Cricket in 600 words or less

Cricket has a bit of a reputation for being hard to understand, but it’s actually a simpler game than the most popular North American sports.

Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy a cricket match in 600 words or less.

Cricket is played on an oval field with a rectangular pitch in the middle. Two players on the batting team stand on either side of the pitch; the eleven players on the fielding team take up positions around the field.

A wide angle of a cricket match in progress.
This wide angle shows nine of the England fielders in red (two are out of frame to the right), two New Zealand batters in black, and two umpires.


The cricket ball is bowled overarm by a player on the fielding team and can bounce once. The batter hits the ball and switches ends with the other batter, scoring one run each time this happens.

A typical delivery is bowled and hit for a single run. The batter can choose not to run if they don’t think they’ll make it in time.

If the batter hits the ball all the way to the boundary of the field, they score four runs automatically.

If they hit the ball really hard over the boundary, they score six runs.

A ball hit into the stands is worth six runs — but the crowd has to give it back so the same ball can be used for the whole innings.


The goal of the fielding team is to get the batters out (“take their wickets”) before they score lots of runs.

The batter is out caught if they hit the ball and a fielder catches it before it hits the ground.

Out caught is the most common form of dismissal in cricket.

The batter is out bowled if they miss and the ball hits the wicket behind them.

Some games have fancy stumps and bails that light up when the wicket is broken.

The batter is out leg before wicket if they use their body to block the ball from hitting the wicket.

A batter is out LBW if the ball hits their body and would have gone on to hit the wicket.

The batter is run out if they run and the fielding side breaks the wicket before they’re safe.

To be safe, the batter’s body or bat must be touching the ground behind the white line.

The batter is out stumped if they come too far out, miss the ball, and get run out by the wicketkeeper.

The wicketkeeper stumps the batter by breaking the wicket with the ball or their hand holding the ball.


Every six balls1, the fielders switch ends and a different player from the fielding team comes on to bowl. Six balls is also called an over.

Each team gets to bat for 20 overs2 or until they have lost ten wickets. Whichever team has the most runs after both sides bat wins.


There are a bunch of rules that govern how the ball should be bowled. A violation results in a do-over, except the batting team is awarded an extra run and gets to keep any runs they scored off the illegal delivery.

A wide is signalled if the umpire judges that the ball was bowled too wide or too high for it to be reasonably hit.

The umpire signals a wide by stretching their arms out.

A no ball is signalled if the bowler steps too far over the white line while bowling.

Overstepping is the most common way a no ball is called against a bowler.

A no ball also turns the next ball into a “free hit”, meaning the batter is immune from getting out caught, bowled, stumped, or LBW off that ball.


A typical team roster has some specialist batters who usually don’t bowl, some specialist bowlers who aren’t expected to get lots of runs, and some all-rounders who are good at both batting and bowling.

There are two main bowling styles: fast bowlers rely on the speed of their deliveries while spin bowlers deliver slow but tricky balls.

Each team has a wicketkeeper who stops the balls that get past the batter. You can recognize the wicketkeeper as the only fielder who wears gloves.

Fielders can be deployed anywhere, subject to a few restrictions.3 Commentators describe fielding positions using funny names like slip, gully, mid-off, square leg, and third man. You don’t need to memorize these.


A typical TV broadcast overlay displays the following information:

  • The batting team’s current run total and wickets lost.4
  • The number of overs completed or the number of balls remaining.
  • The current batters’ names, runs scored, and balls faced, with some indication of which batter is facing the next ball.
  • The current bowler.
A cricket TV broadcast. The overlay reads as follows: ENG 101-2. 12/20. Run Rate 8.42. Beaumont 47* (39), Jones 23 (10). NZ Kasperek 1-24 (2).
This overlay indicates that England are batting and have scored 101 runs for the loss of 2 wickets. It is the 12th over in a 20-over match. Beaumont has scored 47 runs off 39 balls and is facing the current ball. Jones has scored 23 runs off 10 balls. The current bowler is New Zealand’s Kasperek, who has taken 1 wicket and given up 24 runs in 2 overs this match.

When the first team is batting, the overlay may show the current run rate (average runs per over).

When the second team is batting, the overlay shows either the target score needed to win, or the remaining runs needed to reach the target.


That’s all you need to follow and enjoy a cricket match! All that’s left to learn is a few bits of jargon, the names of the players, and the details of whatever tournament or competition you want to follow. You’ll pick up all of those as you go.

Some tournaments worth following are:

National sides often play series against each other as well.

If you want to watch cricket, most series are carried in Canada by subscription streaming service Willow TV. You can also follow live text summaries and scorecards on sites like ESPN Cricinfo.

  1. In the Hundred, balls are grouped into batches of five instead of six. ↩︎
  2. Twenty overs per team is the limit used in Twenty20 cricket. One-day cricket gives 50 overs to each team; The Hundred uses a hundred-ball limit. Test cricket, which lasts up to five days, gives each team two chances to bat and has no over limit. ↩︎
  3. The fielding restrictions are slightly different depending on the format. Some formats have a “Power Play” where additional fielding restrictions are enforced for some overs. ↩︎
  4. The score 123-4 means the team has scored 123 runs for the loss of 4 wickets. It is sometimes formatted with a slash (123/4) or with the runs and wickets reversed (4-123). ↩︎