Cricket, more than most sports, is full of expressions and terms designed to bewilder the newcomer (and often even the more seasoned follower). In an attempt to unravel some of the stranger terminology, we have put together a cricket glossary. If we are missing anything – and cricket commentators have an annoying habit of inventing new words and phrases.
Cricket has an extensive number of terms associated with it and it’s important to know your bails from your balls and your maiden from your nightwatchman. All-rounder, Appeal, Ashes, Bails, Batsman, Bouncer, Boundary, Bowler.
Arm Ball: A ball bowled by a slow bowler which has no spin on it and so does not turn as expected but which stays on a straight line (“goes on with the arm”).
The Ashes: Series between England and Australia are played for The Ashes.
Asking rate: The runs required per over for a team to win – mostly relevant in a one-dayer.
Ball: Red for first-class and most club cricket, white for one-day matches (and, experimentally, women once used blue balls and men orange ones). It weighs 5.5 ounces ( 5 ounces for women’s cricket and 4.75 ounces for junior cricket).
Ball Tampering: The illegal action of changing the condition of the ball by artificial means, usually scuffing the surface, picking or lifting the seam of the ball, or applying substances other than sweat or saliva.
Bat-Pad: A fielding position close to the batsman designed to catch balls which pop up off the bat, often via the batsman’s pads.
Batter: Another word for batsman, first used as long ago as 1773. Also something you fry fish in.
Beamer: A ball that does not bounce (usually accidently) and passes the batsman at or about head height. If aimed straight at the batsman by a fast bowler, this is a very dangerous delivery (and generally frowned on).
Bend your back: The term used to signify the extra effort put in by a fast bowler to obtain some assistance from a flat pitch.
Belter: A pitch which offers little help to bowlers and so heavily favours batsmen.
Bodyline (also known as leg theory): A tactic most infamously used by England in 1932-33, although one which had been around for some time before that, in which the bowler aimed at the batsman rather than the wicket with the aim of making him give a catch while attempting to defend himself. The fielding side were packed on the leg side to take catches which resulted. This is now illegal. Click here for more.
Bosie: An Australian term for a googly, now rarely used. Originated from the inventor of the delivery, BJT Bosanquet.
Bouncer: A short-pitched ball which passes the batsman at chest or head height.
Boundary: The perimeter of a cricket field, or the act of the batsman scoring a four or a six (eg “Tendulkar hammered three boundaries”).
Box: An abdominal protector worn by batsmen and wicketkeepers. It is also an old term for a fielder in the gully region.
Bump Ball: A ball which is played off the bat almost instantly into the ground and is caught by a fielder. Often this has the appearance of being a clean catch.
Bunny: Also known as Rabbit. A member of the side who cannot bat and is selected as a specialist bowler or wicketkeeper, and who almost always bats at No. 11. It can also be used to describe a player who often gets out to one bowler – “Atherton was McGrath’s bunny”.
Bunsen: A term used by commentators to describe a pitch heavily favouring slow bowlers. From Cockney rhyming slang (Bunsen Burner = turner).
Bye: A run scored when the batsman does not touch the ball with either his bat or body. First recorded in the 1770s.
Carry: Your bat an opening batsman who remains not out at the end of a completed innings (ie when all his team-mates are out).
Charge: Giving the When a batsman leaves his crease to attack the ball, usually against a slow bowler. By doing this he can convert a good-length ball into a half-volley.
Chest-on: Used to describe a bowler who delivers the ball with his chest facing the batsman, as opposed to being side on.
Chinaman: A ball bowled by a left-arm slow bowler that turns into the right-hand batsman, in effect a left-arm legspinner. Named after Puss Achong.
Chin music: Fast bowlers aiming the ball at the batsman’s head. The term originated in the Caribbean.
Chucker: Another term for a bowler who throws the ball.
Closing the face: Turning the face of the bat inwards and, in doing so, hitting the ball to the leg side.
Corridor of uncertainty: A term beloved by commentators which describes an area just outside the batsman’s off stump where he is unsure whether he has to leave or play the ball.
Cow corner: An unconventional fielding position, more commonly found in the lower reaches of the game, on the midwicket/long-on boundary. The term is thought to have originated at Dulwich College where there was the corner of a field containing livestock on that edge of the playing area. Fielders were dispatched to the “cow corner”.
Cricket Max: A shortened version of the game with unconventional scoring systems pioneered by Martin Crowe in New Zealand in the late 1990s.
Cross bat: A cross-batted shot is where the batsman holds his bat horizontally when striking the ball. Examples of cross-batted shots include hooks, pulls and cuts.
