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What is the first thing that comes to an American’s mind when hearing the word cricket? Probably insects or maybe awkward silences. Overseas, the first thought is usually of a sport that is very similar to America’s pastime.
Cricket was invented long before baseball was even a thought. Cricket’s exact date of origin is mostly unknown, but it has been traced back to the 16th century in England. A version of baseball is believed to have begun in the 18th century before it was popularized in the 1840’s during the Civil War era.
Here is a more in depth look at the history of the two sports and some differences and similarities between the two.
The History of Cricket
According to historic-uk.com, the name of the sport is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word cricc which means a shepherd’s staff. On its website, Ben Johnson says, “It is thought that the first players were English shepherds, who used their ‘criccs’ as bats and the wicket gate of the sheep pens as a target for the bowlers or pitchers.”
The game started as a pastime on the farm and at the schoolyard. The rules of the game became formalized sometime in the mid to late 1700s. The Marylebone Cricket Club (also known as the MCC) became the official authority on the rules of the game in 1797. The first set of Cricket rules can actually be traced back to 1747 as they were printed on a handkerchief according to Normal Miller of the UK’s The Telegraph. Those rules can be found in the MCC Museum in London.
After the accreditation of the rules by the MCC, fans began to see the game as a great opportunity to gamble. In the early 18th century, the sport saw a spike in popularity thanks to the ability to wager large amounts of money on the contests.
The History of Baseball
To whom the invention of our great American sport should be credited has been re-evaluated in recent years. Abner Doubleday, a Civil War hero who served as a Major General in the Battle of Gettysburg, was originally given the title of the inventor of baseball, and it was believed that Cooperstown was the location of its origin. According to baseballhall.org, we have recently learned otherwise.
The game of baseball had already been invented in the 1840s when Civil War soldiers from both the Confederacy and the Union used it as entertainment during their downtime. After the war was over, the soldiers took the game back to their homes. It is known as a game that helped unify a divided country in the post-war era.
Like Cricket, the very first baseball game can’t necessarily be credited to a specific date. “The Real Story Behind Baseball” was told on NPR’s radio show Fresh Air. They cited different parts of the country each having their own versions of the game that were played on streets and in backyards in the 18th century. Philadelphia, Massachusetts, and New York all had their own version of baseball with the New York version, the one that had first introduced the concept of foul territory and baselines, believed to be the one that gained popularity throughout the country.
Similarities and Differences Between Cricket and Baseball
Many of us in the US see baseball as the original bat and ball sport. Now knowing that cricket was invented centuries before baseball leads us to reasonably assume that some aspects of cricket were borrowed and adapted to create the game we know today as baseball.
- Players on Defense – Cricket is played with 11 players in the field. Baseball is played with nine. In both games, there is a player designated to throw the ball to the batter on the opposing team in an attempt to get them out. In cricket, this player is called the bowler. In baseball, he is called the pitcher.
- Safe Spaces – In cricket, a player is safe from being out when he reaches the other end of the pitch. There are essentially two safe spaces in cricket: each end of the pitch (a long strip in the cent of the field). In baseball, these safe spaces are known as bases, and there are four of them: first, second, and third base and home plate.
- Innings and Outs – Both games consist of innings which are determined by when both teams get a chance to hit and play defense. However, in cricket, the defense must get ten batsmen out to end the inning where baseball only requires three.
The outs in cricket can be recorded by hitting the wickets with a bowled ball, hitting the wickets with the ball before the batsman reaches one end of the pitch, and hitting the batsman’s leg with the ball in front of the wickets. No possession of the ball by a defender is necessary. This is much different than baseball where in order to tag a runner out before he reaches a base, the fielder must have possession of the ball. In both sports, a batted ball that is caught in the air is considered an out.
- Scoring – In both games, points are called runs. In cricket, batsmen run back and forth from one end of the pitch to the other. One run is scored by running one full length of the pitch. In baseball, players run around the infield to each base with home plate being their ultimate goal. A run is calculated every time a player crosses home plate.
- Home Runs – Both games have their own version of baseball’s home run. In cricket, it is called a SIX. This is because a ball that reaches the boundary (the equivalent to baseball’s outfield wall) in the air is worth six runs. In baseball, the ball must go over the wall in the outfield, and the number of runs credited to the hitting team depends on the number of runners on base (including the hitter). In cricket, the batting team also earns runs by batted balls that reach the boundary on the ground. This would earn them four runs automatically.
- Foul Territory – One of the most well-known differences between the two games is foul territory. In baseball, there are lines along the first and third base sides of the field in front of home plate that serve as the foul lines. Any ball hit outside of the boundary is a foul ball and cannot be played by the defense. In cricket, no such foul boundaries exist, and players are even allowed to hit the ball behind them.
- Winning – In both games, the team that scores the most runs is declared the winner.
These are just some comparisons and contrasts between some of the more basic rules of each sport, but it is clear to see that both have essentially the same premise. For more detailed information about cricket, its rules, and the necessary skills needed to succeed in the game, you can visit the Australian Sports Camps website for videos, articles, and camp information. This section of the website highlights some rules and skill sets for young cricket hopefuls.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a cricket match last?
Anywhere from an hour and a half up to five-eight hour days. It all depends on what type of match it is. The longest match ever recorded lasted 12 days in 1939. The match was a “timeless” match between South Africa and England with South Africa coming out on top. Believe it or not, the match ended early as the England team did not want to miss their ship home.
What is the distance of the pitch in cricket?
The pitch is a long strip in the center of the field that measures 66 feet long and 10 feet wide. Compare this to the bases in baseball that are 90 feet apart (at the highest levels) with no real distinction for how wide the baselines are.
How fast can bowlers bowl the ball in cricket?
The best bowlers bowl the ball between 95-100 miles per hour. This is similar to the elite pitchers in baseball. The fastest bowl ever recorded in cricket is 100.2 miles per hour. The fastest pitch ever recorded in the MLB is 105 miles per hour.
Is there a professional cricket league?
Major League Cricket (MLC) is an American professional cricket league that is in development to begin play in 2022. There are many other established professional leagues overseas with the Indian Premier League (IPL) being considered the top league by most.
While baseball may be more popular here in America, cricket has been around longer. Since the invention of both sports cannot be traced back to a specific person on a specific day, it is difficult to confirm whether or not cricket was the inspiration for whoever came up with the idea behind America’s pastime. We can, however, assume that our beloved sport is loosely based on cricket due to many of the similarities between the two.
The next time you watch a cricket match, understand that you are not just watching a foreign sport. You are likely watching the sport that may have influenced the American pastime that we know and love today.
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