Fielding positions are an essential part of any cricket match and, if the captain places his or her players in the correct places, it can be key to the final outcome. Cricket is a sport with unique terminology and many of the fielding positions come with their own idiosyncratic language.
In this guide we will explain all the possible positions and their value to the fielding side.
The Set Up
The cricket field is generally oval in shape and can be divided into two halves – the off side and the leg side. At any point in the game, 11 fielders are in position, together with two batsmen and two umpires.
Only two members of the fielding side are in set positions at any specific point in the match. The bowler delivers the ball from one end of the pitch while the wicket keeper stands behind the stumps at the opposite end.
The two batsmen are at opposite ends of the wicket. The striking batsman takes guard in order to receive the ball while his or her partner waits at the other side to complete runs and assume that strike. The two umpires stand at the bowler’s end and at square leg respectively.
The ultimate responsibility for setting the field lies with the captain. The skipper will consult with the bowler but it’s down to the man or woman in charge to set those positions. The captain can stand wherever they like on the field but, because of the need for consultation, they will usually be as close to the bowler as possible.
Off Side and Leg Side
The two hemispheres of a cricket field are referred to as the leg side (sometimes called the on side) and the off side. Fielding positions can be named according to their place in either section and examples include leg gully and mid off.
The captain is largely free to place fielders wherever they like, subject to one strict law. No more than two fielders can be placed behind the wicket on the leg side.
Basic Terms on the Cricket Field
Fielding positions can also be named according to their distance from the batsmen. The five most common phrases in this respect are silly, short, mid, deep and long. Those terms are listed in order so, for example, silly point will be as close to the batsman as the laws, and the bravery of the fielder, will allow.
From the closest point, fielders will then be placed in short, mid, deep and long positions. At the furthest end of the field, those in ‘long’ positions such as long off and long leg are likely to be situated right on the boundary.
Complete List of Cricket Fielding Positions
Here is a comprehensive list of fielding positions in common use in the modern game of cricket:
- Wicket Keeper
- Fly Slip
- Third Man
- Long Stop
- Cow Corner
- Cover Point
- Extra Cover
- Mid Off
- Mid On
- Mid Wicket
- Square Leg
- Backward Square
- Leg Gully
- Leg Slip
- Fine Leg
- Long Leg
- Long Off
- Long On
- Short Leg
Many of those positions can be prefixed with the terms, silly, short, mid, deep and long. For example, fielders may be placed at silly point, point or deep point. The positioning in terms of the angle to the wicket is the same but the distance will be adjusted in each case.
Basic Field Setting
The majority of fielders will tend to be placed on the off side, simply because a batsman is more likely to hit the ball in this region. TV viewers may hear commentators refer to a 6-3 field or a 7-2 field and this relates to the split between off side and leg side fielders. So, in that first example, there will be six fielders on the off side and three on the leg side.
An attacking field is usually in place at the start of a game and, in test cricket, there may be a number of slips. In order, based on their proximity to the wicket keeper, there may be a first slip, second slip, third slip and so on. Along with the ‘silly’ and ‘short’ fielders, these are known as ‘catching positions’.
As the game progresses, that field may start to move out if the batting side are on top. The deep and long fielders may now move from catching positions into run saving positions.
Away from test cricket, one day games and T20 matches have specified fielding restrictions, also known as powerplay. Captains can still choose where to place their men but there will be limits on the number of fielders who are allowed outside of a marked 30 yard fielding circle.
All Fielding Positions Explained
The bowler and wicket keeper positions have already been explained but what about the others? Here is a brief description of each of the positions listed above:
- Slip: Slips stand next to the wicket keeper on the off side and are generally placed in an arc.
- Fly Slip: A fly slip is a slip who is further away from the wicket in a ‘mid’ position.
- Gully: A gully is close to the slips but is located just behind the line of the wicket on the off side.
- Third Man: A third man will either be deep or short. They are located behind the wicket on the off side.
- Point: A point fielder is square to the wicket on the off side
- Sweeper: This is a modern position and typically refers to a point fielder on the boundary.
- Long Stop: Long stop is an outdated position, located directly behind the wicket keeper on the boundary.
- Cow Corner: Also known as deep mid wicket. Located on the boundary on the leg side
- Cover: On the off side between point and mid off
- Cover Point: At a specific position between point and cover
- Extra Cover: On the off side between Cover and mid off
- Mid Off: A relatively straight position, close to the bowler on the off side
- Mid On: Straight and close to the bowler on the leg side
- Mid Wicket: At a halfway point between bowler and wicket keeper on the leg side
- Square Leg: At a position square to the wicket on the leg side
- Backward Square: Just behind that square position on the leg side
- Leg Gully: A catching position on the leg side, opposite to a traditional gully
- Leg Slip: Closer to the wicket keeper on the leg side, opposite to a traditional slip
- Fine Leg: At a 45 degree angle between square leg and the wicket keeper on the leg side
- Long Leg: Similar to fine leg, long leg will be placed on the boundary.
- Long Off: As per Mid Off but on the boundary
- Long On: As per Mid On but on the boundary
- Short Leg: A close catching position, just in front of square on the leg side
There’s a lot to digest with regards to fielding positions and this is a comprehensive list. A captain will initially set a field and then adjust the placings according to each batsman and as a reaction to the state of the game.
By studying them and by following matches live or on television, any viewer or prospective captain can monitor the game and add to their understanding of cricket as a whole.