Dead ball: A ball from which no runs can be scored or wickets taken. First referred to in 1798.
Declaration: When the batting side ends their innings before all of their players are out.
Dibbly-dobbly bowlers: Bowlers who are of medium pace, and are effective in the one-day scenario in choking the runs. New Zealand had a famous quartet – Rod Latham, Gavin Larsen, Chris Harris and Nathan Astle – during the 1992 World Cup.
Dolly: An easy catch.
Doosra: A Hindi/Urdu word which means “second” or “other”, the doosra is the offspinner’s version of the googly, delivered out of the back of the hand and turning away from the right-hand batsman.
Drifter/ Floater: A delivery bowled by an offspinner which curves away from a right-hander, and then carries straight on instead of turning.
Duck: A score of 0 (also known as Blob).
Duckworth Lewis: Named after Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, two mathematicians who devised a system to help decide one-day cricket matches when rain interrupts play. Click here for more information.
Economy rate: The average number of runs a bowler concedes per over.
Extras Runs: Not scored by batsmen. There are four common extras – byes, leg byes, wides and no-balls. In Australia these are known as sundries.
Featherbed: A batsmen-friendly pitch with little life for the bowlers. Often found in Antigua.
Flipper: A variation for the legspinner that appears to be pitching short but the ball skids on quickly and often results in bowled or lbw. It is a delivery that is used sparingly.
Full toss: A ball that reaches the batsmen without bouncing. Above waist height it becomes a beamer.
Gardening: The act of the batsman repairing indentations in the pitch, made by the ball or studs, with his bat. More likely to happen when a ball has just whistled past his nose or scooted by his ankle.
Good length: The ideal length that the bowler aims for, getting the batsman in two minds as whether to play forwards or back.
Googly: The legspinner’s variation that turns into the right-hander and away from the left-hander.
Grubber: A ball that hardly bounces – see also shooter.
Half volley: A ball that is the perfect length for driving, fuller than a good length but not a full-toss.
Handled the ball: If the batsmen deliberately touches the ball with his hands he can be given out. Michael Vaughan fell victim to this in India on 2002-03 tour in Bangalore.
Hawk-Eye: A tracking technology which helps to explain the intricacies of the sport, Hawk-Eye can be helpful in judging LBWs. At the moment it is used mainly for arm-chair umpiring, although one day it may be used in an official capacity.
Heavy ball: When a delivery is quicker than it looks and hits the bat harder or higher than is expected.
Hit the ball twice: If a batsmen deliberately strikes the ball twice to gain runs he can be given out. However, the batsman can knock the ball away from his stumps with the bat.
Hit the deck: The bowler’s ability to deliver the ball from height and extract extra bounce from the pitch.
Hoick: Same as slog, but most used for on-side shots.
In-ducker: An inswinging delivery that moves into the batsman very late. Wasim Akram produced deadly versions with the older ball.
Inside out: Turning the batsman – A batsman aims to leg but the ball goes past the off and he is forced to play the ball open-chested.
Inside-out shot: A stroke where the batsman moves towards the leg side and hits a ball around leg stump into the off side.
Jaffa: A delivery that is too good for the batsman, and leaves him groping hopelessly at thin air or (as the bowler will hope) dismisses him.
King pair: Hardly worth turning up if you get one of these … out first ball for zero in both innings.
Kolpak: An EU ruling which has led to English county cricket being flooded with players ineligible for England but not classified as overseas players. Click here for a more detailed explanation.
Leading edge: When the batsman mis-hits the ball and edges it forward in the opposite direction to which he was attempting to play.
Leg-Before Wicket (LBW): One of the game’s more complex rules, but at its simplest … you cannot be out if the ball pitched outside the line of leg stump; you cannot be out if the ball hits you outside the line of off stump unless you are offering no stroke. Aside from that, if it hits you in line, the only decision the umpire has to make is whether the ball is going on to hit the stumps.
Leg-bye: When the ball deflects off the pad and the batsmen run. A shot must be offered to the ball. Leg-byes do not count against the bowler.
Leg-break/spin: When the ball pitches and turns from leg to off for a right-hander.
Leg-cutter: A ball which cuts and moves away from the batsman towards the offside (if he is a righthander).
Leg-side: The area of the pitch behind the batsman’s legs.
Leg theory: See Bodyline.
Length: Where the ball pitches down the wicket. Lengths can be generally short, full or good.
Lifter: A ball that rises unexpectedly.
Line: The line of attack the bowler employs when he is bowling.
Lollipop: A really easy ball to hit – a ‘gift’.
