Making sense of THE NETWORK: some cricket terms explained

Notes and Glossary to The Network (for non-devotees of cricket)
Some ex-friends think them funnier than the novel itself

I hope that The Network can be enjoyed by non-devotees of cricket, but there are passages where an explanation of cricket terms may be helpful. Baseball devotees need to know that the basic contest in cricket is between batsman and bowler. They are separated by 22 yards, with a set of three wooden stumps at each end. The bowler runs up alongside one set of these stumps and hurls a hard red ball, overarm, at the batsman. He aims to hit the pitch in front of the batsman and then hit the batsman’s stumps. The batsman has a flat-faced bat to prevent this. The bowler may use out-and-out pace (the fastest have managed 100 mph) or swing (curving the ball in the air) or cut or spin (making it change direction off the pitch). Spin bowlers bowl slowly and have the additional weapon of flight – varying the trajectory of the ball.

In match play, a pair of batsmen face a pair of bowlers. Each bowler bowls a sequence of six balls at one end and then the bowler at the other end takes over and bowls six himself.

The bowler is supported by a wicketkeeper (catcher) behind the batsman’s stumps and nine other fielders who can be placed virtually anywhere he and his captain decide. The batsman can hit the ball anywhere he likes (there is no foul zone) and he does not have to run when he hits it. This feature makes the game generally slower than baseball. If he decides to run, he exchanges ends with his partner. One such successful exchange produces a run, but they may take two or three or as many as they can manage. There is a boundary line. If a batsman hits the ball over that line along the ground he obtains an automatic four; if he achieves this without bouncing (home run) he gets an automatic six.

Apart from hitting the batsman’s stumps, the bowler and fielders have several other ways to dismiss (retire) him. Once out (retired), that batsman is finished. Ten batsmen out and the team’s innings is finished.

There are many other rules, which often require arbitration. This is done by two on-field umpires, who give decisions on appeal from the bowler and his supporting fielders.

That is probably enough of the basic rules. Cricket has many strange terms, which I explain in the glossary below.

My apologies to the many female cricketers for using male pronouns only, for convenience. RKH

Glossary and famous names
Fielding positions mentioned only when important to plot: full list at end

all out: Ten batsmen out (dismissed/ retired) – a team then stops batting.

all-rounder : A player who can both bat and bowl.

appeal:A request by the bowler and/or any fielder to an umpire to judge a batsman out (dismissed).

arm ball:  a ball by a slow bowler with no spin, which follows his arm. A surprise ball, usually quicker.

average: Cricket is a highly statistical game, which awards averages to batsmen (total runs scored divided by total completed innings) and bowlers (total runs yielded divided by total dismissals). 35+ is a decent batting average, 25- is reasonable for a bowler.)

back foot/front foo: t The back foot for a batsman is the one farthest away from the bowler. All batting shots are played with the weight predominantly on one foot or the other. Batsmen are generally encouraged to move their feet to facilitate this. Steve frequently exhorts himself and others to do this.

bails:Two small pieces of wood fitted into the top of the stumps. One at least must touch the ground for the batsman to be out.

beamer: A ball which reaches the batsman head high without first bouncing. Dangerous and illegal.

block:A stonewall defensive shot by a batsman, with no attempt to score.

boundary: The perimeter of the playing field, indicated by a white line or a rope or a series of markers. Also used to describe a hit by the batsman which reaches or surpasses this perimeter, worth 6 if it achieves this without bouncing and 4 otherwise.

bouncer: A fast ball intended to bounce into the batsman’s head or upper body. Dangerous but not illegal unless done to excess.

box:   US, cup. Protection for the genitals.

break-back: Ball which moves back sharply into the batsman after bouncing. In combination with outswinger (qv) a classic formula for fast bowlers.

bye:An extra run, not hit by the batsman, conceded by the wicketkeeper (qv).

call:  A batsman telling his partner whether or not he wants to change ends with him to score a run.

captain: The captain of the side decides when his players bat, where they field and which of them bowl and when. If he wins the toss (qv) he decides whether his team bats or bowls first. If he bats first he might also decide to declare (qv) to get a better chance of winning.

