Oval vs. diamond: field layout and positions

A cricket field is like a baseball field in that both are grass fields with a clay section. In cricket this is called the pitch (also known as the wicket).

And instead of four bases (well, three bases and home plate), cricket has two wickets that act in a similar manner for the two batsmen. (A running batsman is safe when he touches a box — designated by "creases" or white lines on the pitch; see below for a diagram of creases — near the wicket.)


Wikipedia/Caitlin E. O'Conner

A baseball field compared with a cricket field.

The biggest difference between a baseball field and a cricket field is the shape. A baseball field is a lop-sided, often rounded diamond; a cricket field is a rough oval shape or sometimes a circle.

But the effect of this shape difference — diamond versus oval — is more than you think. It means a cricket field has no foul zones: A batsman is free to hit the ball anywhere, including over his shoulder (provided he can get it past the wicketkeeper; see below).

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If you're interested in the many, many, many different cricket fielding positions, check out this diagram by a Wikipedia user that shows the possibilities and their names (and some alternate names).

Cricket fielding positions as a result are also much more fluid than baseball positions. In baseball, the nine players on the fielding team have set positions with some wiggle room. But in cricket, other than the wicketkeeper (who acts like a catcher in baseball) and the bowler (like a pitcher in baseball), the positions of fielders are entirely fluid (except some limits in ODI). According to strategy, the fielders — 11, including the bowler and wicketkeeper — may move around as they wish to cover for a batsman. The positions are so fluid, in fact, that it's sometimes difficult to say what fieldsman is in which position.

With regard to the main playing area, a baseball field is still a diamond, but a cricket pitch is a long, thin rectangle. The basic difference means that while baseball players run the bases in a square (or diamond, if you prefer), cricket batsmen run back and forth.


Caitlin E. O'Conner

Anatomy of a cricket pitch.

This set up also means that a bowler will bowl toward a "striking" batsman (the one actually hitting) alongside a wicket with the nonstriking batsman (the one who is just running) standing almost beside him.

A bowler's front foot must stay behind the "popping crease" to avoid a "no ball." (Before 1980, a bowler's back foot had to be behind the "bowling crease" for the same purpose. That's why it's called a bowling crease, though the crease is now not used for bowling. The bowling crease is now used for lining up the stumps, and that's about it.) A bowler's back foot must also land inside the return crease to avoid a no ball.

The creases are also used for batsmen's "safe" zones, similar to tagging a base. When a batsman is running, he has to touch behind the popping crease — with his body or his bat; usually his bat — to be "in his ground" or safe from having his wicket taken. In effect, then, a batsman who isn't touching the pitch behind the popping crease is like a runner between bases in baseball.

The creases also determine where a wicketkeeper can stand during a delivery. A wicketkeeper must stay behind the stumps (or the bowling crease) until the ball is hit or passes the stumps.

And if you think these rules are strange, just wait until you get to batting.

About this site

If you're an American looking to understand the sport cricket (sometimes called baseball's lost twin), this is the website for you. From a fellow American who was once as confused as you are, you can learn the sport's basics, terminology, relation to baseball and a brief history.

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