Long hop: A ball which pitches short, sits up and ‘begs’ to be hit.
Loop: The flight of the ball.
Maiden: An over where no runs that are attributable to the bowler are scored (byes or leg-byes may be scored in this over, though, as these don’t count against the bowler).
Manhattan: A bar graph of runs scored per over which resembles the Manhattan skyscrapers skyline.
Mankad: A term popular mainly in indoor cricket – but also fairly popular in Australia for outdoor cricket. Mankad is when the bowler brings his arm round and, instead of releasing the ball, runs out the non-striker by whipping off the bails. This type of dismissal is rare – and usually a warning is given to the batsman beforehand. Named after Vinoo Mankad, who twice dismissed the Australian Bill Brown this way.
MCC: The Marylebone Cricket Club, the spiritual home of cricket at Lord’s in St Johns Wood in London. For the greater period of cricket’s formal history, the MCC which was founded in 1787, was the autocratic arbiter in cricket matters. No law could be changed without its approval. And while the administration of the game world-wide has moved to the International Cricket Council, and to the England and Wales Cricket Board in Britain, the MCC is still regarded as the ultimate defender of the laws of the game, a type of Privy Council of cricket. For many years, English touring teams were known officially as the MCC but as the ‘great’ has ebbed away from Britain and its colonies, so the influence of the MCC has diminished. Also the initials of the Melbourne Cricket Club in Victoria.
Middle: To hit the ball from the meat of the bat, “to middle it” is to connect really well. Middle is also the centre of the field, where the bulk of the action takes place.
Military Medium: A slightly derogative term for a bowler who has no real pace.
Minefield: A difficult batting track. The pitch is in such a state of disrepair that it is almost impossible to play “proper” shots as the ball is popping up everywhere.
Nelson: The English superstition that 111 and its multiples are unlucky. The sticks resemble 111, and is loosely connected with Lord Nelson’s physical attributes. Double Nelson is 222.
Nervous nineties: The psychological pressure on the batsman knowing he is approaching a century.
Net Run Rate: A system for separating sides who finish on level points in multi-team tournaments. Click here for more details.
New ball: Can usually be taken every 80 overs. The advantage is to quick bowlers who have a shiny and bouncy ball, but conversely it can result in an increase in scoring rate as the ball comes off the bat faster.
Nick: A faint edge off the bat.
Nightwatchman: A non-batsman promoted up the order towards the end of a day’s play with the idea of shielding a recognised batsman in the final overs.
No-ball: An illegitimate delivery, usually when the bowler has overstepped on the front crease.
Nurdle: The batsman nudging the ball around and into gaps.
Obstruction: When the batsman wilfully blocks or distracts a fielder to prevent a catch being made or a run-out being effected.
Occupy the crease: When a batsman stays at the wicket but scores slowly, often with the intention of playing out for a draw.
Off-break/spin: A ball turning into the right hander- from off to leg (from left to right).
Off-cutter: An offbreak delivered at speed.
Off the mark: When the batsman scores his first run.
Off-side: The side of the pitch which is to batsman’s right (if right-handed), or left (if left-handed).
On-side: The same as the leg-side.
On the up: Making contact with the ball before it reaches the top of the bounce – hitting it on the rise. Viv Richards was a prominent exponent.
Out: There are ten possible ways of being out: bowled, caught, hit wicket, lbw, stumped, timed out, handled the ball, obstruction, hit the ball twice, and run out. To be out “retired out” is gaining in currency and popularity and counts as a dismissal, unlike “retired hurt”.
Outside edge: When the ball hits the edge of the bat which is furthest away from his body.
Outswing: When the ball swings away from the batsman and towards the slips.
Paddle: A sweep shot.
Pair: When a batsman gets a duck in both innings.
Pinch-hitters: Lower-order batsmen promoted in the line-up to try and hit up a few quick runs. Used mostly when a team is chasing a huge total in a one-dayer – the thinking being that a few quick runs will reduce the asking rate; and if the pinch-hitter gets out, the specialist batsmen are still around.
Pitch: The bounce of the ball – “it pitches on a good length”. Also, the cut strip in the centre of the field of play.
Play on: When a batsman hits the ball but it goes on to hit the stumps and he is bowled.
Plumb: When the batsman is clearly LBW, even at full speed, he is said to be plumb in front.
Powerplay: This was introduced by the ICC in 2005 to try to spruce up the middle overs of one-day internationals by enforcing the bowling side to take three blocks of overs in which they have to have extra fielders within the 30-yard circle. The first Powerplay is mandatory through the first ten overs of the innings, the second and third ones, of five overs each, can be taken at any other time. In rain-reduced matches the duration of the second and third Powerplays is reduced in proportion to the overall reduction.
