Cricket Pitch Terminology – All You Need to Know!

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In the near 500 years since the game was first played, cricket has acquired a ‘rich and comprehensive’ glossary of terminology. From fielding positions to shot selection, there is a lot for new converts to cricket to learn. Here at AutoRoller, we specialise in ensuring that your cricket pitch is as good as it can possibly be. But what exactly is the pitch? Here is the pitch related terminology that you need to know!

The pitch or the wicket?

The term ‘wicket’ is often misused, especially by TV and radio commentators! ‘Wicket’ refers to the two sets of stumps and bails at either end of the pitch, whereas the ‘pitch’ is the surface in between. The pitch is 22 yards (or one chain) long and 10 feet wide. In case you enjoy detail, the MCC laws of cricket further define the area of the pitch as:

“Bounded at either end by the bowling creases and on either side by imaginary lines, one each side of the imaginary line joining the centres of the two middle stumps, each parallel to it and 5 ft/1.52 m from it. If the pitch is next to an artificial pitch which is closer than 5 ft/1.52 m from the middle stumps, the pitch on that side will extend only to the junction of the two surfaces.”

Creases

The pitch, with a wicket at either end, also has a set of white lines, that help the umpires judge no-balls or batters being run out. These lines are called ‘creases’ and there are 3 sets of them at each end.

Bowling crease: An 8 ft 8 in line through the centre of the stumps, four feet behind the popping crease. This marks the boundary of the pitch at either end.

Popping crease: A line four feet in front of the wicket (and so bowling crease) which in theory is of infinite length, with a minimum of 6 feet either side being physically painted. This is used both to establish if the bowler has bowled a no-ball or if the batter is out in the case of a stumping or run out.

Return crease: A perpendicular line to the popping crease and the bowling creases, 4 feet 4 inches either side of an imaginary line joining the centres of the two middle stumps. This is also used to judge a no ball, to stop the bowler coming in from an excessively diagonal path.

Lengths of delivery

You will often hear people talk about ‘short pitched’ deliveries or the bowler bowling a ‘good length’. These refer to unmarked zones on the pitch that different types of deliveries will hit. For example, when the bowler bowls a ‘yorker’ the ball will hit the pitch and bounce up, very close to the batter’s toes. A ‘bouncer’ on the other hand, will hit the pitch much nearer the middle, and bounce up to the batter’s head, or above. The exact positioning of these zones, or lengths, will depend on how fast (hard) the pitch is and the speed of the bowler.

The pitch surface and use of rollers

The pitch itself is subject to a number of forces, during the game and between matches. Weather, batters and bowlers all play their part in making the pitch surface uneven. To counter this, rollers are used to make the surface more even and so the bounce of the ball is more reliable. Broadly speaking there are two types of rollers used in cricket, ‘heavy’ and ‘light’. The weight difference is often achieved using ballast in the roller itself.

The laws of cricket have strict rules about the use of a roller. The choice of which roller to use is given to the captain of the batting side, who can request that the pitch be rolled for not more than 7 minutes. Rolling takes place at the start of each innings and before the start of a day’s play.

The use of the heavy roller compresses the pitch and makes the surface very hard, helping to close small cracks that might have appeared. The harder pitch means the ball will come off the surface with more energy, helping the faster bowler. Fewer, or smaller cracks in the surface, may lessen the effectiveness of a spin bowl attack.

The lighter roller is used on softer pitches, which can be prone to denting from successive balls landing in similar areas, for example on a good length. These dents can become hard under strong sunlight and make the bounce very uneven. The lighter roller will help maintain a slower surface, whilst maintaining consistency of bounce.

A batting captain will base their decision of which roller to use, on the perceived strengths of their team’s batters versus the opposing team’s bowling attack.

The pitch is without doubt the most important element of a good game of cricket. A well-maintained surface, cared for over the course of a season, will allow the wonderful game to be played and enjoyed week in and week out. A great roller is a key ingredient to maintaining the cricket pitch. We may be biased, but perhaps it is the most important tool a cricket ground keeping team can have!