Nothing happens in cricket, ever. Even the highlights resemble a freeze frame. (Charlie Brooker - British TV presenter, author and satirist)
Cricket is basically baseball on valium. (Robin Williams - American actor)
I understand cricket - what's going on, the scoring - but I can't understand why. (Bill Bryson - American-British author)
Cricket makes no sense to me. I find it beautiful to watch and I like that they break for tea. That is very cool, but I don't understand. My friends from The Clash tried to explain it years and years ago, but I didn't understand what they were talking about. (Jim Jarmusch - American film director)
I do love cricket - it's so very English. (Sarah Berhnardt - French actress)
With the summer season almost upon us, my thoughts are turning to cricket, that very English game, which is now played in many parts of the world due to Britain’s quest to build an empire in the 18th and 19th centuries! For those who don’t play or follow the game, cricket remains a complete mystery and the rules impossible to understand. But for many, cricket is a passion.
Briefly, cricket is played by two teams of 11, with one side taking a turn to bat a ball and score runs (points), while the other team bowls and fields the ball to stop the opposition from scoring points. The main objective in cricket is to score as many runs as possible against the opponent. One major difference between cricket and its Amercian counterpart baseball, is that in cricket, there are always two batsmen at any one time.
So what are the origins of cricket? Well, cricket began as a children’s game in the south east of England, some time during the 16th century (although some would have it that it originated in France or Flanders). It was gradually taken up by adults during the early 17th century. There is a lovely first reference to cricket being played as an adult sport in 1611, when two men in Sussex were prosecuted for playing cricket on Sunday instead of going to church! Its popularity grew in the south of England until the English Civil War, won by the Puritans in 1649. For 10 years, the country was ruled by a Puritan government who looked down on and discouraged large gatherings and boisterous sports. Cricket’s popularity therefore declined except in fee paying schools where it flourished (maybe one of the reasons why cricket has so often been associated with the rich, upper classes). With the restoration of the King in 1660, people could start having fun again and cricket grew in popularity attracting a lot of gambling. Apparently large sums of money could be made from betting on the matches. As British ships set sail across the seas to conquer new lands and set up new colonies, they took cricket with them resulting in its populratiy in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies today. Strangely, Canada never took to the sport always preferring the American equivalent baseball.
Today, as an expat living in France, cricket conjures up pictures of warm, lazy, summer afternoons in my childhood, watching hours of the game on TV or live on a village green where large quantities of tea and lemon drizzle cake would be consumed while watching two teams, all dressed in white (beautiful against the background of lush green grass), compete against each other for a full afternoon or more! Yes, cricket is a long, leisurely game and international Test matches can last up to 25 days! (5 matches, each one lasting 5 days!) and even then, the result might be a draw!
But this article isn’t just about the sport. From a linguistic point of view, cricket has also been responsible for a number of idioms which pepper the English language and here, below, are the famous ones for your delight.
My grandfather sadly died last week, but he had a good innings. He was 98 years old.
I was knocked for six when Peter said he was leaving his job. I thought he’d stay in that company for ever.
I was bowled over by everyone’s kind words at my leaving party.
Sophie will be on a sticky wicket if she gets caught breaking quarantine.
The Managing Director was on a sticky wicket when she refused to explain why she’d fired her financial director.
I was stumped when Jamie asked me that question! Do you know the answer?
I gave up smoking off my own bat when I was 25. I didn’t need any persuading.
Joe told everyone that he was off work because he was sick but he was caught out when his boss saw him on the 9am train to London!
I don’t want to be the only one who has to cook while we’re on holiday! It’s not cricket!
So next time you have a chance to speak English try and use one of these expressions off your own bat. You will impress the person you are speaking to – you may even bowl them over!
Picture below: the wicket with the stumps (three posts) and the two bails which rest on top. One way for a batter to be eliminated is for the wicket or stumps to be hit by the ball.
Philippa Stacey a fondé Eureka en 2007. Elle vit et enseigne l’anglais aux professionnels en France depuis 1993.