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A Good Sport

Sivi Sekula

A look at the history of some popular and lesser-known sports

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

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I

’m British, so obviously that means that I’m going to begin with the beloved British national sport — cricket. First, here’s a summary of the game:

Cricket involves a big oval-shaped grass field (called a “pitch”) surrounded by a boundary, two teams with 11 players each, a long, flat bat, a ball, and two wickets — a set of three stumps stuck into the ground in a line, with little pieces called “bails” resting on top — at either end of the pitch. 

Players include the batsmen, the bowler (who throws the ball), and the wicketkeepers and fielders. The two teams take turns batting; while one team bats, the other team bowls and fields. (If you know baseball at all, some of this will sound familiar.)

The batting team puts a batsman at each wicket. The bowler throws the ball at one of the wickets, and tries to “dismiss” the batsman (get him out) by knocking a bail off the wicket, or by getting the batsman to hit the ball in the air to one of the fielders, who catches it. The batsman, meanwhile, is trying to hit the ball either over the boundary, or at least into the pitch away from the fielders.

When he gets a hit, he and the other batsman run fast to each other’s ends of the pitch, trading places, while the fielders run to get the ball. Each time the batsmen manage to trade places, their team scores a run. The fielders, meanwhile, try to dismiss a batsman when he is running by knocking the bail off the wicket closest to him.

If the batsman hits the ball so it rolls or bounces over the boundary, the batting team scores four runs; if he hits the ball hard enough so it lands on the other side of the boundary, the batting team scores six runs. 

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The batting team’s turn at bat is over when ten batsmen are dismissed. Then the two teams switch sides; the team that was fielding now gets to bat. The point of the game is to score more runs than the other team.

No one is really sure exactly when and where the sport was invented, although most experts agree that it began in Northern Europe sometime during the Dark Ages. A very basic version of the game might have been played by young kids in France, England, Scandinavia, and Holland. 

But because no one knows for sure, the important thing is that by the 16th century, the game had become a widely accepted sport in England and was even played in schools as an official game. And like most popular fads, it came along with a fair bit of criticism. 

Boys who played cricket were considered to be troublemakers. In 1610, two teenage boys were even fined for playing the game in Sussex, England. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 717)

 

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