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The rules of cricket

All you ever needed to know about cricket - but were afraid to ask!

The basics:
Cricket is played between two teams: each team has 11 players.
A Test Match is scheduled to be played over five days but it often finishes quicker than that. There are usually five test matches in a 'series' (but not always). Throughout each Test Match each team of 11 players gets to field and to bat twice.
A team has won a series if they win more test matches than the other. A series can also be drawn - more of that in a minute.
Each day's play lasts for six hours (weather permitting). Test matches are usually played from a Thursday through to a Monday.
If the weather is bad, then after the end of the five days, the match will be called a draw - no matter which team was winning. A draw will also be called after the end of the five days if the team bowling still has some of their ten players left to bat.
This is where strategy comes in as the team who is batting can decide to 'declare' at any time - even with players left. By declaring this means that the other team has to start batting.

What's the aim?
Sides take turns to bat in successive innings and attempt to score runs, while the opposing side fields and attempts to bring an end to the batting team's innings. After each team has batted an equal number of innings (either one or two, depending on conditions chosen before the game), the team with the most runs wins.
Which team goes first is determined by the toss of a coin, the captain of the team that wins the toss decides to either bat or field first.

How does it start?
All the 11 players on the side that's fielding take up their positions and the first two batsmen on the opposite side go out to bat. The other players wait off the field for their turn.
The aim of the side fielding is to stop runs being scored and to get the batsmen out (more of that later). The fielders will place themselves in various positions on the pitch (of which they're too many to go into in detail here). The side that scores the most runs, wins!

Take your positions!
The first two batsmen take their positions in front of the wooden wickets and the bowler then 'bowls' to the batsmen standing furthest away.
The other batsman stands still, getting ready to run if his partner manages to hit the ball.
If the batsman misses, then the wicket-keeper, standing behind him, will catch the ball and return it to the bowler.

If the batsman manages to hit it, then he and his partner will start running between the two wooden wickets until the ball is caught by one of the fielders and returned to the bowler.

Each player chosen to bowl must bowl one over at a time. An over is six consecutive balls bowled by one bowler. After an over is completed, the bowler retires his role as bowler and moves to a fielding position. A different member of the fielding side, chosen by the captain, becomes the bowler for the next over.
Consecutive overs are bowled from opposite ends of the pitch. The batsmen do not change ends, so the roles of striker and non-striker swap after each over. Any member of the fielding team may bowl, so long as no bowler delivers two consecutive overs. Once a bowler begins an over, he must complete it, unless injured or suspended during the over.

If a batsman gets 'out' then he leaves the field immediately and another one replaces him. All 11 players must bat. The order that they come on is decided by the captain and can be changed at any time, for tactical or practical reasons. Once 10 of the 11 players are out then that completes one innings.

In and Out:
Batsmen can get 'out' in a number of ways (there are 10 different ways to be exact!). The most common are they can get 'caught' - which means that one of the players fielding catches the ball or 'bowled' - which means that the batsmen fails to hit the ball and the ball hits the wooden wicket behind him and breaks. (If it fails to break them he's not out.)

Cricket matches are officiated over by umpires - who's decision is final. There are two umpires for every game of cricket. If a decision is in doubt though, the umpire must rule in favour of the batsman.

(With thanks to Terry C!)
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LONDON - SEPTEMBER 13:  Cricket fans celebrate as the England Cricket team enter Trafalgar Square as part of the Ashes victory celebration, September 13, 2005 in London, England.  (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
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