Don’t worry if you’ve recently noticed strange gatherings of people dressed in white clothes running around in fields. This is perfectly normal behaviour at this time of year - the cricket season has begun!
Of course, thousands of international students in the UK come from cricketing countries but, if you don’t know your Ashes from your googlies, why not introduce yourself to the sport with UKCISA’s A to Z guide to the weird and wonderful world of cricket…
A is for Ashes
Dating back to 1882 and simply the biggest contest in international Test cricket, the Ashes is a series of matches played between great rivals England and Australia. The competition will dominate the sports news again this summer as England try to win the Ashes back from the Aussies throughout July and August. Thousands of cricket fans will watch the five match series in Cardiff, London, Birmingham, Nottingham, and back in London. Good luck getting a ticket but still worth a try!
B is for Botham
Sir Ian Terence Botham (or ‘Beefy’ as he is affectionately known by fans). An England cricket legend. Now a TV commentator, in his playing days Beefy was a star batsman and record-breaking bowler. His heroic performance in England’s win against Australia in 1981 led to the series being known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.
C is for County cricket
18 county teams compete across three different competitions in the English domestic season. The County Championship takes place from April to September. There are two divisions and teams compete in four day matches. The One-Day Cup takes place from July to September with teams competing in matches beginning in the morning and finishing in the afternoon. The T20 Blast takes place from May to August. It’s a shorter and faster format with matches taking a few hours and usually played in the evening to attract big crowds.
D is for Duckworth-Lewis Method
This is one for the maths students out there! The Duckworth-Lewis Method is a mathematical formula to work out the score required by a team batting second in a limited over match interrupted by rain, bad light or other conditions. If that makes your head hurt, why not listen to cricket-inspired Irish pop group The Duckworth Lewis Method instead. Formed by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, the group describe their cricket-themed album The Duckworth Lewis Method as ‘a kaleidoscopic musical adventure through the beautiful and rather silly world of cricket’!
E is for England and Wales
The ‘England’ cricket team actually represents England and Wales and is governed by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Welsh county Glamorgan compete against English teams in the County Championship, the One-Day Cup and the T20 Blast. Until 1992, the England team also represented Scotland. Across the UK, cricket has a much lower profile and fewer players and fans in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
F is for Flintoff
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. Another England cricket legend. Famous for stealing a pedalo late at night while drunk and being rescued from the sea during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. More famous for his starring role in England’s stunning Ashes victory against Australia in 2005. Undefeated in his more recent career as a professional boxer: one fight, one win in 2012!
G is for Googly
A disguised trick delivery by a right-handed ‘leg-spin’ bowler. The ball is released from the back of the hand with expert spin. When the ball bounces, it turns in a different direction to the one expected by the batsman waiting to hit it.
H is for Howzat?
Shortened version of ‘How’s that?’ - the question asked by bowlers and fielders to the umpire (‘Is the batsman out or not?’) before a decision is made. Watch out for the dreaded raised index finger to indicate, yes, the batsman is out.
I is for Innings
An individual batsman’s or team’s turn at batting. Longer format matches involve two innings per team (four innings total). Shorter format matches involve one innings per team (two innings total). Also commonly heard in the phrase, ‘They had a good innings’ – used to describe someone who lived for a long time and died at a very old age. Innings are divided into ‘overs’ – six deliveries of the ball by a bowler.
J is for Jimmy
Jimmy Anderson. The Burnley Express. England fast bowler and master of swing bowling (making the ball move in the air as it travels towards the batsman). Playing in his 100th Test match last month in Antigua, Anderson had the West Indies batsman Denesh Ramdin caught out on the final day of the game and, in doing so, overtook Sir Ian Botham to become England’s record Test wicket-taker. That was Anderson’s 384th wicket. He’s now on 397. Botham thinks Anderson can reach 450 before he retires.
K is for Knighthood
10 English cricketers have been knighthood for services to cricket. (This group doesn’t include Ian Botham who was actually knighted for his charity work.) An additional 10 cricketers from the West Indies have been knighted, plus one from Australia (the great Don Bradman) and one from New Zealand (the also great Richard Hadlee) – all for services to cricket and services against the England team!
L is for Leg Before Wicket
LBW. If the batsman blocks the ball with the leg (or other part of the body) rather than the bat, and the umpire judges that the ball would have otherwise hit the wicket, the batsman is given out LBW. But that makes it sound simple!? In modern international matches, LBW decisions can be referred to additional umpires who study television replays and use special ball-tracking technology called Hawk-Eye.
M is for Mid-on
A fielding position at a narrow angle behind the bowler on the ‘on’ side of the field (to the left of a right-handed batsman as the batsman faces forward). Mid-on’s fielding counterpart is mid-off who stands in a similar position on the ‘off’ side of the field. When mid-on is placed in front of the bowler, much closer to the batsman - and with a much higher risk of getting hit by the ball – they are known, appropriately, as ‘silly mid-on’!
