A beginner's guide on how to play cricket ahead of the U.S. World Cup match against Ireland

Here's what you need to know about cricket after the U.S. notched another win in the World Cup.

Saurabh Netralvakar
Saurabh Netralvakar celebrates after the U.S. team's win in the World Cup cricket match. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

On June 6, the United States pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2024 International Cricket Council World Cup, defeating Pakistan in the group stage. However, the Americans weren't able to follow up their upset with another win, losing to India in their penultimate group stage match. Still, the U.S. has one more opportunity, when it plays Ireland on Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET, to punch their ticket to the knockout stage of the tournament.

With the U.S. hosting this year’s World Cup, and with cricket rising in popularity in the country, here’s what you need to know about the sport as the American team looks to pull off another upset.

Cricket matches involve two teams of 11 players per side, with one team batting and one team fielding. The game is played on a giant oval with a smaller rectangle, also known as the pitch, in the middle. In the rectangle, three wickets — stumps that are inserted into the grass field — support two bails, sticks that are placed between the three stumps. The bowler — equivalent to a pitcher in baseball — throws a hard, solid ball not dissimilar from a baseball to try to force the batter into an out. Batters in cricket use flat bats to hit the ball rather than the round ones found in baseball.

In cricket, there are several ways to get someone out. These are the most common:

  • Bowled out: The bowler throws the ball past a batter and hits the wicket, dislodging a bail

  • Caught out: A fielder catches a ball hit by the batsman before it hits the ground

  • Leg before wicket: If the ball hits the batsman’s leg, but the umpire believes it would’ve hit the wicket without obstruction, then the batter is ruled out

  • Run out: If the two offensive players are running back and forth to get runs, a fielder can throw the ball at the wicket to knock the bail loose before a runner gets to it

The batting team has two players on each side of the rectangle. If a batter hits the ball and doesn’t hit the wicket behind him, then the ball is in play. If the fielders don’t catch the ball before it hits the ground and both offensive players run to the other side of the rectangle, then a run is scored. If one of the offensive players gets out, they will be replaced by a teammate. The batting team continues its turn until 10 of their 11 players are out or if there 20 overs, each one of which consist of six legal deliveries by a bowler. The legality of those deliveries (think pitches in baseball) is determined by an umpire based on a rather complicated set of rules monitoring the hand and foot placement of the bowler.

Rather than alternating opportunities to bat like in baseball, in cricket one team completes its batting rotation in its entirety, then the second team tries to catch up to their score when it’s their turn to bat.

The length of a cricket match is determined by what style is being played. World Cup matches follow Twenty20, aka T20 rules, which means each team bats once for a maximum of 20 overs (120 legal bowls) or until they’re all out. T20 is the shortest form of cricket, in which games tend to last no longer than three hours. In the traditional version, known as test cricket, matches can last several days. Typically, the length of a match is determined by the amount of overs. In T20 cricket, there are 20 overs per inning.

One-day cricket normally has 50 to 60 overs per inning, while test cricket has an unlimited number of overs for two innings.

There are several ways to score in cricket. The first is to simply put the ball in play and have each of the batsmen run between the wickets. Every time runners exchange places between the wickets, it’s worth one run. The second way to score is if the batsman hits the ball to the boundary of the field, which is equivalent to hitting a baseball to the wall, but not going over it. That play is worth four runs. Finally, if the batsman hits the ball over the boundary (like a home run in baseball), it’s worth six runs — the highest-scoring play possible.