The rules of cricket are famously, almost comically, complicated.
Take this subsection of Law 42.6.1 in the International Cricket Council’s rules and regulations on Standard Test Match Playing Conditions:
“In the event of a bowler bowling more than two fast short-pitched deliveries in an over as defined in Clause 42.6.1 (b) above, the umpire at the bowlers end shall call and signal no ball on each occasion. A differential signal shall be used to signify a fast short pitched delivery. The umpire shall call and signal ‘no ball’ and then tap the head with the other hand.”
Helpfully, for those not steeped in the finer points of the game, the Marylebone Cricket Club has released what it calls the “first ever Laws of Cricket app.” The app, which users of iOS and Android devices can download for free, uses videos, quizzes and animations narrated by actor and writer Stephen Fry to explain the mechanics.
MCC says it has maintained custodianship of the laws of cricket since the club’s founding in 1787. Its website states: “Although the International Cricket Council is the global Governing Body for cricket, it still relies on MCC to write and interpret the Laws of Cricket, which are applicable from the village green to the Test arena.”
There are 42 such laws. And on the videos, Fry acknowledges their density with affection:
“Of course, this being cricket, there are further delightful complications … but never fear, all mental anguish will clear with a little quiet meditation and reference to law 29 in the blue book.” That’s during a lesson on when a batsman or woman is out of his ground. The answer is “a bit of a headache,” the narrator cheerfully explains.
The app is meant to bring new fans to the game. “As Guardians of the Laws and Spirit of Cricket, it is vital that MCC embraces the new audiences that the sport has gained in recent years and makes the Laws of the game even more accessible,” the club’s chief executive, Derek Brewer, says in a statement.
The app also features videos of 18 different umpire signals. For example, here’s the sign for “Leg Bye,” meaning the ball has hit the person of the batsman or woman so any runs completed are counted as “leg byes.”
And here’s how an umpire signals a fielding restriction known as a “Power Play.”
Still confused? You have plenty of company, including this blogger. This is how one teatowel — apparently a common sight in the U.K. — explains cricket to a foreign visitor, according to ESPN:
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
“When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
“When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!”