The basic rules of cricket are by no means as complex as the official twenty-page rule book suggests. There are two teams of eleven players. A team wins by scoring more runs than the other team and dismissing the opposition; a team could score many more runs than the opposition, but still not win if the last two enemy batsmen doggedly stay “in” (ensuring a draw). The match is divided into innings, when one team bats and the other team fields. One-day matches have one innings per team, Test matches have two.
The aim of the fielding side is to limit the runs scored and get the batsman “out”. Two players from the batting side are on the pitch at any one time. The fielding side has a bowler, a wicketkeeper and nine fielders. Two umpires adjudicate whether a batsman is out. Each innings is divided into overs, consisting of six deliveries, after which the wicketkeeper changes ends, the bowler is changed and the fielders move positions.
The batsmen score runs either by running up and down from wicket to wicket (one length = one run), or by hitting the ball over the boundary rope, scoring four runs if it crosses the boundary having touched the ground, and six runs if it flies over. A batsman can be dismissed by being “clean bowled”, where the bowler dislodges the bails of the wicket; by being “run out”, when one of the fielders dislodges the bails with the ball while the batsman is running; by being caught out, when one of the fielding side catches the ball after the batsman has hit it; or by “LBW” (leg before wicket), where the batsman blocks with his leg a delivery that would otherwise have hit the stumps.
These are the rudiments of a game whose beauty lies in its skills and tactics. The captain, for example, chooses which bowler (spin or fast) to play and where to position his fielders to counter the strengths of the batsman, the condition of the pitch and a dozen other variables. Cricket also has a poetry in its esoteric language, used to describe such things as fielding positions (“silly mid-off”, “cover point”, etc) and types of bowling delivery (“googly”, “yorker” and the like).