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Cricket for dummies

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Jan. 8th, 2011 | 10:57 pm
mood: thirstythirsty
music: Dan Kehler - La Costa Lotta

I've never understood cricket, but I've wanted to for quite a while. Alas, no resource I came across so far actually managed to give an easily-understood *overview* of what cricket was about without getting bogged down in special terminology (only explained in a glossary decidedly not intended for novices) or details. But last night, moth_wingthane and canisrufus_uk were kind enough to explain the whole thing to me. *s*

So, for the benefit of others who might be in the same situation, here's what I gathered:

  • A cricket match features two teams; the objective of the game is to score "runs", and the team that ends up scoring the higher number of runs wins.

  • Unlike other team games like football, basketball etc., cricket is not symmetrical: at any given point, the teams are not interchangable. Rather, there is a "batting" and a "bowling" team, with the bowling team throwing balls at the batting team and the batting team, well, batting them.

  • Just like e.g. a football match is divided into two halves or an ice hockey match is divided into three periods, a cricket match consists of two innings; each inning is further divided into two halves (my terminology), so that both teams will both bat and bowl during each inning. If we assume that, without loss of generality, team A bats first, the basic sequence would be:

    1. Inning 1: team A bats, team B bowls.
    2. Inning 1: team B bats, team A bowls.
    3. Inning 2: team A bats, team B bowls.
    4. Inning 2: team B bats, team A bowls.

    The last "quarter" (my terminology) may be eschewed if team B is already winning at this point, as only the batting team can score "runs" (so if team A is not ahead at this point, they have no chance of winning anymore).

  • Since the objective of the game is to score "runs", how are runs scored? Basically, in order to score a run, the batsman (the batting team's player who happens to be batting at the given moment), after hitting the ball thrown at him by the bowling team, needs to run across the field and make it to the other side. The opposing team, naturally, will try to stop him.

  • A batsman gets stopped if the bowling team either catches his ball without it hitting the ground first, or if they otherwise manage to catch it and throw it at a construction known as a "wicket" (three poles in the ground with some smaller pieces of wood on top of them), knocking those smaller pieces down. Either of these needs to happen before the batsman actually reaches the end of the field, indicated by a line.

  • If the batsman does not make it, he's "out", and the batting team's next player comes in as a batsman. Once all the players are "out", the teams switch positions, as before, with the batting team becoming the bowling team and vice versa.

  • That said, a batsman, after batting the ball, does not HAVE to attempt a run. If he thinks that his batting wasn't so great and that he wouldn't have a chance to score a run, he can stay put, and another ball will be bowled (thrown at him).

  • The only complication to the above is that there's actually two batsmen on the field at any time, on opposite ends of the field. The second batsman is a backup (my terminology); he doesn't bat, and he has to run iff the "real" batsman (my terminology) does. If the run is successful (which requires that BOTH successfully reach the other side of the field), the two batsmen, having switched positions, will naturally reverse their roles.

There's a large amount of things not covered here, and indeed, if you read the above, you'll probably find yourself asking quite a few questions, such as "how often can the batsman decide not to run", "if only one batsman does not make it to the other side of the field, are they both out, or just the one who didn't make it", and so on; but at the very least, you'll now have a rough idea of what the game is about in principle, and what the basic mechanisms are.

For more information, check out Auntie's page on cricket (which I didn't look at yet), or explore dmmaus's explanation of cricket.

(Nota bene: I'm sure that what I wrote above is not just oversimplified but in fact outright wrong in places. If you're a cricket afficionado and notice a genuine mistake, please point it out below, but do keep in mind that this isn't supposed to be an exhaustive treatment.)

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Comments {38}

Killjoy #10

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from: lionhill
date: Jan. 8th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
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I've always wondered what cricket was about, so thanks for the elightenment!

This sport sounds wickedly complicated.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 8th, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome! And it does, doesn't it? As either moth_wingthane or canisrufus_uk said yesterday, it's had centuries to become eccentric, and I think that's really spot-on. ;)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 8th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
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Yup, we were only talking about test cricket yesterday.

Hmm, overs weren't mentioned to me yet, but then, this is just supposed to be a start, not an exhaustive explanation of all aspects of the game. That said, though, thanks! Interesting, so the field itself is symmetrical?

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 8th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
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Not the ground proper, the field and the way it's set up.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 9th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
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I think we're not talking about the same thing.

What I *MEANT* was whether the stuff that's on the field – the "small strip in the center of the ground", and whatever else there may be – is symmetric insofar as that there is no single correct orientation to it, the same way that e.g. a football field (the goals, the lines etc.) is symmetric.

It's obvious that the ground itself won't be symmetric, and I'm also not talking about the players.

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archadia

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from: archadia
date: Jan. 9th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
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I remember the look on one of my cousin's faces when I said, "Cricket is like baseball, right?"

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 9th, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
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*s* It is, to an extent, isn't it? Not that this would really help me, as I don't know baseball, either, but if you do, I can see how it might be a good starting point.

