A game of Backyard Cricket is a time-honoured Australian tradition. And in the lead up to Australia Day, there's no better time to brush up on the rules and etiquette of this great game. Cricket is played across by the nation by men, women, children and those who may be past their prime on the pitch but have been known to dive for spectacular catches only two months after a full hip replacement. Or was that just my Pop…?
Regardless, the rules of this great game have become a little diluted over the years, with some backyard scallywags reportedly claiming wickets on bogus grounds like “caught”, “bowled” or “run out”. Well we say enough to this malarkey!
So here is your ultimate cheat sheet of the Top Ten (internationally recognised*) Backyard Cricket Rules. To all of those newcomers, internationals or NRL fans out there who are asked to field on Australia Day, we’ve got you covered. With these beauties under your hat, you’re sure to impress any David Boon-loving, Merv moustache-wearing, Shane Watson-sympathising cricket lovers you come across on January 26.
Disclaimer: this is in no way a comprehensive list. We cannot and will not be held accountable for any Australia Day arguments, brawls or general disagreements in your backyard.
1. A person cannot be dismissed on their first ball. You’ve got to give the non-athletic cousins a fair crack guys.
2. Automatic Wickie. Rarely is an actual person required to wicket keep during a backyard match (especially now we've got cricket coolers), so the automatic wicket keeper is called into play for any ‘nicks’, ‘glances’ or ‘shots’ landing behind the batsmen. The automatic wickie never drops a catch, and is responsible for any ball extending up to third slip.
3. One hand, one bounce. Fielders are allowed to claim a wicket by catching the ball in one hand after a single bounce. How else do you take a catch and not spill your beer or drop your sausage sanga? C’mon guys – this is a pretty obvious one.
4. No LBW, under any circumstances. But if you continue to block the ball with your legs, there will be other punishments thrust upon you. Including, but not limited to, extensive periods in the field, repeated delivery of dirty bouncers, and restocking the esky at frequent intervals.
5. Six and out. Any person who hits a six outside the yard will be awarded those runs, but is automatically dismissed. They are also required to fetch the ball, regardless of any large and/or intimidating neighbouring dogs. If the ball cannot be recovered, or a suitable replacement cannot be found, the offending batsman will be referred to by all manner of derogatory terms for the remainder of the day, and is forced to do the washing up.
6. Audience participation encouraged. All participants must field for at least 15 minutes before being allowed to bat or bowl. The only exception to this rule is the drinks person who has been supplying cold beverages to the players throughout the day. This person may bat or bowl whenever they please.
7. There is no such thing as a ‘standard over’. A bowler can and will continue to play until such time as the batsman or a fielder asks "How many balls left?". The response is always "I’ve got two more left mate".
8. Pitch layout. The length of the pitch will be marked at both ends by either a) an esky b) wheelie bins c) the garage door with stumps marked in chalk (extra points for paint). The bowler’s crease will be marked in a haphazard fashion, most popularly by a shoe scuffmark, or the bowler’s stubby of beer.
9. Hitting the car/house on the full. Instant dismissal. This rule is intended to encourage batsmen to keep the ball low to the ground and to avoid the six and out rule as much as possible.
10. Which brings us to the most important piece of etiquette in backyard cricket. Sledging is compulsory. However, some topics are off limits. These include: ‘your mum’, any disparaging comments about WAGs, or the great underarm incident of 1981.
Play hard, have fun and Happy Australia Day!
* These rules are in no way recognised internationally