Pudding: A slow, stodgy pitch which will be difficult to score quickly on.
Pull: A back-foot leg-side shot, distinct from the hook because the pull is played to a ball that hasn’t risen as high.
Return Crease Parallel: white lines pointing down the pitch, either side of the stumps. A bowler’s back foot must land inside this area or else a no-ball will be called.
Retire: To postpone or end one’s innings, either voluntarily through boredom when you’re simply too good for the opposition, or involuntarily and in agony, when a nasty fast bowler has taken his pound of flesh.
Reverse Sweep: The epitome of the type of shot you will not find in the MCC coaching manual. This stroke is played by dropping to one knee and reversing one’s hands, so that you can swing the ball from leg to off, rather than the more natural off to leg. It is a handy stroke for beating conventional fields in a one-day game, but it has its drawbacks as well – just ask Mike Gatting.
Reverse Swing: When the ball is 50 overs old and the pitch is as flat as a pancake, this phenomenon is often a bowling side’s saving grace. First mastered by the Pakistani quicks of the 1980s and 1990s, it involves sideways movement of the ball through the air that is contrary to your average everyday laws of physics. If it sounds like rocket science, that is because it is.
Rip Big turn: for a spin bowler, especially a legspinner, who can use the whole action of the wrist to impart maximum revolutions on the ball. Shane Warne, consequently, bowls a lot of “rippers”.
Ring Field: A standard fielding arrangement, with men positioned in a circle all around the bat saving the single.
Rock: Colloquial term for cricket ball.
Roll: To flatten the playing surface with a heavy rolling device. At the end of an innings, the side about to start their innings will be offered the choice of a heavy or light roller.
Roller: A heavy rolling device designed to flatten the surface of the pitch.
Rope: Used to mark the perimeter of the field. If the ball crosses or hits the rope, a boundary will be signalled.
Rough: The area of a pitch that is scuffed up and loosened by the action of a bowler running through in his follow-through. Usually, this will be situated a foot or so outside leg stump, and consequently it becomes a tasty target for spin bowlers, who can exploit the extra turn to make life a misery for the batsmen.
Run: chase Generally the fourth innings of a first-class or Test match, and the latter stages of a one-day game, when the match situation has been reduced to a set figure for victory, in a set time or maximum number of overs.
Run-rate: Of particular importance in a one-day game, this is the average number of runs scored per over, and is used as a guide to a team’s progress (see Duckworth Lewis).
Run-up: The preparatory strides taken by a bowler as they steady themselves for delivery. Also the area in which they perform said action.
Runner: A player who is called upon by a batsman who might otherwise need to retire hurt. He is required to wear the same padding and stands at square leg or the non-striker’s end to perform the duty of running between the wickets. Often the cause of endless confusion and inevitable run-outs.
Sandshoe: Crusher Colloquial term for Yorker, a full-pitched delivery that is aimed at the batsman’s toes and usually hits them aswell.
Seam: The ridge of stitching that holds the two halves of a ball together, and causes deviation off the pitch when the ball lands. Seam bowlers, as opposed to swing bowlers, rely on movement off the pitch, rather than through the air.
Shoulder arms: The description of when a batsman decides that rather than risk being dismissed from a ball he lifts the bat high above his shoulder to attempt to keep his bat and hands out of harm’s way.
Shirtfront: A flat, lifeless, soul-destroying wicket that is beloved of batsmen the world over, and loathed by bowlers of all varieties. For a prime example, see the Antigua Recreation Ground.
Sitter: The easiest, most innocuous and undroppable catch that a fielder can ever receive. To drop one of these is to invite a whole world of pain from the crowd and constant embarrassment from the giant replay screen (see dolly).
Sledging: Not the act of travelling downhill at speed on a toboggan, but the act of verbally abusing or unsettling a batsman, in an attempt to make him lose concentration and give his wicket away. Often offensive, occasionally amusing, always a topic of conversation.
Slog: Used to describe a shot which is not in the coaching book.
Slogger: Exponent of the slog.
Slog-sweep: A heave to the leg side, played like the sweep, but a lofted shot.
Slower: Ball Like naff plastic wristbands, these are the must-have accessory of the modern international bowler. The idea is to deliver a pace of significantly reduced pace, while at the same time turning your arm over at the same speed so as to deceive the batsman. This change of pace can be achieved by a change of grip, or a late tweak of the wrist. The best exponents – Courtney Walsh, Chris Cairns – are lethal. The worst – no names mentioned – tend to be smacked clean over cow corner for six.
