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Most longtime fans of baseball know that the game was derived from long-established sports played in a similar fashion with a ball and some form of a large stick ~ and a person throwing the ball to another person holding the stick, like cricket. How are baseball and cricket different?
The main difference between cricket and baseball is the positioning of the field. The focus of a cricket game is in the middle of an oval-shaped playing field, whereas most action in a baseball game starts from a spot more toward one end of that rounded field.
Using the universal symbol for peace (three lines inside a circle) as a starting point, consider:
- Cricket’s main action, the bowling of the ball to the batsmen, and running between wickets, would occur on the vertical line, through the center of the circle. This thin rectangular area is called the pitch.
- Baseball’s primary action, the pitching of the baseball to the hitter, and running the bases, would occur inside what are the bottom pie-shaped slices of a peace symbol. This location would be known as the infield, with home plate and batter’s boxes located at the point of the slices.
Both games generally are played on a field that overall is circular in some form. After that, consider where the player holding the stick is located. If that location is near the center of the circle or oval, it’s cricket; if that stick-holder is more near the bottom (or 1 edge) of the circle, it’s baseball.
Got it? Actually, there are many similarities between both games, but let us start by explaining what a fan of either sport would notice if they closely watched a match of the opposite game, e.g. a cricket fan watching a baseball game, or vice-versa.
In order, this article goes over the following elements that are different in cricket compared with baseball:
- Fields ~ cricket fields have no white lines
- Bases ~ cricket has no little square bases, but does have 2 creases that kind of serve as “bases”
- Number of players ~ 11 vs. 9
- Bats ~ cylindrical barrels vs. racquet-like flat heads
- Balls ~ straight or curved seam
- Gloves. Cricket defensive players don’t get the webbing advantage
- Foul territory ~ none in cricket!
- Putouts ~ rather similar but not quite the same
- Innings ~ 1 or 2 vs. 9
- Scoring ~ cricket scores often reach triple digits!
- Pitches ~ bend the elbow, or not
- Home runs ~ different scores for different games
- Duration ~ hours compared with days
Perhaps the first things a cricket fan would notice on a baseball field is the white chalk lines, and all the dirt.
Cricket is played on a large oval of grass, with a strip in the center hard-packed as the pitch. There are no lines, and the only border is a rope encircling the playing area serving to denote out of bounds.
In baseball they paint the field first with 2 white lines from the very back point of home plate, to extend outward to create a 90-degree angle. Those lines would continue to infinity, or in the case where there is an outfield fence, to the point in which the line intersected that fence. (The foul poles).
After those foul lines are painted, in white with chalk or paint, 2 boxes on either side of home plate are drawn representing the batter’s box, or the area in which hitters must begin their play.
Those are really the only white lines necessary for a baseball field, although many add brackets aside 1st and 3rd base to delineate where base coaches should stand. Some also would create a box extending from the bottom of both batter’s boxes, to create a catcher’s box.
Fastpitch softball is played basically on a baseball field, except for a circle is drawn around the pitcher’s plate, most commonly called the rubber.
Probably the first thing a baseball fan would notice upon inspecting a cricket oval is the lack of bases. That is, those diamonds on the ground in the corners of the infield, usually made of a rubber material and colored white.
A cricket oval has only 2 of what might be considered bases to run to and from, which are actually known as creases. The creases are on either end of the pitch in the center of that oval.
In cricket, 2 runners at the same time ~ the batsman and non-batsman ~ run back and forth between the 2 creases to score “runs” after a ball is struck by the stick. (The creases are 22 yards apart, on either end of the narrow pitch).
In baseball there is the hitter, who turns into a base runner should he hit the ball with the stick and reach a base safely, that is, to not be put out. A runner must touch all 4 bases in order to score 1 run.
As you can see, a lot more runs are scored in cricket than in baseball.
So aside from the lack of white lines drawn on the field, a baseball fan would notice a lack of bases in the infield of a baseball field.
A big difference between the 2 games is in baseball players run around (bases) to score, while in cricket runs are scored by players running between from 1 point (crease) to the other.
Answer: 11 and 9, respectively.
Adult cricket matches are played between 2 teams of 11 players each, while baseball is played between squads of 9 each on the field. That is not counting other players who may be substituted into one of the 9 or 11 positions on the field.
