Cricket’s sticky wicket

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Commentary by Ward Degler

I always thought a sticky wicket happened in croquet. Like when your ball rolls behind your neighbor’s car and you can’t see the goal, but you hit it anyway and it careens a half-mile down the street.

Apparently, a sticky wicket happens in the British game of cricket. Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world, behind soccer.

According to the mostpopularsports.net, there are an estimated 2.5 billion fans of cricket. Compare that with the paltry 500 million American baseball fans. I always pictured cricket as a dignified tea-and-crumpets affair punctuated by mild applause when things went right and a barely audible gasp when they didn’t. It appears the excitement level has been understated.

Cricket is played on an oval field that is up to 500 feet in diameter. It has only two innings– one for each team. In baseball, outs are easy and runs are hard. In cricket, it’s just the opposite. There are 10 ways to strike out in cricket, but five of these have happened less than seven times in the entire history of the game. And one has never happened at all.

Runs are scored in several ways. The bowler throws the ball from one end of the 60-foot pitch to the batsman at the other end, bouncing it once on the round. If the batsman hits the ball, he can run to the other end of the pitch and back to where he started. That scores a run. At the same time, there is a second batsman at the other end of the pitch, and he runs back and forth in the opposite direction, scoring a run each time. They can keep running back and forth scoring runs as long as the ball is rolling around on the field.

If the ball rolls outside the boundary of the field, it’s four runs. If it leaves the field as a fly ball, it’s six runs. And, of course, the batsmen keep running back and forth. The record books mention one game where the ball lodged in a tree, and the batsmen scored 267 runs.

Behind the batsman are three sticks pushed into the ground. They are called stumps. On top of them sits another stick called a bail. The bowler’s objective is to knock down the stumps or dislodge the bail. The batsman’s job is to keep that from happening.

Oh, and when the bowler throws the ball and it bounces crazily after it hits the ground, that is a sticky wicket.

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