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packwolf lupestripe

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from: lupestripe
date: Jan. 9th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
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Generally good overview hun although there are other permutations you don't seem to have covered (such as the follow-on).

I am starting to enjoy cricket more and more with my new job as a sports journalist :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 9th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I know it's not complete. In fact, I think I said as much.

Thanks, though.

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wonka4500

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from: wonka4500
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
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More than I ever wanted to know about cricket and was afraid to ask!

Seriously, I'm not into sports enough to take notice of practically anything related to them lol!

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 10:38 am (UTC)
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At least when somebody yaks at you about cricket, you'll know what it's about. ;)

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Aurifer Salavor

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from: aurifer
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
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That is nothing like what I was led to believe.
It's scary how wrong cultural stereotypes can be.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 10:37 am (UTC)
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Aye, that's true. I'm curious, what were you led to believe?

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Aurifer Salavor

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from: aurifer
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
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It was pretty vague. Something about using the mallet to knock a set of balls through a series of square arch things, which I thought were called 'wickets'.

Actually, now that I think about it, I think that is a sort of sport you can do here, but it's called something like 'lawn hockey' or whatever. Not cricket at all.
Maybe the similar shape of the mallets confused me.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Ah, that's croquet. :)

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Aurifer Salavor

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from: aurifer
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
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AAaaggghhhh

Those two words resolved themselves to the exact same thing in my head. It's terrible when that happens.
At least I won't be all confused if the topic comes up in the future.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Hehe, I know what you mean; when I was little, I thought they were the same thing, too. ^.^

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
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One thing I will say is that often there isn't a winner at all, especially in the two innings test match (five day) format you've described. Not only do you have to score more runs than the opponents, but you have to get all the opponents out too in a test match otherwise it's a draw - even one team has more runs than the other :)

If one team is on a run chase, as in they are batting in the last innings they have to score more than the other team to win, but if they don't they only lose if the other team gets them all out before the end of play.

It's simple, but hideously complicated at the same time - and we've not even touched on bowling styles, how different numbers of runs are scored, the different ways you can be out, field positioning and the evil LBW law (probably the most complicated rule in any sport I know).

Cricket's probably my second favourite sport and if you ever want to know more I'll be happy to tell you :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 10:41 am (UTC)
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LBW? Do I even want to know? ^^

Anyhow, thanks! That's all very interesting, especially the bit about having to get all your opponents out, too. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the idea that the teams switch sides only when everyone in the batting team is out, though — wouldn't the latter mean that you'd always get all of your opponents out?

Heh, and also, what's your most favorite sport, then? :)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 10:48 am (UTC)
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LBW stands for Leg Before Wicket and is a way of getting your opponent out. It's pretty complicated so I'll just link you here for your pleasure - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leg_before_wicket

In terms of innings cricket the teams don't have to swap when the batting team is out. If the team in bat scores enough runs that they believe the other team won't match they can 'declare' and put the other team into bat. Like this:

Team A gets 350 runs all out, so team B go in. Team be get 360 runs all out, so team A go back in. Team A then score 600 runs for six wickets and decide that the lead of 590 is plenty, declare and put team B in and try to get them out for less than 590 in the remaining time. If they get them out for sub-590 then team A win. If team B manage to score more than 590 then team B win. If team B can't score enough in the time but team A also can't get everyone out then it's a draw :) There is another way of doing it called 'The Follow on' but I'll not bore you with that :)

And my favourite sport is Rugby Union :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 11:17 am (UTC)
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Ah, interesting. So there is a time limit?

Also, in the situation you describe, what'd happen if team A didn't "declare"? Suppose that all of team A's players were eventually "out" and the teams switched sides the regular way. Would it still possible for there to be a draw, the same way as above?

I'm just wondering what the advantages to "declaring" are. :)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)
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The advantages to declaring are that if you've scored runs fast enough you get more time trying to bowl the other team out. There are several different forms of cricket but the one you're describing is true 'test match' cricket which has a five day limit. In those five days there are potentially four innings, two per team. If one team batted for say two days before getting bowled out it would be more difficult to get the other team out twice in the time and there would most likely be a draw.

Normally, a declarating makes it more likely that there'll be a result, normally in the favour of the team that's declaring.

You can also declare if you think conditions are changing. The weather (ignoring rain - more just whether it's overcast or not) plays a huge roll in how the cricket ball moves in the air - the ball does something called 'reverse swing' which means it deviates off it's normal trajectory and is more difficult to bat. Similarly the wicket itself can deteriorate (meaning cracks open etc) - when this happens the ball will deviate when it bounces making it more difficult to play. A team could declare on a not particularly large score if they believe the conditions were changing from a batting wicket to a bowling wicket :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
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The advantages to declaring are that if you've scored runs fast enough you get more time trying to bowl the other team out.

