Howzat? This is what’s what

by Richard Freeman

Listening to a group of cricketers talking could, for the uninitiated, be like listening to a group of aliens discussing life on their planet. Therefore The Japan Times is proud to present an unofficial cricketing dictionary.

Ashes — A small wooden urn containing the ashes of a burned bail from the 1882 Australia-England test series. The Aussie win was said to be the “death” of cricket — hence the urn which is played for every other year between the two old rivals.

Bail — More often used in connection with NFL and NBA players, in cricket this is one of the two small pieces of molded timber that sit atop the stumps.

Bouncer — A bouncer is a delivery that is pitched short so that the ball rears up near the batsman’s head.

Boundary — The rope or line marking the edge of the oval playing field. A shot that crosses the boundary without bouncing earns six runs, while a shot that bounces over earns four.

Box — The protective device worn by male players to protect the genitals.

Cafeteria bowling — Low-quality bowling that allows a batsman to literally “help himself.” Also known as “throwing pies.”

Cherry — Refers to a new ball because of its bright red color.

Chinaman — Devised by a West Indian player of Chinese descent (who said that cricket wasn’t an international sport), this is a delivery by a left-arm leg spinner that appears as if it will turn in one direction when it hits the ground but instead moves in the opposite direction. A left-handed version of a googly.

Chin music — An intimidating type of short-pitched bowling aimed at the batsman’s head.

Duck — A score of zero believed to have got its name from the shape of the numeral zero and the fact that it resembles a duck’s egg.

First-class — A level of cricket below test match but above club cricket. Examples: the County Championship in England and the Sheffield Shield in Australia.

Googly — Sometimes called a “wrong ‘un,” this is a leg-break bowled out of the back of the hand, which makes the ball spin in the opposite direction (i.e. from left to right rather than right to left). So called because, when it was first discovered in the 1890s, it made the batsman go goggle-eyed with surprise.

Howzat — Originating from “How’s that?” it is the appeal used by the fielding team when asking the umpire if a player is out.

Jaffer — Describes a delivery so good it is unplayable.

Leg break — A delivery from a spin bowler that richochets off the surface of the wicket from the leg side to the off side.

Leg side — The area behind a batsman as he faces the bowler. Also known as the “on side.” The area facing the batsman is therefore the “off side.”

Maiden — When applied to a bowler, describes an over in which no runs have been scored by the batsmen from any delivery — as in “to bowl a maiden over.”

Michelle — Short for the actress Michelle Pfeiffer and used as a form of rhyming slang for “five-for,” meaning when a bowler takes five wickets in an innings.

Nelson — The supposedly unlucky score of 111. When this total is reached, it is the superstitious custom of the members of the batting team off the pitch to take their feet off the ground. The name was coined in the mistaken belief that the famous British admiral Lord Nelson had one eye, one arm and one leg.

New ball — Replaces a ball used for no less than 80 overs. Fast bowlers try to keep one side of the ball as shiny as possible to maximize the ammount of curve as it approaches the batsman.

No-ball — What can happen if a player doesn’t wear a box. Actually, it means a bowler has stepped over a chalk line and the ball must be re-bowled. It also results in a run to the batting side.

Run out — When a fielder hits the stumps with the ball before the batsman completes a run, the batsman is run out.

Silly — Those who do not understand the rules of cricket! Actually refers to any fielding position very close and in front of the batsman.

Spinner — A bowler who uses his wrist and fingers to make the ball spin off the surface of the pitch.

Sticky wicket — Describes a pitch (playing surface), which although dry on the surface, has underlying soft patches. This type of wicket is generally a difficult playing surface for batsmen because it can cause a ball to behave unpredictably.

Stumps — The three vertical pieces of wood that, together with the bails, comprise the wicket.

Test match — A match between two countries lasting five days.

12th man — Not the missing link in a Cambridge University spy ring, but an extra player chosen for a team to act as a substitute fielder in the event one is needed. The 12th man is generally not permitted to bat or bowl and serves drinks on the field to players during short breaks.