N is for Ninety miles per hour
The fastest bowlers regularly bowl the hard, leather cricket ball at batsmen at speeds of 90 miles per hour [145 kilometres per hour]. To protect themselves, batsmen wear a range of equipment including helmets, padded gloves and leg pads. Amazingly, in the history of cricket, the standard use of protective helmets by batsmen is quite recent. In 1976, England batsman Brian Close was wearing little more than a smart white shirt to face the West Indies’ fast bowler Michael Holding. (Holding’s nickname was ‘Whispering Death’…!)
O is for Old Father Time
Old Father Time is a weathervane at the iconic Lord’s cricket ground in London. The Father Time figure is seen removing one of the wooden bails from a wicket [see ‘W is for Wicket’]. After two previous Lord’s grounds at different sites, the current ground was established at St John’s Wood in 1814. In 2014, Lord’s celebrated its 200th anniversary with a special match involving star players from around the world. Old Father Time has overlooked the ground and kept an eye on the weather since the 1920s.
P is for Pietersen
Love him or loathe him, Kevin Pietersen continues to make the headlines as one of English cricket’s most controversial characters. An aggressive and exciting batsman, South African-born Pietersen was part of the 2005 winning Ashes team and became one of England’s key players in following years, including a short period as captain of the team. Unceremoniously dropped in 2014 after a disappointing Ashes tour in Australia, many England fans would like to see him return this summer to face the Australians again…
Q is for Quote
‘He couldn’t get his leg over…’ A moment loved by cricket fans all over the world. When BBC commentator Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew inadvertently used some British slang to describe Ian Botham stumbling into his wicket during a match in 1991, it sent fellow commentator Brian Johnston into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
R is for Rain
Possibly more than any other sport, cricket is affected by the weather. For safety reasons, play is stopped for rain and bad light. Most fans in the UK will have spent many hours huddled under umbrellas watching rain fall on an empty green field!
S is for Spirit of the Game
Uniquely, cricket is a sport that is played not only within laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. The ‘Spirit’ of cricket includes fair play, good conduct from players and a friendly tone to matches. ‘It’s just not cricket’ is a phrase used to describe any situation thought to be unfair or unjust.
T is for Test Match Special
TMS. Even in the age of widespread television coverage, BBC radio’s live cricket broadcast attracts huge numbers of listeners and has a fond place in most cricket fans’ hearts. So popular, even if fans are at a match they often listen to TMS while watching the action. And, if you tune in, you might also get the chance to hear the shipping forecast for a truly peculiar British radio experience!
U is for Unlucky Number
Resembling the three wooden stumps of a wicket without bails, 111 is an unlucky number in cricket. The superstition extends to 222, 333 and other multiples of the number. Cheered on by fans during matches, English umpire David Shepherd famously used to stand on one leg whenever the score was 111 or a multiple to ward off bad luck. The unlucky number is also known as ‘Nelson’ after the British naval officer. Explaining the connection between 111 and Nelson, Shepherd said, ‘One arm, one eye, and one sugar in his tea’.
V is for Village cricket
At grassroots level, cricket is played by people of all ages and all shapes and sizes! Traditionally representing local villages, thousands of amateur cricket clubs exist up and down the country. Pitches range from lumpy fields to beautifully maintained surfaces and standards of play vary – but enthusiasm for the game among village players is enormous and a match on the village green remains an iconic sight during the summer.
W is for Wicket
The wicket is a set of three upright wooden stumps with two smaller wooden bails placed on top. There are two sets of stumps on the pitch. ‘Wicket’ also refers to the 22 yard strip of playing surface between the two sets of stumps. The word is also used to describe the dismissal of a batsman and bowlers ‘take the wicket’ of opposition batsmen. The phrase ‘sticky wicket’ is used to describe any difficult or awkward situation.
X is for X-ray
In 1986, England batsman Mike Gatting needed a trip to the X-ray department after being hit in the face by a ball from legendary West Indies fast bowler Malcolm Marshall. Out of hospital a few days later, Gatting attended a press conference with a cut across his nose and two huge black eyes. Amusingly, a journalist still thought it necessary to ask, 'Where did it hit you, Mike?'
Y is for Yorker
If they’re not aiming at your head, fast bowlers might aim the ball at your feet. A yorker is a delivery fired at a batsman’s boots and intended to bounce under the bat and hit the wicket. If this successfully happens, the batsman is considered to have been ‘yorked’.
Z is for Zzzz…?
American comedian Robin Williams once said, ‘Cricket is basically baseball on valium’. American writer Bill Bryson elaborates: ‘It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players - more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.’
But don’t listen to them – give cricket a chance! Go to watch a local game or try to get a ticket for an international match. The fun, fast and exciting T20 Blast competition is designed to attract new fans to the sport and tickets for the opening fixtures are on sale now. You're padded up and ready to face your first delivery...!