Saturday, 28 June 2008

Cricket and Baseball

Since my occasional cricket comments may cause confusion, I've decided on an explanation through the medium of Baseball. If the likes of Ed Smith and Rob Eastaway can manage to compare cricket and baseball, so can I, even if it is mostly because it seems easier than a proper explanation of the rules. Anyone wanting that should try Eastaway's wonderful What Is A Googly? which also has the advantage of being both very funny and beautifully illustrated. So 11 random differences between the sports, one for each member of a cricket team. Unless it's a village team, of course, in which case someone might have gotten lost on the way to the match, or forgotten to turn their alarm clock on, or the captain might only have been able to find ten willing players, and that's with his second cousin who's never played before but looks like he might be able to hit the ball a long way. There's the abiding story of one local captain who used to go down to Heathrow, look for flights of South Africans or Australians, and hold up a sign asking if anyone felt like playing for his team that day.

  1. Cricketers run in straight lines when they're batting, baseball players round a big diamond thingie. The distance is apparently roughly the same as the distance to first base. While whoever hit the ball is running hell for leather towards the point where the bowler bowls, one of his teammates is running quite fast in the other direction, since they both need to make it to the opposite end to score a run. Curiously, collisions somewhere in the middle are actually quite rare (Though I once ruined a pair of glasses doing just that).
  2. Cricketers don't have to run if they hit the ball, meaning that purely defensive shots are an option. They're also able to keep going once they've scored, so they can just rack up runs. Of course, if they're very keen on the defensive shots, this might not happen very quickly. As exhibit A we have Chris Tavare, ex-England player, who once laboured more than seven hours over a hundred in a Test Match. When you consider that Adam Gilchrist managed the same thing in 47 deliveries, that's scarily slow.
  3. Baseball matches come in essentially the one length, while cricket comes in all sorts. The official formats include Twenty20, which is twenty 'overs' of 6 legitimate deliveries each per side, 40-40 (guess), 50 over one day cricket, four day county cricket and the almighty Test Match. Test matches last until each side has been got out twice, or five days, whichever is shorter. Anyone used to baseball length games should watch twenty20, or Bangladesh playing Test Cricket against Australia.
  4. Baseball is played in just one direction, while in cricket, alternate overs are bowled from opposite ends of the pitch with a new bowler, allowing the spectators to see more than one person batting or bowling, the effect of the natural conditions to even out, and the fielders to get horribly lost as they attempt to remember where their favourite fielding position would be the other way round.
  5. Baseball pitchers get to throw the ball, while cricket's bowlers must avoid straightening their arm. On the other hand, they are allowed to take a run up, often while pulling menacing faces in the case of the quicker bowlers.
  6. While the speeds of the quickest bowlers are about the same as those of a good baseball pitcher, the fact that the ball bounces on the ground before reaching the point where some idiot takes a huge swing at it means that very slow bowlers can also get rewards. Slow balls grip more on the surface when spun, and so move more than if bowled quicker.
  7. Because cricket allows for scoring all round the wicket, you'll often find that at the start of a Test Match there will be more fielders behind the wicket than in front of it. In baseball, of course, any ball going there would be out of bounds. Of course, in village cricket, no one actually expects to catch the ball as part of the slip cordon. It's just there because your opening bowler insists on looking professional, or because one or more team members can't move above walking pace these days.
  8. They won't let cricket players wear catching gloves, which means I haven't taken a catch in over two years.
  9. Thanks to the defensive shots, cricket thinks it's acceptable to put fielders in positions that would get them killed on a baseball pitch. Many's the time I've fielded just a couple of yards away from the bat. Curiously, it's often come just after I've annoyed the bowler in some way.
  10. A baseball player gets to miss three in the strike zone before being out, and will probably get another go later. If, in cricket, the ball hits the three sticky things (the stumps) hard enough to dislodge the two bits of wood balanced on them (the bails) then that's my day over with as far as batting goes. And it does happen such a lot. Other ways of getting out include being Caught, being Leg Before Wicket (which I'm not even going to try explaining here), being Run Out if the ball gets to the other end before you do and knocks the bails off, being Stumped if you wander out from behind the line of the 'crease' and the wicket keeper takes the bails off with the ball, and a host of technical ones. My favourite of these is Obstruction of the Field. I just like the idea that you can be out for shouting or pulling faces to distract the fielders as they're trying to catch you.
  11. Baseball stops for a nice stretch in the 7th innings. Cricket stops for tea.


Andi said...

Lovely . . . I'm starting to get it again. Thank you, thank you.

And a game that takes days, that sounds so delightful. I wish we Americans could slow down as such.

stu said...

It can take days, or about an hour, depending on how everyone feels. Last year at the Driffield 6 a side tournament they managed to squeeze in about a dozen matches before it rained hard enough to flood the ground.

Stephanie said...

That was both helpful and funny - an excellent combination. Though I still feel fuzzy about the details, your love of cricket has inspired me to try to figure it out if I can.

On Saturday night, I was at a Dodger baseball game where the losing pitcher had thrown a no-hitter, a very rare thing indeed. The single winning run had come on an error. Apparently that's only happened five other times in Major League history. Go Dodgers for eking out a win!

stu said...

I think Ed Smith (Kent, Middlesex & England for a bit + really quite clever) eventually decided that pitching in baseball is psychologically more like batting in cricket. You're expected to do better ball to ball, but any mistake is catastrophic.

Lisa Damian said...

I drove by a sports field yesterday where there was a very formal game of cricket being played, in the middle of the American Midwest.

stu said...

Yes, you're actually an ICC Associate Member country, strictly speaking. What that means is that the USA, like Canada, Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya and a lot of other countries, is actually on the cricket tier just below the test playing nations. Between that and the effects of the global 20twenty expansion, there's apparently quite a lot of support there.

Heather said...

I've recently joined a softball team (similar to baseball) and one of my team mates plays cricket. Well he had a hit at the last game and instead of running to first he ran to the pitching mound and back again - he claimed he got excited and confused and thought he was playing cricket.

stu said...

Surely it's not that hard to tell the difference. No one's bowling five and a half ounces of hard cork and leather at your head, for a start. Actually, put like that, this sounds like a good moment for me to take up softball.