Standing back/standing up: Where a wicketkeeper positions himself for a particular bowler. He stands back for fast bowlers, and stands up for spinners.
Stock ball: A bowler’s regular delivery, minimum risk, little chance of runs or wickets. To get away with a slower ball, they need a stock ball to lull the batsman into a false sense of security.
Stonewall: To protect one’s wicket at all costs, putting defence above all other virtues. See Jacques Kallis. Also a gay pride organisation.
Strike rate: The number of runs a batsman scores per 100 balls; the number of deliveries a bowler needs to take his wickets.
Sundries: Australian word for extras.
Supersub: A short-lived experminent in 2005 by the ICC to try to spruce up one-day internationals. It allowed teams to replace on player during a game, but the reality was it heavily favoured the side batting first and was quickly dropped.
Swing: A ball that curves through the air, as opposed to off the seam. See also, reverse swing.
Tailender: Players who come in towards the end of an innings, generally Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11, who are not noted for their batting prowess (although ideally they can bowl a bit by way of compensation).
Teapot (or double-teapot): A gesticulation beloved of fast bowlers, particularly the grumpier sort, such as Glenn McGrath and Angus Fraser. Involves having both hands on hips at the same time, usually in reaction to a dropped catch, edged boundary or general misfield.
Throwing: To deliver the ball with a arm that flexes at the elbow at point of delivery, thereby enabling extra spin to be imparted for a slow bowler, or extra pace for a quick bowler. A topic of endless debate.
Ton: A century (100 runs by a single batsman in one innings).
Tonk: To give the ball a good wallop, onomatopoeically named after the sound a good hit makes. See also twat, biff, thwack, belt, spank and leather.
Track: The pitch.
Trundler: Slow, laborious type of bowler who thinks he’s quick, once was quick, or is simply old, fat and unfit and needs to be put out to pasture. See military medium.
Twelfth man: A substitute fielder (and drinks waiter) for the chosen eleven. If called upon to play, he is permitted to field wherever he is needed, but can neither bat nor bowl.
Two-paced: A wicket that is beginning to break up, usually after three or four days of a Test match, and so produces some deliveries that leap off a length, and others that sneak through at shin-height.
Uncovered pitches: Pitches that were left open to the elements for the duration of a match, and so developed a variety of characteristics. The failings of a generation of English batsmen were attributed to the decision, in the 1970s, to bring on the covers at the slightest hint of rain.
V: In the The arc between mid-off and mid-on in which batsmen who play straight (in accordance with the MCC Coaching Manual) tend to score the majority of their runs. Modern aggressive players, such as Virender Sehwag, tend to prefer the V between point and third man.
Wagon: Wheel A circular graph or line-drawing depicting the region in which a batsman has scored his runs.
Walk (To): The improbable act of a batsman giving himself out, without waiting for an umpire’s decision. Adam Gilchrist, famously, did this against Sri Lanka in the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup. Mike Atherton, equally famously, did not at Trent Bridge in 1998, en route to a matchwinning 98 not out against South Africa.
Wicket: One of those ubiquitous words that is central to the game of cricket. The word can be used to describe the 22 yards between the stumps, the stumps collectively (bails included), the act of hitting these stumps and so dismissing the batsman, and perversely, the act of not being out (Gayle and Sarwan added 257 for the second wicket). Plus any other use you care to think of.
Wide: A delivery that pitches too far away from the batsman and so proves impossible to score off. The umpire will single this by stretching his arms out horizontally, an extra will be added to the total and the ball will be bowled again.
Wrist spin: The version of spin bowling in which the revolutions on the ball are imparted via a flick of the wrist, rather than a tweak of the fingers. As a general rule, a right-arm wristspinner’s action turns the ball from leg to off (legspin) while a left-armer turns it from off to leg.
Wrong: ‘Un Australian term for a googly – a legspinner’s delivery that turns in the opposite direction, ie from off to leg.
Yips: A mental affliction that affects many sportsmen, particularly golfers and spin bowlers. It is a mindblock that can cause a player to forget the basics of his game, and in the most serious cases can force that player into early retirement.
Yorker: A full-pitched delivery that is aimed at the batsman’s toes and/or the base of the stumps. If the ball is swinging, these can be the most lethal delivery in the game, as perfected by Waqar Younis in his pomp.
Zooter: A spin bowling variation, first devised by Shane Warne. This is a delivery that snakes out of the hand with little or no spin imparted, and so deceives through its very ordinariness. Some question whether the delivery has ever existed, for it could be another of Warne’s mindgames to keep his opponents on their toes.