Now I know that cricket has suddenly become fashionable because of this year’s Ashes, but I feel compelled to justify myself by pointing out that I’ve loved the game for at least two years! It bewildered me for years until I finally got to watch my first live game (Durham v Sussex) with someone who knows EVERYTHING about cricket (thanks for your patience Danny!) and was able to explain what on earth was going on. I then realised what an amazing game it is and I’ve tried to go to the Sussex county ground as often as possible (remember this entry?). It is a complicated game, and part of the difficulty of getting to grips with it is its incredibly creative and convoluted vocabulary. Cricinfo gives an excellent glossary of cricket terms, as does Wikipedia.
Here is a list of different ways of throwing the ball (37 in all!) taken from Cricinfo, just to give you an idea of how intricate the terminology is:
Arm Ball A ball bowled by a slow bowler which has no spin on it and so does not turn as expected but which stays on a straight line (“goes on with the arm”)
Beamer A ball that does not bounce (usually accidently) and passes the batsman at or about head height. If aimed straight at the batsman by a fast bowler, this is a very dangerous delivery (and generally frowned on)
Bosie An Australian term for a googly, now rarely used. Originated from the inventor of the delivery, BJT Bosanquet
Bouncer (or bumper) A short-pitched ball which passes the batsman at chest or head height
Bump Ball A ball which is played off the bat almost instantly into the ground and is caught by a fielder. Often this has the appearance of being a clean catch
Chinaman A ball bowled by a left-arm slow bowler that turns into the right-hand batsman, in effect a left-arm legspinner. Named after Puss Achong
Dead ball A ball from which no runs can be scored or wickets taken.
Dolly An easy catch
Doosra A Hindi/Urdu word which means “second” or “other”, the doosra is the offspinner’s version of the googly, delivered out of the back of the hand and turning away from the right-hand batsman
Drifter/ Floater A delivery bowled by an offspinner which curves away from a right-hander, and then carries straight on instead of turning
Flipper A variation for the legspinner that appears to be pitching short but the ball skids on quickly and often results in bowled or lbw. It is a delivery that is used sparingly
Full toss A ball that reaches the batsmen without bouncing. Above waist height it becomes a beamer
Googly The legspinner’s variation that turns into the right-hander and away from the left-hander
Grubber A ball that hardly bounces – see also shooter
Half volley A ball that is the perfect length for driving, fuller than a good length but not a full-toss
Heavy ball When a delivery is quicker than it looks and hits the bat harder or higher than is expected
In-ducker An inswinging delivery that moves into the batsman very late. Wasim Akram produced deadly versions with the older ball
Inside-out shot A stroke where the batsman moves towards the leg side and hits a ball around leg stump into the off side
Jaffa A delivery that is too good for the batsman, and leaves him groping hopelessly at thin air or (as the bowler will hope) dismisses him
Leg-bye When the ball deflects off the pad and the batsmen run. A shot must be offered to the ball. Leg-byes do not count against the bowler
Leg-break/spin When the ball pitches and turns from leg to off for a right-hander
Leg-cutter A ball which cuts and moves away from the batsman towards the offside (if he is a righthander)
Lifter A ball that rises unexpectedly
Lollipop A really easy ball to hit – a ‘gift’
Long hop a ball which pitches short, sits up and ‘begs’ to be hit
Off-break/spin A ball turning into the right hander- from off to leg (from left to right)
Off-cutter An offbreak delivered at speed
Outswing When the ball swings away from the batsman and towards the slips
Rip Big turn for a spin bowler, especially a legspinner, who can use the whole action of the wrist to impart maximum revolutions on the ball. Shane Warne, consequently, bowls a lot of “rippers”
Sandshoe crusher Colloquial term for Yorker, a full-pitched delivery that is aimed at the batsman’s toes and usually hits them aswell
Shooter See grubber
Slower ball Like naff plastic wristbands, these are the must-have accessory of the modern international bowler. The idea is to deliver a pace of significantly reduced pace, while at the same time turning your arm over at the same speed so as to deceive the batsman. This change of pace can be achieved by a change of grip, or a late tweak of the wrist. The best exponents – Courtney Walsh, Chris Cairns are lethal. The worst – no names mentioned – tend to be smacked clean over cow corner for six
Stock ball A bowler’s regular delivery, minimum risk, little chance of runs or wickets. To get away with a slower ball, they need a stock ball to lull the batsman into a false sense of security
Throwing To deliver the ball with a arm that flexes at the elbow at point of delivery, thereby enabling extra spin to be imparted for a slow bowler, or extra pace for a quick bowler. A topic of endless debate
Wrist spin The version of spin bowling in which the revolutions on the ball are imparted via a flick of the wrist, rather than a tweak of the fingers. As a general rule, a right-arm wristspinner’s action turns the ball from leg to off (legspin) while a left-armer turns it from off to leg (see chinaman)
Wrong ‘un Australian term for a googly – a legspinner’s delivery that turns in the opposite direction, ie from off to leg
Yorker A full-pitched delivery that is aimed at the batsman’s toes and/or the base of the stumps. If the ball is swinging, these can be the most lethal delivery in the game, as perfected by Waqar Younis in his pomp
Zooter A spin bowling variation, first devised by Shane Warne. This is a delivery that snakes out of the hand with little or no spin imparted, and so deceives through its very ordinariness. Some question whether the delivery has ever existed, for it could be another of Warne’s mindgames to keep his opponents on their toes
Cricket expressions are also used in everyday language (let me know if you can think of others!):
Batting on a sticky wicket: to be in a difficult situation. A sticky wicket is a difficult pitch.
To be stumped: to ignore the answer to a question. A batsman/woman is stumped when the wicket keeper knows off the bails when s/he is out of his/her ground.
clean-bowled: being awful at something. The wicket is clean-bowled when the batsman/woman doesn’t touch the ball.
caught out: to be unprepared. A batsman/woman is caught out when the ball s/he’s hit is caught by a fielder without hitting the ground.
A bit of a googly: tricky, suprising. See above.
Hit for 6: to beat someone comprehensively. A batsman/woman scores six points (maximum points in one shot) when the ball goes over the boundary.
Close of play: end of the working day. Originally, end of a cricket session.
Finally, have a look at the bewildering array of terms to cover every single area of the playing field (I ask you, who could fail to love a game that has a "silly point"?). It is taken from the Reader’s Digest Reverse Dictionary, and if reproducing this is a Very Bad Thing in terms of copyright, please let me know.