A Baseball Fan's Attempts to Understand Cricket

Theo GeromeCorrespondent IIIJuly 13, 2009

Well, I was over in Europe for two weeks (I just got back last week), and I was pretty much without baseball coverage for that time.

I say pretty much because, while my hotel in Paris charged you to use their computer, my hotel in London did not, so I used it occasionally. It was usually being used, but I got some time. I went to London first though. I guess Paris did have ESPN North America, but the scroll at the bottom was mistimed, so that you would only see the same scores between commercials.  

However, I did try watching cricket, thinking it would be sort of similar to baseball. I mean, they both have people hitting stuff with a bat. Both have the batter run while fielders try to...well, field.

Unfortunately, the similarities end about there. I was watching cricket not only without any sort of knowledge of the rules, but also with an assumption they would be similar to baseball.

The first guy came up and...the pitcher bounced the ball home. And it looked like he threw it like a shot put. My first reaction was that was a horrible pitch.

Not that the batter cared. He swung and it went foul. Not that he cared about that, either. Most of the other team didn’t seem to mind. So they didn’t have foul balls.

He took off around the bases...err...to the wicket? There’s only one? Okay, then. However, the commentators started mentioning how many wickets each hit would be before the fielders retrieved it. I figured they were guessing, but with the other differences, I wasn’t so sure.

The next major difference I noticed was that on “infield” hits, the fielders tried to hit the runner(s) with a throw. Okay, simple enough. Until they got to three outs.

It took forever, and the batting team probably blew open the score. There was even what I considered a ground-rule double. Except there’s only one wicket. Does that make it a home run?

In any case, through a combination of catches and...actually, that’s it. The first attempt to peg someone I had seen came from the pitcher, and he missed badly. Anyway, the fielding team finally got three outs—and nobody switched.

Okay, I figured, they have more than three outs an inning. Fair enough. Four outs, maybe? No, they got that and didn’t switch. Five? Nope.

Meanwhile, it seemed like the home team was racking up runs. It would be hard to catch up in three outs. No, wait, they had...multiple outs. I was really starting to confuse myself thinking all of this through.

I guess I was watching a huge tournament. I heard a few people talking about the ashes, including a highly amusing round of trash-talking of all sports between a British tour bus guide and a visiting Australian couple. I remember reading about the ashes in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Unlike the book, though, so far, no giant killer robots had come down to steal the trophy, which would have made it that much more interesting.

Anyway, finally, the fielding team reached the required number of outs to switch. From what it seemed like to me, they had to get the whole side out. So, it finally seemed like I was starting to understand the rules. And then the announcers gave the score. Or maybe it was just players' stats and the teams hadn’t switched yet. I don’t really remember.

Anyway, hearing him give the score as “124 for 17” discouraged me from looking up cricket on Wikipedia since returning. Chief of all my concerns is the fact that that score seems to make no sense mathematically.

I made up the numbers, but that was the format he gave the numbers in.

Looking back, I figure I’ve made it this long without understanding cricket, and I probably won’t see it again, so I’m good for now.