England captain Andrew Strauss, left, and Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting before the first Test in the Ashes Tour at the Gabba in Brisbane tomorrow. AP Photo/Tertius Pickard
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Get ready for the Ashes with our dummies' guide to cricket

On the even of the Ashes, learn how to pretend you know what’s going on. We owe the English one.

OUR BRITISH NEIGHBOURS have offered to give us an eye-watering £7billion loan in order to tide us over in these troubled economic times.

Coincidentally, England begin their Ashes defence against Australia in Brisbane tomorrow. Sorry guys, but we’re gonna have to get behind Swanny and the lads.

For those of us who think ‘a googly’ is something you do on your iPhone at a table quiz when you don’t know the answers, here’s a comprehensive dummies’ guide.

You’re welcome.

The Game

Robin Williams once said that cricket is ‘baseball on valium’. This drug-induced rounders is usually undertaken by posh lads in wooly jumpers – there’s 11 of these on each side.

Regardless of the form of cricket being played – Test cricket, which goes for five days (eg: The Ashes), or One-Day cricket, which goes for… well anyway, the object is same: to score more runs than the other team.

Everyone in the team must bat at least once and there must always be two players in batting at one time. A run is scored by the completed action of both players getting from one of the two ends to the other. Both have to get to the other end for one run. If the ball goes to the boundary, it is automatically four runs, although it becomes six if the ball is hit there without bouncing.

The scoring can get pretty Higher Level Maths, and don’t get me started on the Duckworth Lewis Method.


One of the most charming threads of this games rich tapestry is that of the terminology.

The official who stands close to the batsmen to try and catch him out is called a “silly short leg”. while a bowler who concedes no runs for six consecutive balls is said to have “bowled a maiden over”.

The rough-tongued Aussies have perfected the sledge meanwhile, and revel in verbally abusing the gentlemen from Albion. That’s just not cricket.

The Ashes

The Ashes is the sporting equivalent of a Royal wedding it seems to me; the English get dewy-eyed about tradition and lots of newspapers are sold.

Because of the whole two-hemisphere conundrum – and because cricket is a summer game – the gap between series alternates between 18 and 30 months apart.

Ultimately, the winning captain is presented with a trophy – a six-inch terracotta urn – called The Ashes. Why? Because it contains the ashes of an item of cricket memorabilia possibly a bail, ball or stump (no one really knows), which represents the death of English cricket after Australia beat the team for the first time in a test match in 1882.

Where can I watch a game?

Sky Sports – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – have the rights. But the charming radio coverage on BBC 5Live is worth a listen even if you don’t like the game.

Other traditions and terms:

  • the aforementioned radio commentary is interrupted at 12pm and 6pm for the Shipping Forecast.
  • Lunch & Tea – formal eating occasions for the teams and supporters alike.
  • Walking – the batsmen give themselves out if they know they are out.
  • Barmy Army – the ‘wacky’ supporters who watch England
  • Whites – in Test and first-class Cricket, bán is always worn
  • Nightwatchman – at the end of the day, a player towards the end of the batting order will move up the order to protect the better batsman, or the next batsman from getting out. His job is to simply block the ball, and not get out.

Selected reading ahead of tomorrow’s… kick-off (?)

How to stay up for the Ashes coverage

Guide to the famous Gabba

Player-by-player guide to England and Australia teams

The Sun’s dummies’ guide

And finally, here’s the greatest song ever written about cricket. Despite the commendable efforts of Neil Hannon:

What did I miss, cricket fans?