ENGLISH and American boys are pretty much the same kind of fellows in their love of outdoor sports; and in neither country does a boy get into knickerbockers, without beginning at once to learn to play ball.
The very small boy is usually content to begin by playing "catch;" that is, tossing the ball back and forth; but it is only a short time before we find him trying to follow the example of the older boys, and play the national game - in America, base-ball; in England, cricket.
And as soon as he becomes a pretty fair player, we find our boy joining some small club; next, playing on his school team; then on his college nine or eleven, and all the while going to see games between the best players of the great teams, studying the fine points of the game, learning the science of play, and unconsciously getting the good health which comes from being in the open air, and which is likely to carry him through life.
The difference between the games of the two countries, is, however, that cricket means much more to the English boy than base-ball does to the American.
This follows naturally; for while our American game has been in existence only about thirty-five years, cricket has been the English national sport for two centuries; and where, with us, our best players of base-ball are men who make a business of playing, and are paid large salaries, in England the greatest cricket teams are made up very largely of amateurs, it being seldom that in one game more than two or three professional players will be found.
It is this strictly amateur element of the game of cricket that has won, and kept for it, its popularity in England, where the hero of the hour in school, college, county, and international matches is the one who has made a big score, or broken through the defence of his opponents by skilful bowling.
Many boys will be surprised to learn that the first game of cricket played in America, of which we have record, was between eleven colonists and an equal number of Londoners, in 1751, and we take pleasure in recording the fact that the "cockneys" were beaten.
In Boston, in 1809, the first organized club was started by a number of Englishmen, under the name of the Boston Cricket Club; and just twenty-one years afterward the St. George's Club, of New York, was founded, and began the work of fostering and encouraging the progress of the game.
Cricket is so little understood by the many to whom base-ball and tennis have been the principal summer sports, that it may be well to give a brief outline of its objects, and the way it is played.
A field as large as possible, in which the grass is kept as carefully clipped and level as a lawn, is the ideal cricket ground. Near the centre of the field, the pitch, as it is called, is selected, and the wickets are placed twenty-two yards apart, opposite and parallel to each other.
It must be understood that the "pitch" alluded to is the space which corresponds to the space between the pitcher and catcher in base-ball.
Each wicket consists of three round wooden sticks, called "stumps," which are driven into the ground, and just near enough together to prevent the ball from passing between them, while their height must not exceed twenty-seven inches, and their total width, when ready for attack, not more than eight inches.
On top of each wicket are placed two small sticks of wood, called "bails;" and so lightly are they poised that at the slightest dis-turbance of the wicket they fall to the ground.
The bowler's crease, corresponding in base-ball to the pitcher's box, from behind which the ball must be bowled, is in line with the wicket. Another line, four feet from the wicket and parallel with it, is called the popping crease; and the batsman, to be safe, must have some part of his body or his bat inside this line when the ball is in play.
The bat used is made of willow, with a spliced handle, usually of cane. It is nearly flat, and not more than four and a quarter inches wide, or more than thirty-eight inches long. The ball has a basis of cork, and is bound with leather, and weighs between five and one-half and five and three-quarters ounces.
Ready for the Attack.
A match is played between two sides, of eleven players each, unless otherwise agreed; each side has two innings except in one-day matches, when one innings each decides the contest.
The chance of innings is decided by tossing. The batting side sends two men to the wickets, and, as each man gets out, another replaces him until the whole side is out; one man being "not out," because by the rules of the game there must be a batsman at each wicket.
The side which takes the field selects two bowlers, one of whom delivers four, five, or six balls as previously arranged.
The umpire, at the bowler's wicket, now calls, "over." The field then chancres to suit the bowler from the opposite end, and he delivers the same number of balls, when "over" is called by the other umpire, and the field changes again, and so on.
The bowler's object is to hit the wicket; or he is to bowl such a ball that the batsman hits it in the air, and is caught by a fielder, or is coaxed outside of the popping crease, when, missing the ball, the wicket is knocked down by the wicket keeper, who corresponds to the catcher in base-ball, and the batsman is stumped out.
The batsman's object is to hit the ball through the fielders, or in such a location as to give no chance for a catch, and score a run. A run is scored as often as the batsmen, after a hit, or at any time while the ball is in play, shall have crossed, and made good their ground, from end to end. If caught between the wickets while running, or if at any time the batsman while in play is out of his ground, and his wicket be struck down by the ball after touching any fieldsman, he is "run out." With a few minor rules added, this is the way in which the game is played in England and America.