10 Cricket Terms To Get Into The Thick Of The Sport

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world. The game started in England before being brought to many of the UK’s former colonies, and has adapted over time into a sped-up version of the original five-day match (whew!). Today, the sport is perhaps most popular in those former colonies and surrounding regions—a 2015 game between India and Pakistan, for example, was watched by a billion people.

If you don’t live in a major cricket-playing country, however, the game can seem like a mystery. That’s in no small part due to the delightful curiosity of its terminology. Dictionary.com is collaborating with Lexico.com, an online UK English dictionary and Spanish language translator, to share the meaning of a few head-scratching cricket terms, from dibbly dobbly to Snickometer.

For those of you who may be wondering, the word for the game cricket itself was first recorded in English in the late 1500s from the Middle French criquet “goalpost.” And it bears no relation to the insect known as a cricket! A cricket (a jumping insect that produces sound by rubbing its legs together) is so named after the onomatopoeic French verb criquer, which means “to creak.”

 

If you’re a budding entemologist or just a bug enthusiast, you can learn a bit more about crickets in our discussion on locusts, cicadas, and more.

sticky wicket

One of the first words you need to know in a conversation about cricket is wicket. The word wicket refers to a set of three stumps with two bails (resembling sticks) on top that are knocked off as one way to get a person who is batting out. There are two wickets on the field placed 22 yards apart, and the bowler—positioned at one wicket—throws the ball to the batter located near the other wicket.

A sticky wicket refers to the space in between the wickets. It’s simply an expression used when that space between the stumps (known as the pitch) is wet and the ball doesn’t bounce well. Similar to sports phrases like knocked it out of the park or home stretchsticky wicket can be used outside of the sport as well, in this case to describe anything that’s tough to accomplish. A person can find themselves in a sticky wicket after losing their credit card, for example.

corridor of uncertainty

A lot can be gleaned from a name. In this case, it’s pretty clear even to people who know nothing about cricket that a player doesn’t want to have to deal with something in the corridor of uncertainty. It refers to the area of a wicket that’s tricky for a batter to hit: the spot outside of their off stump (the stump farthest from their body, as opposed to the leg stump, which is closest to their body).

When a bowler throws the ball in the corridor of uncertainty, the batter needs to quickly decide whether or not to play the ball. If they do, the hit may be easy for the fielders to catch. If they don’t, it could hit the batter and then hit the wicket and result in an out.

It’s one of the terms that you may hear the game’s announcer refer to multiple times throughout a game, and the popularity of the phrase is often credited to the year 1990 when former England player Geoffrey Boycott used it while commentating. The phrase has since moved beyond the realm of cricket to describe tricky situations in other sports like soccer (the area between the last defender and the goalie), though it can metaphorically apply to pretty much any circumstance where you have to make a difficult decision on the fly.

cow corner

There are no actual cows on a cricket field. There is, however, the cow corner. The phrase refers to an edge of the field that batters don’t often hit to except in Twenty20 cricket (a faster, three-hour long game versus the one-day or five-day games). The side of the field the cow corner is on depends on the batter, but it’s about 320 degrees from the way they’re facing, which is the part of the field just over their front shoulder. So few balls were hit to that particular region of the field that it was called the cow corner, as in the place where cows could safely wander without fear of being struck by a cricket ball rocketed off of a player’s bat. Legend has it that the cow corner got its name from Dulwich College, which did indeed have cows in that area.

dibbly dobbly

Dibbly dobbly is a bit of an awkward phrase. Which is fitting, considering that it refers to something a little lackluster. To say that a bowler (the person pitching the ball to the batter) had a dibbly dobbly match is to say that they were slow and not very good. For example, The player is normally an exciting one to watch, but this match he was a bit dibbly dobbly. In cricket, no one wants to be dibbly or dobbly, let alone dibbly dobbly.

doosra

In Hindi, doosra means “second, the other.” In cricket, doosra is the opposite of another term that might catch the uninitiated off guard: googly. Googly is when a bowler spins the ball toward the batter. When the bowler spins it away from the batter, it’s the other option, or a doosra.

Credit for the doosra goes to the Pakistani player Saqlain Mushtaq, though not everyone is a fan. Some umpires call foul play because delivering the ball as such may sometimes appear that the bowler extends their arm past the allowable 15-degree bend at the elbow.

duck, golden duck, diamond duck, and platinum duck

A duck is another animal that gets name-checked in cricket, though unlike cows, the origin is metaphorical rather than a direct reference to a creature’s potential grazing ground. A duck is “zero” (similar to the expression goose egg) because a duck’s egg is the same shape as a zero.

There’s not just one type of duck in cricket, however, there are four. But the better-sounding the duck, the worse it is for the batter. The standard is when a batter is out without scoring a run. It’s called a golden duck when the batter is out after the first legal ball, and a diamond duck when the batter is out before they get a chance to swing at a legal bowl. And then there’s the platinum duck. This ultimate duck in cricket is when a batter is out on the first ball of the first innings (yes, with an S) of the match. Gives yelling, “Duck!” an entirely new meaning.

mullygrubber

Some moments in sport happen by accident and turn the tide of the game. Others are made to appear by accident and do the same. A mullygrubber falls into the latter category. The phrase means a ball that is bowled along the ground, making it near impossible for a batter to properly hit. It likely comes from Australia’s use of the word mully to mean “dusty” or “powdery.”

A purposeful mullygrubber is not a good thing. In 1981, an Australian bowler delivered one to a New Zealand batter at the end of the World Series Cup. The ball bounced along the ground, and the New Zealand player wasn’t able to score, which was legal but considered unsportsmanlike. Mullygrubber has had a negative connotation ever since.

nervous nineties

Unlike baseball, there’s the possibility for a lot of runs to happen in cricket. There’s even a terminology set up to describe when loads of runs are scored by one batter. A ton, also called a century, is when a batter scores 100 runs in one innings—and no one wants to be the batter who just missed making a ton. The nervous nineties refers to that stretch when a batter has scored 90 to 99 runs and feels the heat to make it to 100.

In Australia, the pressure comes before the batter reaches the 90s. The devil’s number in Australian cricket is 87, and it gets the name because it’s 13 away from 100, and there’s a cultural line of thinking that 13 is an unlucky number.

 

Have luck—and a slew of words—on your side by learning 13 ominous synonyms for unlucky.

Snickometer

Snickers in a crowd during a match? Probably not a good sign for the player being snickered at. A Snickometer, however? That’s just standard cricket technology. A Snickometer (or snicko for short) is a microphone placed in a stump that debuted in 1999 in the United Kingdom. The device measures sound waves with an oscilloscope, and the data from the Snickometer is then shown to TV viewers so they can see whether or not a batter hit the ball or if the bat hit something else (such as the pads or the ground) that made a similar sound. Umpires, however, don’t get to rely on the Snickometer and must instead trust their own senses.

batta

In cricket, a bowler cannot extend their elbow more than 15 degrees. That would be throwing, rather than straight-arm bowling. That throwing is called batta in India and Pakistan. Batta is a Punjabi word for “stone” as well as a verb for “to throw a stone,” so in the sport it means to throw the ball like one would a stone. Throwing literal stones, needless to say, is not allowed, and neither is throwing the ball like a stone. Players suspected of doing so are subjected to official reviews and tests.

Now that you have a sense of the words that make cricket as fun a game to talk about as it is to play, test your knowledge with our quick cricket quiz.

 

Were these terms foreign to you? We bet there are plenty of words coming from India and Pakistan that will be up your alley. See which words they are!