The language of cricket

The language of cricket has always been part of its charm. Check out this handy guide to key cricketing terms.

The language of cricket has always been part of its charm — and has spawned a thousand tea towel ditties. It’s the only sport where to be ‘in’, you have to be ‘not out’. When both sides have been in, and all the men have got out, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Learning all the unique names for fielding positions, the types of balls bowled and the types of shots played is part of every young player’s rite of passage into New Zealand’s most traditional summer sport. For visitors from countries where cricket isn’t a major sport, taking in a game is a fascinating experience — but you may need an interpreter for all its unique jargon and rules!

So here’s a quick cricket dictionary to help you with the basics.

Strong One-Day cricket teams are stacked with players who are exceptional at both batting and bowling — this gives the captain plenty of tactical options. However, there are also some players, such as opening batsmen, who tend to be specialists in their role. 

The louder the better, a bowler appeals to the umpire when he thinks the batsman should be given out. The whole team can appeal for a run out, and this is very noisy for the umpire indeed. 

Magic pieces of wood that sit on top of the stumps. The goal of every batsman is to stop the other team from dislodging these bails. The goal of every bowler is to smash them to bits. If a batsman accidentally hits the stumps, or he misses the ball and the ball hits them, or he is out of his ‘crease’ when the bails are dislodged by a fielder, he is out. 

A short-pitched ball bowled by fast bowlers that rears up on the batsman at shoulder height, making it difficult to play.


  1. The rope or marker around the edge of the field.
  2. A ball that is hit across this rope is automatically worth four runs: ‘a boundary’.

A type of ‘extra’ when the batsmen are able to complete a ‘run’ despite not having hit the ball.

A pie-slice of the field in front of the bastman, between straight and square. A good cover drive is considered a very classy shot.

When a batsman makes 100 runs. Also called a ‘ton’. Any century in cricket is considered a special innings. When a batsman makes 50, it is a ‘half century’. 

A death bowler is one of the best in the team at stopping the batsmen from scoring runs, and is brought on to close the innings during the last few ‘death overs’. 

Fielding positions that are near the boundary rope. 

Short for the Duckworth Lewis System, this is a mathematical formula that determines revised tar-get scores or results when rain reduces the number of overs possible in a game. 

When a batsman in out for no score, he is out for ‘a duck’. 

A penalty scored against the fielding team when their bowlers bowl too wide (‘a wide’), too close to the batsman ‘a no ball’) or too high (‘a no ball’, if the bowler has been warned by the umpire for height). Wicketkeepers can also concede ‘a leg bye’ if they miss the ball and the batsmen are able to run, or it carries on to the boundary.

Full toss
As good as finding money on the footpath, batsmen love this delivery. A full toss is a ball that does not pitch before the batsman hits it, and is usually a mistake by the bowler. 

A type of leg-spin delivery where the ball spins in the opposite direction to that expected by the batsman. Leg spinners are often judged on the quality of their googly. 

When one bowler takes three wickets in three consecutive balls. 

Hook shot
An exciting and rare shot where the batsman plays across the line at a ball that is close to shoulder height. 

A team’s turn at bat. In One-Day cricket, an innings lasts for 50 overs or until 10 batsmen have been dismissed. 

The half of the field that is behind the batsman’s legs. Also known as the ‘on side’. Cricket is never confusing!

Leg Before Wicket. A type of dismissal where the batsman does not hit the ball and the umpire de-cides that, had the batsman not got himself in the way of the ball, the ball would have hit the stumps. LBWs are often referred to a ‘third umpire’ off the field who makes the final decision based on television replays. 

Long on, long off, straight
Fielding positions on either side of the sightscreen — the area on the boundary behind the bowler.


  1. A maiden over is every bowler’s dream: it’s when no runs are scored off his over. 
  2. A maiden century if the first time in his career that a batsman makes a century at this level of the game.
  3. A maiden wicket is the first time that a bowler takes a wicket at this level of the game. 

The opposite side of the field to the leg side. 

