Cricket: Are England improved?...

I think it probably does. “England are” would sound fundamentally wrong to most Americans, I think.

So I posted a retarded title, dumbly spelled a simple word, and then called the readers ‘viewers’.

I think I must be regressing.

Robert Key took a blinder at short backward square, but later dropped another very sharp chance. Trescothick and Flintoff took good low catches at slip, but nothing extraordinary. Harmison rang in circles round a steepler at long leg. Didn’t lay a hand on it. Jones-the-wicketkeeper has improved, while Vaughan’s a dead-eyed dick shying at the stumps, but still drops some easy catches.

All in all, only Flintoff is top drawer catching-wise, and the mobility is not as good as the Aussies. But things are on the up.

Like Francesca I am relatively new fan of cricket (although for more than one year) so I still have plenty to learn. I ask my step-father who’s been a fan all his life but he tends to ramble and I end up forgetting the answer to what I asked.

What is the origin and meaning of all those terms I bolded?
Cricket is one of the many things I’m interested in now that I very much wish I had been interested in at school when I had the chance to join it’s teams.

p.s. I know they are positions. I am just wondering what position each one refers to. And how they got those cryptic names.

I’m no good on the origin of the names, but might be a bit of help on the positions.

You need to remember that positions are relative to whether the batsman is a right- or left-hander. At any one time there will be nine fieldsmen once you have discounted the bowler and wicketkeeper.

Most fast bowlers will bowl to a field that has the majority of fielders on the off side, usually 6 or 7. We call this an off-side field. There will be 4 or 5 fielders in catching positions behind the batsman’s crease (also known as behind square) on the off side. These occupy the various slip positions, which are numbered to reflect their distance from the wicketkeeper, and the gullies. The precise determination of when a slip (say fifth slip) becomes a gully is rather arbitrary. Sometimes, as in the recent Test at the Oval, when Harmison was bowling to Lara, captain and bowler placed the slip fielders in a staggered formation, whereby there was a first slip, [no second slip], a third slip, [no fourth slip], and a fifth slip (or fine gully). Added to that, there was a wider gully. (Or there may have been three slips (1st, 3rd and 5th) and *two * gullies. I can’t recall!

Sometimes, especially when a batsman is scoring freely or when a tailender who always edges the ball is in, the captain will want a fielder on the boundary behind where the slips would be, or indeed to cover the gap between the slips and gully he *does * have. This position - possibly the most crucial run-stopping position in the game - is called third man.

Moving round from gully (which, as a catching position, is a stationary position) you get cover point, traditionally the position where the team’s best outfielder fields. Great exponents include a young David Gower and Jonty Rhodes of South Africa. Cover point is usually square of the wicket, i.e. the fielder is opposite the square leg umpire. Some people call this square cover. Moving round towards the bowler, you get extra cover and then mid off. Mid off is where traditionally the captain places himself so he can chat with the bowler. All cover fieldsmen walk in as the bowler is running up to bowl. They are called “one-saving” positions (as opposed to catching positions or boundary saving positions). An exception is when, as Lara did, a captain posts a fielder at short extra cover. In this case, he’s about 20 yards from the bat and stationary.

Moving to the leg side (also called the on side), we have mid on (reflecting mid off), mid wicket (reflecting extra cover) and square leg (reflecting cover point). When a bowler lke Harmison is banging them in to the ribcage, or when a spinner is ripping it, you’ll get the men with the helmet, box and shinguards close to the bat. On the leg side, it’s short leg (forward short leg if it’s in front of square and backward short leg if it’s behind); on the off side, it’s generally silly point if it’s just in front of square and silly mid off if it’s in a line with the straighter mid off. (If it’s behind square, it’s gully.)

Short backward square is analogous to wide gully on the off side, while leg gully is analogous to standard gully. Leg slip should be self-explanatory if you’ve followed me this far! The leg side equivalents of third man are fine leg and long leg. Fine leg is there for the fine deflection and is often posted for bowlers of Harmison’s speed; it is on the boundary quite close to the line between bowler and wicketkeeper. Long leg is wider (or “squarer”), the default placing for medium pacers, as well as being commonly positioned for really fast bowlers when the batsman has decided to hook short pitched deliveries.

That leaves us with the other fielders on the boundary. Basically, you can just say “deep” whatever, for positions from third man on the off side to long leg on the leg side, with a couple of exceptions. Thus, deep cover, deep extra cover, long off, long on (the exceptions reflecting their more traditional ancestry), deep mid wicket, deep square leg and deep backward square (leg).

And the Americans say they can’t understand the game. Tuh!

Here’s a link that describes the cricket positions and has a diagram, although roger thornhill has done a good job.

As for the OP, I think England are improving, and they haven’t peaked yet, but I don’t know that they’ll be good enough to beat Australia in the ashes, even if it is on their home turf. I expect them to take one or two tests though, and be much more successful in playing out draws than they have in the past.

You know, I think draws are almost a thing of the past in modern test cricket, what with the fast scoring rates of teams like Oz (Hayden, Gilchrist etc) and with minimum over rates. With the series starting in late July, there may be a problem with the later tests in getting the full quota in, but if the weather is generally good, then I don’t expect many drawn games. Maybe Edgbaston, and only if Thorpe is fit!

Yeah, if England go back to playing for draws they’re dead men.

As for the origin of “slip,” “short backward square,” and “long leg”: I recently picked up a copy of The Oxford Dictionary of Cricket (yes! really). “Slip” is called such because it’s the position where balls that slip off the bat are caught. (What we now call “snicks”–when the ball just touches the bat on the way through–were called “slips” in the late 19th century, when a lot of these positions were first named.) “Short backward square” is a position relatively close (or “short”) to the batsman, “backward” (behind an imaginary line drawn through the batting crease) of square leg (a position directly behind the batsman on the leg side). And “long leg” is a position a long way away from the batsman, again on the leg side of the field.

The most enlightening thing I learned from the Dictionary: “silly” in the 19th century also meant “defenseless.” Thus “silly point,” “silly mid-on,” etc., were positions in which the field felt helpless.

Fielder, even.

Interesting information, Duke. You can’t beat the Oxford pedigree.