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Cricket explained: Fielding positions, methods of dismissal and DLS

Most sports will use terminology that is baffling to beginners, but perhaps none more so than cricket.

While positions on a football pitch are largely self-explanatory, cricket’s equivalent are somewhat less obvious, even to more experienced watchers.

Many positions can have prefixes such as ‘deep’ or ‘backward’, which as the name suggests, means they’re deeper, or further behind the batter than the standard position, for example ‘deep backward point’ would stand further behind the batter and nearer the boundary than point.

Similarly, positions can be the same on the leg (or on) side and the off side. For example, mid-on operates in the same place, but opposite side, as mid-off.

Fields are set depending on a team's tactics throughout a match. If a team are looking to dismiss a batter who is playing defensively, they may surround him with catching fielders. If a batting team need to score a high volume of runs, they may look to the boundary, with the fielding team placing more fielders deep to prevent fours and sixes.

Then of course there are the various methods of dismissal, bringing about the end to a batter's innings.

From silly point to cow corner to obstructing the field, we’ve got you covered.

Methods of dismissal

There are five common methods of dismissal, but five other rarer ways of getting out, on of which has never occurred in Test cricket.

Bowled

This occurs when the bails are removed from the stumps via a bowler's delivery.

Caught

The most common type of dismissal, where a batter hits the ball with their bat, and the ball is caught by a member of the fielding team (which includes the bowler) before the ball touches the ground. The catcher needs to be in control of the ball and their movement before the ball touches the ground.

Leg before wicket

Better known as LBW, this occurs when the batter stops the ball from hitting the stumps using their body. However there are other criteria for this dismissal. After being bowled, the ball must not pitch outside the line of leg stump and impact with the batter must be in line with the stumps, though the latter is disregarded if the batter was making no attempt at playing a shot.

Run out

This occurs when a batter is out of their crease attempting to score a run when the bails are taken off by a member of the fielding team. If the batter has any part of their bat or body in the crease (important: bat or body must be in contact with the ground), they can't be run out.

A rarely-seen method of being run out is where the bowler takes off the bails at the non-striker's end when they notice the non-striker is out of their crease before the ball has been delivered. This is known as a 'Mankad', named after Vinoo Mankad, who dismissed Bill Brown in a 1947 Test match. 

It's a controversial method of dismissal as it's seen as trying to catch an unaware batter out of their crease; as such, bowlers often warn the batter they're out of their crease before attempting a Mankad, with many bowlers flat-out refusing to perform one.

Stumped

When a batter is out of their crease trying to play a shot - typically off a spinner - the wicket-keeper can remove the bails after catching the ball to dismiss the batter stumped.

Retired

One of the five rare methods of dismissal, if a batter leaves the field of play without being injured and fails to return, they will be classed as retired out. A player retiring hurt is officially not out, but as they can't return or have a replacement, it's effectively the same as retiring via another method.

Hit the ball twice

An almost-unheard-of method in the modern game, if a batter hits the ball with either bat or body, and then hits the ball with bat or body (excluding a hand not in contact with the bat, and in the exception of preventing the ball from hitting their stumps), they'll be given out hit the ball twice. In practice, this is only likely to occur if the batter hits the ball in the air, and tries to stop a fielder from catching the ball by hitting again.

Hit wicket

A rare, but not unseen, method of dismissal occurs when a batter hits their wicket in the playing of a shot. They may be knocked off balance by a delivery, knocking the bails off in the process.

Obstructing the field

Occasionally, players from the batting and bowling teams collide on the pitch, but for a batter to be given out obstructing the field, they need to have deliberately obstructed a member of the fielding team,

Timed out

A batter has three minutes to be ready to face the next delivery after the previous dismissal, and if they're not ready, they can be given out timed out. The first ever instance of a player being timed out in international cricket came at the 2023 Cricket World Cup when Angelo Mathews took too long when coming in to bat, due to his helmet apparently having a broken strap.

Fielding positions

Wicket-keeper

Starting with the best-known fielding position, the wicket-keeper positions themselves behind the batter’s stumps, catching the majority of balls that are either left by the batter, or edged, looking to catch the batter.

They’ll also stand near to the stumps when a spinner is bowling, not just looking to take catches, but stump a batter charging down the pitch.

Slip

Positioning themselves next to the wicket-keeper, it’s common in Test cricket to see anywhere between two and four slips, looking to catch any balls edged behind by a batter.

Slips are considered specialist fielding positions, requiring excellent reflexes, catching and high levels of concentration.

More slips can leave more space to score runs down the ground, encouraging batters to play shots to score runs, but leaving themselves open to be caught behind.

Leg slip

More commonly deployed with a spin bowler, the leg slip is positioned near to the batter, but on the left side, aiming to prevent any sweep shots.

Fine leg

A fairly self-explanatory position fine leg operates fine on the leg side, looking to stop runs when a batter plays a glancing shot down the leg side but wide of the wicket-keeper.

Gully

Operating wide of the slips, the gully will stand just behind square of the batter, and like the slips, needs good reflexes and catching.

Point

Operating square but on the off side of the batter, the fielder in point will typically stand a little squarer and deeper than gully, and requires good athleticism.

Cover

A busy fielding position, many bowlers will pick a line to try and draw players into playing a drive towards the covers, i.e. playing a cover drive, in the hope of catching an outside edge to the wicket-keeper or slips. As such, the cover fielder, operating forward of point, is a crucial run preventer.

Extra cover

Similar to cover, but straighter to the batter.

Mid-off

Straighter still, mid-off or mid-on will typically operate closest to the bowler, and is there to prevent drives down the ground.

Mid-on

The same as mid-off, but on the batter’s leg side

Long-off

Similar to mid-off, but positioned on the boundary. Straight down the ground is a common target for batters, particularly off spinners, making it a common catching position.

Long-on, the same as long-off, but on the batter’s leg side.

Midwicket

Similar to cover but on the batter’s leg side, batters will often try to play towards midwicket for any balls down the leg side that can’t be pulled.

Square leg

Similar to point, but on the batter’s leg side, square leg stands square to the batter and looks to catch any pull shots from short balls.

Silly point

Similar to point, but standing dangerously close to the batter, hence the name. Silly point is exclusively a catching position, standing in line with point, but just a few feet from the batter. 

Typically deployed for spin bowlers, silly point aims to catch any mistimed defensive shots that pop into the air, while cutting off scoring options for batters through the offside.

Silly mid-off

Similar to silly point, but positioned further down the wicket, in line with mid-off.

Most commonly used towards the end of an innings in an ultra-aggressive field setup with the fielding team desperately chasing a wicket.

Short leg

The same as silly point, but on the batter’s leg side.

Cow corner

A lesser used field position, cow corner operates in a similar position to deep extra cover on the leg-side boundary. 

Believed to have originated as it was deemed a safe place for cows to graze in fields, such was the infrequency of shots played there, with players usually preferring pulls and cuts square, and drives to the covers or down the pitch.

The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method

A way of establishing a target score in weather-affected limited overs matches, the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method (previously just the Duckworth-Lewis method) sets targets to complete games in which teams face different numbers of overs.

Taking into account number of overs lost, number of wickets remaining and the initial target score, a team can be set revised targets. 

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