    1989- FC- 1.03
    1990- FC- 1.06
    1991: MS- .96 FC- 1.06
    1992: CY- 1.03 FC- 1.06
    1993: CY- 1.03 FC- 1.02
    1994: CY- 1.05 FC- 1.02
    1995: CY- 1.05 FC- 1.02
    1996: CY- .99 FC- 1.06
    1997: CY- .97 TF- 1.02
    1998: CY- .98 TF- 1.02
    1999: CY- .99 TF- .99
    2000: Mysteriously Unknown
    2001: YS- .805 TF- 1.107
    2002: YS- .957 TF- .655
    2003: YS- .933 SS- .975
    2004: YS- .694 SS- .974
    2005: YS-1.403 SS- .971
    2006: YS- .877 SS- .606
    2007: YS- .987 SS- .916
    2008: YS-1.040 TF-1.063

    Looking at the numbers and doing simple addition (which is probably irrelevant) and dividing by the years, here are the results:

    Mussina’s Home Parks- .985 Glavine’ Home Parks- .938

    It looks as though Glavine did have a slight edge, but I’m sure it’s not as big as many think.

  23. 82 full ballots reporting in:

    Updated: Dec. 31 – 10:55 ~ 82 Full Ballots ~ (14.4% of vote ~ based on last year)

    100 – Maddux
    98.8 – Glavine
    87.8 – F. Thomas
    82.9 – Biggio
    74.4 – Piazza
    64.6 – Bagwell
    62.2 – Jack (The Jack) Morris
    56.1 – Raines
    46.3 – Bonds
    45.1 – Clemens
    41.5 – Schilling
    34.1 – Mussina
    23.2 – L. Smith
    23.2 – Trammell
    18.3 – E. Martinez
    15.9 – McGriff
    12.2 – Kent
    11.0 – L. Walker
    11.0 – McGwire
    7.3 – R. Palmeiro
    7.3 – S. Sosa
    3.7 – Mattingly
    1.2 – P. Rose (Write-In)

  24. Blazon,

    If you haven’t already, check out a writer by the name of Joseph O’Neill, especially a novel from ’09 called “Netherland”–one of the best books you’ll ever read.

    He’s written a lot about cricket, and is ALWAYS good.

  25. Blazon: thanks. The thing about cricket for a baseball fan (it really doesn’t take that long to pick up watching it on TV) is that the pace is so different from baseball, while being superficially similar, that you can sit in front of a TV and not realize four hours have gone by — in a game between two teams of whose identities you are completely clueless. For reasons that are unclear, the pace induces a sort of jaw-slackening lethargy which is nonetheless engrossing…. or at least that’s what it does to this baseball fan.

  26. @32
    Zig, thanks, not a name i know, will follow up…there’s been much good writing about both sports over the last half century or so, that is one of the great delights of following them. Baseball though i think has the edge, a marvelous oeuvre – where cricket excels perhaps is with its commentators, what you would call the play by play and color guys…much erudition and an innate understanding to keep their mouth shut unless they have something meaningful to say…self deprecation rules which is refreshing…Vin Scully without the notes.

    Jonathan, you got it! Quiet reflection by the hour and then the explosive acclaim when a wicket falls. As totally one sided as the current tests in Australia have been there is still no hiding that.

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