If you look closely at the names of positions in the sports you will notice some similarities, which we will note below. However, mostly, the names of positions in cricket and baseball are quite different.
Other Significant Differences Between Baseball and Cricket
- Bat shape. The bat in baseball resembles a club, with a thin handle and tube-shaped barrel. Cricket bats feature a handle like a baseball bat, but the hitting surface is flat, like that of a tennis racquet. However, cricket bat heads are rectangular, not round like racquets.
- Balls. Both are very hard spheres, but a cricket ball weighs a little more. They both are encased in leather, but stitched differently. Cricket balls are made of 2 hemispheres of hide sewed together, so there is one long seam all the way around like an equator. Baseballs are covered by 2 peanut-shape strips of hide consisting of 2 winding seams.
- Gloves. Baseball players are known for their well-laced mitts with webbing specially designed to trap and hold balls. Cricket defenders wear just thick gloves with protective padding.
- Foul territory. Most baseball action occurs in fair territory between the foul lines. There is no foul territory in cricket; in fact, some defensive players begin action behind the batsman. What are called foul balls in baseball are live balls in cricket, a game where a ball hit in any direction is in the field of play.
- Plate vs. Wickets. The upside-down irregular pentagon that is the shape of home plate is a lasting symbol of the game, and is featured as part of numerous team logos at every level of baseball. The 3 sticks at either end of the pitch in cricket are equally representative of that game.
- Putouts. Catching balls on the fly and tagging runners with the ball while they are off their base or crease result in putouts in both games. However in cricket, a runner could be put out if a wicket in the crease in which he is running toward is knocked down by a thrown ball.
- Innings. In baseball, 3 outs ends an inning, and there are 9 innings in a regular game. In cricket, every player bats per inning, and there are only 1 or 2 innings per game.
- Scoring. In baseball scores are kept simply by how many runs each team has scored, e.g. how many runners have touched home plate, so a score would look like 3-2. Cricket scores will indicate how many runs the batsmen have scored, along with how many wickets the defensive team has knocked down, e.g. 101-3.
- Pitches. Cricket bowlers must keep the elbow locked during the throw, so it is underhanded or maybe side-armed toward the batsman. Baseball pitchers bend the elbow and snap the wrist high overhand.
- Home runs. In baseball, a ball struck over the outfield fence results in 1 to 4 runs, depending on how many runners were on base at the time. In cricket, a ball that is struck that touches the grass before rolling past the rope and out of play awards 4 runs to that team; while hitting a cricket ball on the fly past the rope is worth an automatic 6 runs.
Some historians think baseball is derived from cricket, while others think cricket was born from an adaptation of baseball. Both may be correct.
What is generally accepted is that both sports originated in the southern half of England, with cricket developing more on the east side, near London, while west-siders were more apt to play baseball.
Both sports were brought to the United States by immigrants. How each developed in America is different.
Cricket was America’s Game Until 1860s
Cricket was the dominant bat-and-ball game in the United States until the Civil War, at which time baseball play surpassed the number of cricket matches. Major League Baseball was established in 1876. Professional cricket first happened with a match between England at Australia, and soon thereafter the Test of cricket began, involving other nations.
(Believe it or not, Major League Cricket is scheduled to start play in 2023).
In England, cricket can be traced back at least to the 1500s, while some might argue the 1300s, starting as a child’s game with adults joining in the 1600s and 1700s. Baseball dates back as far as the 1600s, per evidence found to date.
While the games have enough similarities to make a person believe one came from the other, most historians agree that baseball is derived more from the English child’s game of rounders ~ which actually includes 9 players and 4 bases.
The order in which rules were formalized in writing goes in this order: rounders, baseball, cricket.
It’s not easy to describe how it feels to play cricket compared with baseball, but let’s give it a try.
First off, neither involves a clock, like most major sports that grew to prominence in the 20th century (e.g. soccer, American football, basketball, and hockey). The stick-and-ball games begin with the number of innings to be played, and the game ends when the game ends.
This may be part of why both games have kind of a lazy, leisurely rhythm of play. There is a small gap of time in between every pitch or bowl, at which defenders can stare at the grass, yell to teammates, or do other things not related to play.
