Like all sports whose origins are ancient, cricket has undergone many changes over the centuries. Thus, wickets (goals) have not always existed. In the past, people were content to dig two holes in the lawn and to draw a line 1.30 m apart in front of each hole. At the beginning of the 18th century, wickets were introduced (complex construction made up of three stakes on which are placed, in balance, two small bars). The first precise rules of the game were codified in 1744.
The cricket ground is a large lawn measuring 150m by 170m and has two wickets. A referee stands near each of them. A wicket, whose total width is 23 cm, consists of three stakes driven into the ground, the height of which must not exceed 71 cm. Wooden rods are placed on the stakes, witnesses whose fall indicates that the counter has been hit. The counters, planted one opposite the other, are separated by a distance of 20 m; this zone constitutes the play space itself. 1.30 m in front of each wicket, and parallel to it, is a line marking the limit of what is called the “batsman’s pitch”.
The game’s rules
The game of cricket has two innings during which all the players of the two teams (composed of 11 members) must succeed each other as batsman in defense of the wickets. The designated batsman is the only one of his team on the field, surrounded by the players of the opposing team who must strive to catch the ball that the batsman has hit on the fly.
The role of the pitcher
It is the pitcher (bowler) who attacks by sending a ball to the wicket defended by the batsman. The ball, very hard, is made of cork and rope covered with red leather. It weighs 172 g and measures 23 cm in circumference (the equivalent of a tennis ball). The pitcher’s objective is to destroy the wicket defended by the batsman who is in front of him. He can take all the momentum necessary before throwing the ball, as long as he stays within the limits of what is called the “thrower’s line”. Two pitchers operate in each game, each in front of a wicket. When six balls have been thrown, the second pitcher tackles the batsman from the opposite wicket, and all players on the field change position.
The role of the drummer
The drummers (batsmen) use, for the defense of the wickets, a bat generally in willow and whose total length does not exceed 97 cm. The batsman must hit the ball hard enough, either to send it out of bounds (which is then worth 6 points to his team), or to send it a sufficient distance so that he has time to run to his partner’s wicket (one point per run for the benefit of his team). When the batsman leaves his wicket to run to the one opposite, his partner runs himself to the wicket left vacant. When the batsman is eliminated, it is his partner at the opposite wicket who replaces him, and so on until the eleven players of the team whose tour it is have succeeded each other on the field. It is then up to the opposing team to defend the wickets.
There are excellent batsmen who can keep a team in check for hours. Any game that is not finished is considered a draw (unless one of the two sides gives up during the game). However, when a team has a substantial points lead, its captain may end the round by declaring his side’s tour over. This is called the “declaration”, which has the effect of speeding up the flow of the game.
Due to the special rules of cricket, it often happens that a single game lasts several days. A limit is assigned to the time allotted daily to the game, and the game is resumed the next day, at the point where it was left off. In international fixtures, matches last five to six days. Competitions between counties are usually played over two or three days.
The World Cricket Championship final was held on March 23, 2003 in Johannesburg. Australia crushed India by 125 “runs” and thus retains its crown of world champion acquired in 1999 in England.