The batting order starts with the strongest batsmen and finishes with the “tail enders”, who are in the team for their bowling. The order is subdivided into the top order, middle order and late order, so that everyone knows their place!

A bowler must bowl six balls to complete an over. A One-Day International game is 50 overs per team, with each bowler permitted to bowl a maximum of 10 overs during the innings. 


  1. The carefully prepared 22-yard surface on which the ball is bowled. If the pitch has a lot of grass on it, it is said to be ‘green’ and good for pace bowling. Expect batsmen to be nervous about that.
  2. The exact point at which the ball lands on the pitch. Yes, cricket loves its double meanings! The pitch of the ball can be full, short, or ‘a good length’. 

A fielding position that is parallel to the batsman facing the ball, occupied by one of the best fielders in the team. 

Pull shot
A ball that is played across the line onto the leg side. 

A relatively new innovation in cricket where players can ask an umpire on the field to have an um-piring decision reviewed by a third, off-field umpire who has a television replay screen at his dis-posal. The third umpire’s decision is binding and can reverse a decision to call a batsman ‘out’. 

A relatively new type of cricket shot where the batsman boldly steps across and scoops the ball over his shoulder to the usually vacant boundary behind him. Also called the ‘ramp shot’ or ‘Dil-scoop’ after Sri Lankan batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, who embraced and immortalised it during the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 tournament in England. 

One run is taken.

A ball that goes over the boundary rope on the full is automatically worth six runs. Sometimes called a ‘maximum’, however, if a no-ball is hit for ‘six’, it is worth 12 runs — a very rare occur-rence.

Slow bowler
This is not a comment on the player’s intellect. Rather, he is a spin bowler who relies on spinning the ball, rather than beating the batsman with speed and swing through the air. Spinners are further divided into off-spinners and leg-spinners, depending on which direction they usually spin the ball. 

Slower ball
A common weapon in One-Day cricket. The pace bowler is trying to fool the batsmen into thinking he is bowling his normal pace delivery, but ‘holds it back’ upon delivery. Ironically, it’s the well-disguised slower ball that catches a lot of batsmen out and sees them caught. 

Square, square leg
The fielding positions that are perpendicular to the pitch. 

The magic three sticks of wood upon which the bails are carefully balanced. Players like to call them ‘poles’. Technology means the stumps and bails can light up and flash when they are dis-turbed: these are ‘Zing’ stumps and bails. A batsman has an off-stump, a middle stump and a leg-stump to protect. 

A form of dismissal when a sharp-eyed wicketkeeper sees the batsman is out of his batting crease and takes the bails off with the ball.

A toss of the coin 30 minutes before it starts decides who will bat first. One captain tosses the coin, the other one guesses whether it will be heads or tails. The toss can be vital to taking early ad-vantage, if weather conditions favour bowling more than batting. 

The unfortunate person who gets left out of the playing XI and gets to spend his day running out with drinks for all the others. If there is an injury, the 12th man gets to field for the injured player. It makes the 12th man’s day.

A batsman is not out at the end of the team’s innings.


  1. When a batsman is out. He can be out caught, stumped, bowled, run out, LBW or hit wicket.
  2. The pitch. Yes, cricket would be a lot less confusing if people didn’t also sometimes call the pitch ‘the wicket’. But they do. Beware.
  3. Another word for the stumps, as in ‘leg before wicket’. 

Wicket Maiden
Bowlers love these. It’s a rarely seen type of over where a wicket has fallen (other than a run out) and no runs have been scored. Two wickets and no runs is a Double Wicket Maiden. 

An ‘extra’ where the ball is deemed too wide for the batsman to fairly hit. 

One of the most terrifying balls in a fast bowler’s arsenal. He aims it at the batsman’s toes, and if the batsman isn’t quick enough to stop it, he loses his bails. Often seen at the death, or in tight game situations when it is imperative to stop the batsmen trying to score runs. But if the bowler gets it the slightest bit wrong, the batsman is gifted a full toss.