To Run or Not to Run
The big thing to remember in cricket is one does not have to leave the crease when the ball is struck. Previous batsmen who are now non-batsmen (e.g. runners) can accumulate along the crease, and choose when to attempt to run to the other end of the crease to score a run.
This can make for exciting plays where a ball is well struck and a group of runners race back and forth to score as many runs as possible during a single play.
Being a runner in cricket is nothing like being a runner in baseball. In cricket, there are no small bases to be anchored to, as runners are free to roam anywhere behind the wicket behind their batsman. Unlike in baseball, they are not forced to run forward by a trailing runner.
Baseball base running is more challenging because there are so many more ways to be put out while off bases. One can be tagged, or forced out, and the tags resulting from player-to-player throws can be precise and scary fast.
There are not a lot of player-to-player transfers of the ball in cricket. There are no double-plays to be turned, although cricket fielders stationed far from the pitch can make long accurate throws to try to knock down a wicket to put out a runner.
Wickets are to be Protected
Those wickets are a key difference in playing the game. Offensively in cricket, the first objective is to protect the wickets, that is, do not let the bowler knock them down by missing the bowl entirely. Batsmen are more defensive in nature, swatting balls off to the side, sometimes over and over because they are not required to run with every struck ball.
Cricket batsmen choose when to attempt to reach the other side of the crease to score a run. This is totally different from baseball, where, when a batter hits a fair ball, the batter must run to 1st base.
So when playing, the player holding the stick in cricket, the batsman, usually takes a more defensive approach to hitting. Batsman skills can be pretty savvy, where batsmen have a game plan on how to fend off bowls from certain bowlers, and of course adjust strategies based on where the runners are located at the time ~ just like in baseball.
It’s just that in baseball instead of wickets standing upright in the ground, they are protecting an invisible vertical rectangle called a strike zone, and in reality, they are not really “protecting” it. Two balls can fly through the zone safely, without the batter being put out; but a third results in a strikeout, a type of putout.
So letting a single pitch go past is much more common in baseball. In cricket, the score indicates how many wickets a team has knocked down, so single at bats can quickly affect the score. Additionally, cricket batsmen bat until they are put out, so protecting those wickets is imperative.
The longer batsmen keep swinging the stick, the more runs his team is bound to score.
One thing that’s hard to get used to playing cricket is remaining aware when balls are ticked off to the side, or backward. What in baseball are foul-offs or foul balls, in cricket there are players stationed back there and they are free to catch those balls or grab a bounder and throw at the wickets.
So cricket is all-encircling, with players throughout the large oval. Baseball is somewhat easier to participate in because its field basically slices off three-quarters of the oval. At a stadium look down at the field and in general, it’s a circular shape (albeit with some corners, nooks or crannies).
Look at the chalked field, and notice it looks like 1 slice out of a circular pie cut into 4 slices. So basically only that 1 slice is in play, while 3 others are not.
That’s not true in cricket, which is played on an imaginary pie with no cuts or slices. The whole pie is live, up to the roped border around the field.
Above, we mentioned that both games share some terminology, and one we want to point out is the shortstop position in baseball.
The shortstop position as it exists today ~ an infielder who plays between 2nd and 3rd base, usually leaning more toward 2nd ~ did not exist. Three infielders assumed their positions atop or very close to their bases.
After a few years of play, teams realized that many, many ground balls get struck to roll between 2nd and 3rd base, or between 2 defenders for base hits. So slowly, teams inserted a 4th infielder.
Naming the 2nd-baseman was easy, since that player already was standing on that base. As the game progressed, he was moved to begin play more between 1st and 2nd base, to better protect that hole.
But the new position mirroring it on the other side of the keystone, what would they call it?
Well if you look at cricket positions, on the field area known as the Close Catching Infield, there is a position called short leg, which starts play near the batsman; and the long stop, who is like the catcher in baseball but way, way further behind the batter, basically there to stop bowled balls from going out of bounds.
The Foul Balls of Cricket and Baseball
Somehow those position names were morphed into the word shortstop. Take a close look at cricket positions and terminology, and you’ll discover a lot of baseball in there. Even though the games look quite different, they share many similarities.
Finally, baseball games almost always end the same day, after hours of play. Cricket games, however, are known to last a lot longer, to take up entire days. In fact, at the highest level of play, cricket contests can last 5 days!