catch: A means of dismissing a batsman (compare baseball fly ball). A catch can be made anywhere inside the field but not if the catcher is in contact with the boundary (qv). Catches to the wicketkeeper (qv) and those taken very close to the ground are generally appealed to the umpire(s) unless the batsman chooses to walk (qv).

century: A score of 100 or more by a batsman. A huge achievement.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul:  A great contemporary West Indian batsman who marks his guard (qv) elaborately.

chinaman: A ball spun with the wrist rather than the fingers by a slow left-arm bowler. It bounces sharply back into a righthanded batsman. As the name might suggest, a chinaman is an exotic, mysterious delivery.

crease: A white line on the pitch used to decide whether a batsman is in or out of his ground (qv) or whether a bowler is bowling a legal ball or a no ball (qv).

crimson traveller…wooden lance… wooden castle: Very old-fashioned jocular terms for ball, bat and stumps.

cross bat: Any shot, usually aggressive, in which the bat is used horizontally or at an angle to the trajectory of the ball, antonym of straight bat (qv).

cutter:A ball in which the bowler uses the seam (qv) to make it dart back into the batsman off the pitch (off cutter) or away from him (leg cutter).

declare : A batting captain choosing to end his team’s innings ahead of time to get a better chance of dismissing all the opposing batsmen.

deep: Fielding positions a long way from the batsman.

delivery:  A ball from a bowler.

dismiss: Getting a batsman out (retiring him).

dobber:  A bowler of no great pace or spin who relies on accuracy and subtle variations. Usually unglamorous and unsung.

dot ball:  One off which no run is scored off the bowler.

draw: A timed game in which the side batting second fails to overhaul the side batting first but has fewer than ten men out. Neither side wins.

edge:  An involuntary batting shot off the edge of the bat rather than the full face, which often results in a catch (qv) but can also negate an appeal for leg before wicket (qv). Synonym nick.

figures:  Statistics of bowling performances, kept by the scorer (qv). “Good” figures mean that a bowler has dismissed many batsmen (the maximum possible is ten) without yielding many runs.

first-class:  A very high level of cricket and the pathway to playing Tests (qv).

first slip: A close fielder who stands next to the wicketkeeper (qv) to catch balls edged or nicked (qqvv) by the batsman. In good teams a specialist position for a player with great reflexes, in others a place to hide a fielder who cannot run.

five-for: The big achievement for a bowler of dismissing five batsmen.

full toss: Ball from bowler which reaches batsman without bouncing. Usually a free hit but easy to miss or miscue.

glance: A graceful but risky shot, invented by Indian legend, Prince Ranjitsinhji, in which the ball is flicked behind the batsman.

googly:  A deceptive ball from a legspinner (qv) which spins sharply into a righthanded batsman.

Grade 2 opening batsman. Many countries, including New Zealand, have a grading system for club cricketers. Grade 2 would be just below the best.

guard Nearly all batsmen on arrival hold their bat in front of the wicket and ask the umpire if it is aligned with the leg stump, the middle stump or exactly between them. This is “taking guard.”

gully A close catching position, besides slips (qv) but at a wider angle behind the batsman.

Sir Richard Hadlee. New Zealand’s greatest cricketer. The McConnel brothers are well-connected.

half-volley. A ball that bounces very close to the batsman, which is usually easy to hit.

helmet Now compulsory for batsmen under 18 and optional but increasingly common for older ones. It protects the face as well.

hook A violent batting shot which puts the ball behind the batsman (on his leg side.)

