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Cricket perhaps more than just about any other game has a large number of terms and expressions unique to that sport. People unfamiliar with the game are likely to find it hard to understand because of the terms used, especially as the meaning of many of them is not always obvious. In essence, cricket is quite a simple game where the aim of the batting side is to make as many runs as possible, while the fielding side tries to get the batsmen out.
Here is a guide to some of the many cricket terms and expressions and an explanation of their meaning to help make the game more understandable and enjoyable to watch.
Some of the oddest cricket terms are those used to describe fielding positions. Logically, a person who knows nothing about cricket would think that “third man” is the third batsman or third bowler. Actually, it’s a fielding position at 10 or 11 o’clock from a right-hand batsman (when looking at the field from above) and fairly close to the boundary. By the way, the third batsman is often simply called the “number three” and comes in at “first drop” or when one of the two opening batsmen goes out. The third bowler is often called the “first change” bowler and bowls after one of the two opening bowlers is given a rest. There is no “first man” or “second man” in the field.
If you see a cricket match on television, you will see the wicket-keeper standing behind the stumps and a line of several fielders to his right, for a right-handed batsman. These players are fielding in “slips”, sometimes called the “slips cordon”, and are ready to take a catch if the batsman nicks the ball off the edge of his bat. There is no set number of slips fielders; it depends on the conditions and the state of the game. Moving away from the wicket-keeper, the slips positions are called “first slip”, “second slip”, and so on.
Further around from the slips fielders is the position of “gully”, between 9 and 10 o’clock from the right-hand batsman. It is also a catching position. At about 9 o’clock, and a bit further from the bat, is “point”. Continuing anticlockwise is “cover”, between 7 and 8 o’clock. Mid-off and mid-on stand at about 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock from the batsman respectively (a straight hit is at 6 o’clock). The position of “mid-wicket” mirrors cover, while “square leg” mirrors point. “Fine leg” is opposite third man and is often there to catch a batsman “hooking”.
The word “deep” or “short” is added to many of these terms when a fielder is closer in or further out than the conventional position. Thus a player might field at “short cover”, which is nearer the batsman, or “deep cover”, nearer the boundary. Or he might field at “extra cover”, a position between cover and mid-off. Other variations include the words “forward” or “backward” to denote a slightly different position on the clock-face. There are also some very close-in positions, including “silly point”, which is right next to the bat, “silly mid-off”, “silly mid-on”, and “short-leg”, which is at 3 o’clock from the batsman. The only two set positions in the fielding side are the wicket-keeper and the bowler. Any fielder that misses an easy catch is said to have missed a “dolly” or “sitter”.
You’d think with fielding positions, it’d be easier to use a clock face and something like inner/mid/outer rather than the traditional fielding positions.
Bowling terms and expressions
There are different types of bowlers and they can bowl a variety of deliveries. A fast bowler can bowl on a “good length”, which might bounce about 15 feet in front of the batsman and give him little time to adjust his shot. Or the bowler might bowl a “Yorker”, where the ball lands right at the batsman’s feet and is quite hard to play. Another deliver is the “full toss”, which doesn’t bounce before reaching the batsman. This delivery is usually accidental. A “bouncer” is where the ball lands about halfway down the pitch and, ideally, continues on in the direction of the batsman’s head. A “half-volley” is an easier shot to hit as it lands just a few feet in front of the batsman. Few bowlers would bowl this type of delivery on purpose.
A fast bowler can also bowl an “off-cutter” where the ball bounces and moves off the pitch in the direction of the outside of the bat, or a “leg-cutter” which moves the other way. An “outswinger” is a ball that moves through the air away from the batsman, whereas an “inswinger” moves towards him. A fast bowler can also use the “slower ball” to good effect.
A spin bowler or slow bowler can also bowl a variety of deliveries. The most commonly used delivery is an “off-break”, where the ball is spun clockwise. It drifts a little left and can move off the pitch to the right. Another delivery, the “arm ball”, looks like a spinner at release but travels straight. A “doosra” is where the bowler looks to be delivering a conventional off-break but the ball spins the other way. All these deliveries are bowled by an “off-spinner”.
In contrast, a “leg spinner” spins the ball anti-clockwise, causing it to drift right and then move off the pitch to the left. His usual delivery is a “leg break”, which is the opposite of an off-break. A “googly”, or “wrong ‘un”, looks like a leg break but spins the other way. He can bowl a “top spinner” where the ball dips sharply or a “flipper” where underspin is used, causing the ball to skid off the pitch and keep low.
If a bowler, fast or slow, bowls a good delivery, causing problems for the batsman, this is often called a “jaffa” or “corker”. Where a bowler thinks he has a wicket, he and other fielders will call out “howzat?” to the umpire, meaning “how is that?” When a bowler bowls an over and doesn’t concede a run with his six deliveries, he has bowled a “maiden over”. If he takes a wicket and doesn’t concede a run in an over, this is a “wicket maiden”. A bowler who takes three wickets from three consecutive deliveries has taken a “hat-trick”.
Batting terms and expressions
Just as a bowler can deliver a variety of balls, a batsman can play a range of shots. A “drive” is hit down the ground between cover and mid-wicket and is often played against a half-volley. The “cut” shot is hit to the batsman’s right and is a suitable stroke if the ball is at a reasonable height outside “off-stump”, or the stump on the left as you look straight down the pitch from the bowler’s end. “Hook” and “pull” shots are played to the batsman’s left and are usually appropriate for a ball heading towards “leg-stump” or wider. A batsman plays with a “dead bat” when he holds it straight and lets the ball fall to the ground is front of him, taking all the pace off the ball.
An opening batsman who is still there at end of innings is said to have “carried his bat”. If a batsman is dismissed for no runs, he is said to score a “duck”, with scoreboards often having a little picture of a duck next to the batsman’s name rather than a nought. Where a batsman is out first ball, he has scored a “golden duck”. If he fails to score a run in either innings, he is credited with a “pair of ducks” or just a “pair”. One of the ways a batsman can go out is “leg before wicket” or “lbw” if he hasn’t hit the ball with the bat but the ball hits his leg and the umpire deems that the ball would have continued on and hit the stumps.
When a batsman walks a few paces down the pitch and taps the end of his bat on the ground, levelling out any little bumps and divots caused by previous deliveries, he is “gardening”. Where a lower-order batsman comes in ahead of higher-order batsmen near the end of a day’s play, this batsman is called a “nightwatchman,” the logic being that if another wicket falls, it is better to lose a “tail-ender” than another specialist batsman. A cricketer who is a good batsman and a good bowler, or sometimes a good batsman and wicketkeeper, is known as an “all rounder”.