But what is cricket?
Many people, and this is amazing in the 21st century, say that they don’t understand cricket; and so for those unhappy few who were not born in England on a typically sunny day, this is how it works.
First of all you need to understand that cricket is a gentleman’s game, and consequently nobody gets injured and there are no substitutes.
Each side has eleven players; the home team always wears white and the away team wears……well, white.
An international game can last five days, although there are plenty of stops to drink tea.
There are always thirteen players playing at any given time, two for one side, known as the batsmen, not to be confused with Batman who rarely wears white, and eleven for the other side, known as fielders. This may seem unfair, but then fairness has always been over-rated.
There are two referees, although traditionally they are called ‘umpires’, and they always wear white, although they often wear white hats to avoid confusion, and long white coats with pockets, where they keep stones to help them count up to six, cricket not being a decimal sport.
The team that is batting (the batsmen) is considered to be in, and the objective of the fielders is to get ten of them out. There are a number of ways that a player who is ‘in’ can be ‘out’, but most beginners get demotivated when they are explained in the first lesson.
Each batsman has a bat, which is a wooden object shaped a little bit like the end of an oar for rowing a boat and is not a nocturnal animal, although it is that as well, English being, as if it wasn’t hard enough already, a delightfully polysemetic language.
The batsman has to defend the wicket, (three vertical wooden sticks with two smaller horizontal sticks on top), from the bowler, who throws (actually ‘throw’ is considered vulgar, so we say ‘bowls’) the ball at him.
The ball is red, probably so that the batsman can see it among all that white, and is made of cork covered with leather.
It is very hard and hurts a lot if it hits you in the face. When this happens, unlike in football, players of both sides commiserate and apologise. Apologising is of course another great British sport, but we can talk about that another time. It mainly consists of saying ‘sorry’ a lot; very important when confronted by 200 rampaging football hooligans.
When one team is ‘out’, as you probably already guessed, the other team goes in. The completion of the team losing its ten wickets is called an ‘innings’, and in normal games each team has an innings, although in international matches, which England always loses in order to keep the Commonwealth together, there are two each.
The side that is ‘in’ scores points, which are called ‘runs’. They are called runs because the batsmen run between the wickets after hitting the ball. If they hit the ball beyond the boundary they get four runs, although they don’t have to run, and if they hit the ball beyond the boundary without it bouncing, they get six runs, similarly without running.
If a batsman is out without scoring any runs, this is called a ‘duck’, and if he is out on the first ball, it is a ‘golden duck’. Originally it was called a ‘duck’s egg’, because a duck’s egg looks like a zero, in the same way that in tennis the zero is called ‘love’, which has nothing to do with human affection, but derives from the French word ‘oeuf’, ‘egg’.
The bowler bowls six balls before another bowler bowls six from the other end, ad infinitum (or at least it feels that way after five days). The six balls are called an ‘over’, to explain that the bowler has finished. Very subtle I’m sure you will agree.
If a bowler takes three wickets with three balls, this is called a ‘hatrick’, because in the past, his team mates would give him a hat (in an epoch, soon to return I hope, when all gentlemen, even poor ones, wore hats).
So, cricket deprivation in Valencia has now been rectified. The Levante Cricket Club was founded by Londoner Barry Eaton, although there are players from New Zealand, Pakistan, Ireland and South Africa among the British teachers from local bilingual schools and academies.
Surprising as it may seem, there are cricket clubs all over Spain, and the Levante Club, which plays at the Baseball Ground in the Turia Park, is in the Second Division, playing mostly against teams from Alicante and Murcia, but also from Madrid.
The team is thinking about the future and of nurturing new generations of players, inviting younger, potential players to attend training sessions held before the regular team practices on Thursday nights, and by visiting schools explaining the fundamentals of cricket to bewildered Spanish students.