Right, that makes sense! Thanks for the explanation. ^^

That's interesting about the weather, too (and it also makes sense). What'd happen if there was rain? (Also, I'm not sure I understand what a "batting wicket" and "bowling wicket" are now — that is, under which weather condition the wicket would be considered either and why.)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 11:55 am (UTC)
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Firstly not sure if it's been mentioned but wicket means two things in cricket - it's either what it's called when you get someone out (taking a wicket) or the name of the pitch proper (the cricket wicket).

If it starts to rain, play is temporarily abandoned and the wicket is covered up - mainly because the wetting of the wicket (a sticky wicket) makes the flight of the ball unpredictable and can be dangerous.

Batting and Bowling wickets are those where the conditions either suit the batting team (slow wicket, little deviation, no grass etc) or suit the bowling team (the opposite of the previous). Some nation's wickets are predominantly one or the other - England's wickets normally favour the bowler (much faster and the air conditions make reverse swing happen), whereas the Indian/Pakistani wickets normally favour the batsmen (very slow - up to 10/15mph slower then an English wicket).

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
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Should have said the cooler/overcast/humid conditions produce bowling wickets whereas warm/sunny/clear/dry conditions produce batting wickets - as a general guide anyway :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
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OK. ^^

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:14 pm (UTC)
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OK. :) (Ah, interesting, that's a third meaning of "wicket" then, too; so far, I only knew about it being able to refer to the field itself and the structure the bowling team has to knock down with the ball.)

Are there standards for what the playing field must look like etc.? (E.g. how level it must be, how short the grass must be and so on.)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC)
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In terms of the wicket - yes, that's strictly defined in length, width etc. The stumps have to be exactly one chain apart (22yards) and the wicket 10 feet across. It should be level. Similarly the locations of the popping crease, bowling crease and return creases are defined.

However, the cricket outfields can vary significantly in size and shape. While the dimensions of the pitch and infield are specifically regulated, Laws of Cricket do not specify the size or shape of the field. Pitch and outfield variations can have a significant effect on how balls behave and are fielded as well as on batting. These physical variations create a distinctive set of playing conditions at each ground. Lords Cricket Ground in London, for example, has an outfield that's some 15feet higher on one side than the other.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:37 pm (UTC)
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OK, that's cool. :) I like sports that add a bit more character and variation — golf courses are so much nicer than football fields, for instance. ;)

I won't ask about what the various terms you mentioned now (stumps, popping crease, bowling crease, return crease etc.) all mean now, though... ;)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:39 pm (UTC)
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Heh no problems - like I said it's both a very simple sport (just twat the ball!) but also hideously complicated. I've been watching it for years but I won't pretend to understand it all :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
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*noddles* Yeah... sports (or all games, really) have a tendency to do that. :) Golf is like that, too; the basic principle is exceedingly simple and can be summed up in just a few words ("Hit the ball with various clubs until it goes into the hole in as few strokes as possible"), but there's still a wealth of rules, and a wealth of decisions on how to apply those rules.

This occasionally leads to very funny situations, too. If you'll allow me to get sidetracked for a moment, there's Nigel Denham, for example; I don't know if you can see the page I linked to there, but here's what it says:

During the first round of the 1974 English Open Amateur Stroke Pla at Moortown, Nigel Denham hit his approach a bit too strongly on the final hole. That might be a mild way to state it. The ball bounced up the steps and into the clubhouse right through an open door. It hit a wall and finally stopped in the men's bar, about 20 feet from the windows. It was determined that Nigel's ball was still in play, as the clubhouse was not out-of-bounds.

He opened the window and pitched the ball to within 12 feet of the cup. Denham was congratulated on his shot; but several weeks later the R&A ruled that he should have been given a two-stroke penalty for opening the window. They said the clubhouse was an immovable obstruction and no part of it should have been moved. So, if that ever happens to you, hit the pitch shot a bit harder than Nigel did, because the glass is bound to slow up the ball a little.

I wonder if that sort of thing happens in cricket on occasion, too. ;) (I actually doubt it, but cricket is probably still more interesting than, say, football.)

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lupus londonwolf

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from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
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Heh that's pretty cool actually - would have been interesting to see that!

The only thing I can think of in cricket was a match where a batsman was comprehensively bowled and had the middle stump of his wicket smashed out of the ground by the bowler's delivery. However, because it was so hot, the varnish on the bails (the two bits of wood that lie on the stumps and have to be dislodged for the batsman to be out) had melted, fusing the two bails together. So you were left with the situation where the bowler had clearly got the batsman out, but because the bails had not moved he got a reprieve. I only think it's happened once, though I have seen the stumps clipped without moving the bails before.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 01:09 pm (UTC)
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It is cool, isn't it? "Oh, sure, you can continue playing if your ball ends up in the clubhouse... but if you want to shoot it onto the green through a window, make sure to keep the window closed". ^^

Heh, and that's neat, too, yes. ^^ What did it mean in practice that he got a reprieve?

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lupus londonwolf

(no subject)

from: londonwolf
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
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Declared not out, because the bails hadn't moved :)

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 01:15 pm (UTC)
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*nodnods* That sounds like the right decision. (I.e., it's how I would've decided, too. ;))

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