It’s Official: Cricket too complex for me to call

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last week I promised a bit about cricket. I read recently where some retired professional baseball players are taking up the old English game of cricket. That is not surprising, because it’s apparent our game of baseball likely originated from it.

The history of the game of cricket is obscure, but it is thought to have started in the Middle Ages, probably when a couple of shepherds started batting a rock or something back and forth. By the year 1550, there was evidence of a game which could be identified as cricket being played in Surrey.

By 1611 a couple of youngsters had been fined by a magistrate for playing cricket, and, naturally, by 1694 people were betting on cricket matches. There were loose written rules in force as early as 1727, and the first Laws of Cricket were published around 1744.

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In 1730 the first match at Artillery Ground in London was played. That remains the cricket field of the Honourable Artillery Corps. In 1844 the United States and Canada played in the first official international match.

The game of cricket is played on an oval field, usually about 220 yards in diameter. The teams each consist of 11 players, and there are normally two umpires. The ball is leather covered cork, and weighs about 10 ounces. The wooden bat is usually about-waist-high long with a narrow handle and a maximum width of 4 1/2 inches.

The pitch, which lies in the middle of the field, is 22 yards long. At each end are wickets, which each consist of three stumps, or sticks, driven in the ground. They are 92 centimeters tall, are 5 centimeters apart and balanced on top are bales, or pieces of wood.

The pitcher, called a bowler, runs up and throws the ball with what appears to be straight overhand motion. Speeds can reach 105 mph, but fastball bowlers risk adding distance to the ball if hit solidly by the batter.

The batter will have a teammate out by the other wicket, and when the ball is hit, both will run to the other wicket. A run is counted when either reaches the other crease, which is a line across the pitch at both ends.

If the fielders catch the ball or throw it in and hit the batter’s wicket, an out is recorded. Other ways runs can be scored include if the bowler throws the ball over the batter’s head or throws outside of the width of the pitch.

Four runs are scored if the ball is hit and bounces or rolls outside of the field boundaries, and six runs score if the ball is hit over the boundary on the fly. Outs can be if the batter sticks his leg out to interfere with the pitch hitting the wicket or stumps.

The game is much more complicated than I can express. It is popular in many parts of the world, but I can’t see enough action in cricket to make it ever become a popular spectator sport in our country. Some international matches have been known to go on for several days, with something over 200 or 300 runs being scored.

Please do not take these words as a disparagement of the game of cricket. It has been around longer than mud, but I am satisfied my officiating career did not include cricket.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at