Howzat? Short for “How’s that?” The standard appeal (qv) to any umpire.

keeping Short for wicketkeeping (qv)

Harold Larwood A great England fast bowler of the 1930s, who injured and frightened Australians with bouncers (qv) during the infamous “Bodyline” series in 1932-33.

innings (singular and plural). Confusingly, this can mean either one batsman’s complete turn at batting or that of the whole team of eleven.

lbw. Short for “leg before wicket”. A fiendishly complicated rule which is another means for the bowler to dismiss (retire) the batsman. It is judged by an umpire on appeal. Essentially, if the ball would have hit the stumps but for hitting the batsman first, the batsman is out. But if the batsman hits it first, even an involuntary edge, he is not out.

leg bye Extra run scored after a batsman attempts to hit the ball and it hits his body instead. (Unlike baseball, there is no automatic “walk” for a batsman who gets hit. The batsmen must run any leg byes, unless the ball reaches the boundary for 4).

leg side (also on side) All the playing area behind a batsman about to receive.

legspinner Bowler who uses his wrist to spin the ball away from a righthanded batsman (a leg break). May also bowl googly or topspinner (qqvv).

length A vital concept for bowlers, measuring where the ball lands in relation to the batsman. A full length ball lands close to him, a short length ball lands far from him. A good length ball is one which the batsman cannot play easily off either the front foot or the back foot (qqvv).

lollipops Very slow balls given to young or nervous batsmen to hit.

long hop A very short length ball (qv). Easy to hit but can induce miscue.

Lords The world’s most famous cricket ground, in North-West London.

maiden An over (qv) in which no runs are scored by either batsman.

MCC Short for Marylebone Cricket Club, a prestigious private club which owns Lords and still has a strong influence on the game.

Michael Clarke Elegant Australian batsman and current captain.

The nets. A cricket net is an enclosed area for practising bowling and batting at cricket, similar to a baseball batting cage.

new ball An unused ball, hard and shiny, used for the first ball by the bowling side. Usually given to a fast bowler, who can make it swing and bounce.

nick Synonym for edge (qv).

no ball A ball which is invalid, called by the umpire. There are several reasons why this may happen, nearly all of them the fault of the bowler. It always results in at least one extra run to the batting side, who also get an additional ball to hit.

Number 11 The last place in a batting line-up, for the worst batsman.

off drive An elegant straight-bat shot which forces the ball away from the batsman into the off side.

off side: All the playing area in front of a batsman about to receive.

off spinner Slow bowler who normally makes the ball spin towards a righthanded batsman with his fingers.

on side (also leg side) All the playing area behind a batsman about to receive.

opener/opening batsman The first two batsmen on a team. They usually have to face fast bowlers. A position requiring courage and application.

out The batsman is dismissed (retired) and leaves the field.

out of his ground A batsman who has left the “safety zone” in front of either wicket defined by the crease (qv) is out of his ground and vulnerable to being stumped or run out (qqvv). A batsman is within his ground if any part of his body is touching the ground behind the crease, or any part of the bat if he is still holding it.

outswingers An outswinger curves away from the batsman in the air.

over Sequence of six balls by a bowler.

overthrows Wild throws by the fielding side, which give away extra runs.

Monty Panesar England’s contemporary slow left arm bowler.

piethrowers. A term of contempt, especially in Australia and New Zealand, for fast bowlers who aren’t really very fast.

Ricky Ponting Current Australian batsman and former captain.

pull A fierce shot forcing the ball behind the batsman, into the leg side, off the front foot.

The referral system is now used in international matches: contentious issues are judged by a third umpire watching television analysis.

retired hurt An injured batsman may retire and resume his innings later.

reversed The ball changed direction towards the batsman, late and unpredictably. An important skill for any “swing” bowler, and especially welcome to a young one like Steve.

run out. If a fielder breaks the stumps at either end when a batsman is out of his ground, the latter is run out. This is judged by the nearest umpire.

seam A double set of stitches around the circumference of a cricket ball, which assist its bounce and swing (qv). Usually held upright by the bowler, but ball is sometimes deliberately held across the seam to make it skid.

single One run for the batting side.

skyer A very high catch, hated by nervous fielders

slash A violent shot with a cross bat (qv).

slip A close catching position behind the batsman. Aggressive, confident fast bowlers could ask for four but one or two is normal.

slow left arm As the name suggests, a slow left-handed bowler, who normally spins the ball away from a right-handed batsman with his fingers.

