How is Australian cricket played?

The Australian cricket scandal made headlines in 2018, even prompting an intervention by the Australian Prime Minister.

Australian cricket vice-captain David Warner broke down in tears last Saturday as he apologized for his role in the high-profile tampering ball scandal that has traumatized the country.

Warner also said he intends to appeal the 12-month suspension imposed on him and team captain Steve Smith, both of whom are also stripped of their captaincy.

Their team-mate Cameron Bancroft has been handed a nine-month suspension by Cricket Australia (CA), the authority on the sport which is played with balls, bats and wickets. (AFP)

But beyond this scandal, these excuses, what is this sport, why does it hold such an important place, especially in Australia? Humble little attempt at explanation.

Below the Prime Minister

You should know that cricket is one of the most popular sports in Australia. The Australian federation, Cricket Australia, manages the national competitions and the selection. Six teams, each representing an Australian state, compete in the main competitions the Sheffield Shield, the One Day Cup and the Twenty20 Big Bash.

Team captains are real stars and placed, in the social order, below the Prime Minister. Hence the extent of the scandal that is currently shaking our friends Down Under.

history of cricket

Unlike rugby for example, cricket is only enjoyed on British soil. This discipline was practiced by the popular classes and despised by the wealthy classes until the 16th century. It was not until the middle of the 17th century that the aristocracy became interested in it to maintain relations with the rest of the population and increase its prestige. The teams were therefore made up of the gamekeepers or grooms of the aristocrats.

It was around 1820 that the public saw the appearance of two versions of this sport: cricket for the upper middle class, practiced in country estates or in very private clubs; and cricket for the petty bourgeoisie, which made it a professional sport until 1870.

How is cricket played

Cricket is a slow sport: the competitions generally last several days and, failing to fully grasp the spirit and the rules, the uninformed spectator risks getting tired of watching these games unfold during which the two teams attack of subtlety.


The cricket ground is a large lawn measuring 150m by 170m and has two wickets, 23cm wide and made up of three stakes driven into the ground, the height of which must not exceed 71cm. The counters, planted one opposite the other, are separated by a distance of 20 m; this zone constitutes the play space itself. 1.30 m in front of each wicket, and parallel to it, is a line marking the limit of what is called the « batsman’s pitch ».

The game’s rules

The game of cricket has two innings during which all the players of the two teams (composed of 11 members) must succeed each other as batsman in defense of the wickets. The designated batsman is the only one of his team on the field, surrounded by the players of the opposing team who must strive to catch the ball that the batsman has hit on the fly.

The role of the pitcher

The pitcher (bowler) attacks by sending a ball to the wicket defended by the batsman. The ball, very hard and equivalent to a tennis ball, is made of cork and rope covered with red leather. The pitcher’s objective is to destroy the wicket defended by the batsman who is in front of him. He can take all the momentum necessary before throwing the ball, as long as he stays within the limits of what is called the « thrower’s line ». Two pitchers operate in each game, each in front of a wicket. When six balls have been thrown, the second pitcher tackles the batsman from the opposite wicket, and all players on the field change position.

The role of the drummer

The drummers (batsmen) use, for the defense of the wickets, a bat generally in willow and 97 cm in length. The batsman must hit the ball hard enough, either to send it out of bounds (which is then worth 6 points to his team), or to send it a sufficient distance so that he has time to run to his partner’s wicket (one point per run for the benefit of his team). When the batsman leaves his wicket to run to the one opposite, his partner runs himself to the wicket left vacant. When the batsman is eliminated, it is his partner at the opposite wicket who replaces him, and so on until the eleven players of the team whose tour it is have succeeded each other on the field. It is then up to the opposing team to defend the wickets.


Any game that is not finished is considered a draw (unless one of the two sides gives up during the game). However, when a team has a substantial points lead, its captain may end the round by declaring his side’s tour over. This is called the « declaration », which has the effect of speeding up the flow of the game.

Due to the special rules of cricket, it often happens that a single game lasts several days. A limit is assigned to the time allotted daily to the game, and the game is resumed the next day, at the point where it was left off. In international fixtures, matches last five to six days. Competitions between counties are usually played over two or three days.

A rivalry against a backdrop of decolonization

A very old rivalry concerns two of the most important nations of the Commonwealth, also cricketing heavyweights, England and Australia, and which has its roots in decolonization.

If the United States and Canada abruptly separated from British rule, which had the effect, among other things, of transforming cricket into baseball, Australia experienced a peaceful and gradual decolonization, which fact that cricket has remained the national sport but also a peaceful weapon against the British Empire, a way of claiming its existence as a nation.

Thus, in 1882, the Australians, settlers from the other side of the world, subjected the English, inventor of cricket and bearer of « Victorian values ​​of excellence and moral strength » to a real affront by winning the Test March on their own ground.

It is therefore easy to understand to what extent this sport has become one of the strongest Australian values ​​and to understand what was not the revenge of its humble colonists against the British aristocracy. Human beings, that revenge has since turned into an Australian cultural value.

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