What is a wicket?

Wicket is probably one of the few cricket terms you've heard of. Most of my non-cricket-watching friends know of the term "sticky wicket." But what does "wicket" mean? The answer isn't simple because wicket doesn't mean just one thing.

A wicket has three separate definitions in cricket.

The most important definition is that of an "out" like in baseball, and these outs mostly happen in the same ways as in baseball. In all cricket forms, each team has 10 wickets to work with, meaning all but one player will get out when the wickets are used up (which may not happen within an innings in limited-overs cricket). Once a team's 10 wickets are up (like three outs in baseball) that team's innings are up. Each team gets one innings in T20 and ODI cricket and two in Test cricket.

A Wicket


Anatomy of a wicket.

The term "wicket" then has two physical definitions, one of which is connected to the idea of wickets as outs.

The first physical definition is a structure: the combination of stumps and bails. In this sense, there are two wickets on a field, one at each end of a pitch for each of the two batsmen. Batsmen run between these wickets, and the "creases" surrounding them, to score runs. A batsman — whether batting or running — is "defending his wicket." Once the bails (two small pieces of wood) are knocked from the stumps — which can be done multiple ways; see The Basics: Wickets — it means a batsman is out, or his wicket (in the "out" sense) is up. Because the bails are simply resting on top of the stumps, knocking them off is not physically hard to do.

"Wicket" may also be used to describe the pitch, the manicured, usually packed-clay area of the field where the batsmen run and the bowler bowls. This is where terms like "sticky wicket" come from — a sticky wicket is a pitch that is wet and has no bounce.

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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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