sticky dog A playing surface which has received hot sun after heavy rain. Has unpredictable bounce which makes it very hard for batsmen. Once commonplace in England, now rare at highest levels, because pitches are covered against rain.

straight bat Any shot in which the bat is used vertically or in a matching trajectory to the ball. Antonym of cross bat (qv). Can be either aggressive or defensive. Favoured by cricket coaches.

stumped/stumping A dismissal (qv) a batsman in which the wicketkeeper (qv) breaks the stumps with the ball when the batsman is out of his ground (qv). It is judged by the umpire at right angles to the batsman.

swing The curve of a ball in the air after it is bowled. A weapon for faster bowlers, deadliest when it is late.

Test Match. Five-day match between two countries, the highest level of cricket.

Test Match Special. BBC Radio’s ball-by-ball commentary on international cricket matches. A national institution, as much for the personalities of the commentators and their by-play and rituals as for their narrative of the cricket. Many cricketers of all ages use TMS to sustain their fantasies.

third man A hardworking but unglamorous fielding position a long way from the batsman. Often assigned to the least important member of a team.

throat ball A very dangerous ball which “explodes” from a good length (qv) towards the batsman’s throat.

toecrusher. A fast yorker (qv) that hits the batsman directly on the foot.

topspinner A ball from a slow bowler which keeps low and hurries on to the batsman as the result of overspin.

toss The captains (qv) toss a coin at the start of a match. The winner chooses whether to bat or bowl.

two-minute rule A new batsman has two minutes to get into position, otherwise he can be “timed out” and he does not bat. Hence the danger of Luke’s long kiss. [True when The Network was written, since extended].

Frank Tyson. A great England fast bowler of the 1950s, author of insightful classic autobiography, A Typhoon Called Tyson.

umbrella field An array of close catchers behind the batsman.

umpire One of two officials who make decisions in match play. One stands at the bowler’s end, the other at right angles to the batsman. Usually they alternate ends, but if one umpire is thought superior to the other he may stand at the bowler’s end throughout, where he has more decisions to make.

Daniel Vettori New Zealand’s contemporary slow left arm bowler.

walk Admission by a chivalrous batsman, on appeal for a close catch, that he hit the ball. He walks off the field without waiting for the umpire’s decision. Once commonplace, now rare since cricket has become so commercialized.

whip to leg A skilful but dangerous shot by a batsman.

whites The white clothing still in general use by cricketers.

wide A ball too wide for the batsman to hit. Called by the umpire, it results in at least one extra run.

wicket A confusing multiple-use expression which may mean 1) the playing surface, 2) the stumps at either end of the pitch or 3) dismissal of a batsman.

wicketkeeper Fielder behind the batsman’s stumps, who aims to achieve close catches, stumpings and run outs (qqvv). A specialist position, requiring skill, anticipation and athleticism. Unlike all the other fielders he is protected by pads on his legs, a box (qv), thick gloves and sometimes a helmet when he stands right behind the stumps.

yorker A ball aimed to land right on the batsman’s feet.

zamboni… zooter… zombie Invented names for balls which spin mysteriously. The zooter was coined by a great Australian spin bowler, Shane Warne, to alarm opponents. Zamboni and zombie are invented by Cal, for similar reasons.

Fielding positions which might have been mentioned

Close, behind batsman: slips, gully, leg-slip, leg-gully, backward short leg
Close, in front of batsman: forward short leg, silly mid on, silly mid off, silly point All these are aggressive fielders, positioned for close catches.

Infield, behind batsman: short fine leg, short third man, fly slip, backward point
Infield, in front of batsman: square leg, mid wicket, mid on, mid off, extra cover, cover point. All aiming to prevent single runs being scored and catch mishits.

Outfield: (deep) fine leg, deep (backward) square leg, deep mid wicket, long on, long off, deep extra cover, sweeper, deep backward point, third man. All aiming to prevent boundary fours and catch giant mishits.

See also

Note again that fielding captain can (with a few restrictions) place the nine fielders who are not bowling or keeping wicket in any of the positions on the diagram.

11. April 2012 by rkh
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