In the game of cricket, the terms ‘field’ and ‘pitch’ are both used but they relate to two specific things. Essentially, they are two very different areas of the ground on which a match is played.
In order to avoid confusion, the field and the pitch carry very clear definitions. Umpires and players must understand these terms but it’s also useful for viewers to study them.
The term ‘pitch’ relates to the small cut strip on which the stumps and creased are marked. The ‘field’, is the wider area of play within the boundary. There may be terms used for other areas but the pitch and the field are clearly defined and both play an important role in the laws of the game.
What is a Cricket Pitch?
Structure and Dimensions
With the stumps and creases marked at either end of the pitch, this is where the batsman takes their stance and the bowler delivers the ball. The essential action of any cricket match therefore takes place within the area defined as the ‘pitch’.
The dimensions of a cricket pitch have been uniform for a number of years and this is one law of the game which hasn’t been subjected to change. Those dimensions require a pitch to be 22 yards in length and ten feet in width. Metrically, this converts to 20.12 metres long and 3.05 metres wide.
The pitch area is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the field for two reasons. Firstly, there are those creases which will be marked by white lines and two sets of stumps will be placed at either end. Secondly, the pitch is cut shorter than the remainder of the field so it is clearly visible and lighter in colour.
At one end of the pitch, the batsman will take their stance in front of the stumps. At the opposite end, the bowler runs in to deliver the ball. A legitimate over consists of six deliveries and, at the conclusion of that over, the game changes ends. The non-striking batsman will now receive the deliveries and a change of bowler is required.
While the overs progress, the umpire will stand behind the stumps at the non-striker’s end in order to adjudicate on any decisions.
What is a Cricket Field?
Structure and Dimensions
The cricket field is the area outside of the pitch within the boundary. It can also be referred to as the outfield and the grass will be a little longer than that of the pitch. There are no specific dimensions required by the laws of the game so the exact circumference of the field will differ from ground to ground.
In general, the diameter of a cricket field will vary between 450 feet and 500 feet (137 metres and 150 metres). On its perimeter, a boundary will be clearly marked. There are no laws in terms of the structure of the boundary other than it must be clearly defined so we may see a rope, markers, a white line, flags or possibly a fence.
All ten fielders, excluding the bowler, must be on the field and not on the pitch when the ball is delivered. The aim of the batsman is to strike the ball into the field, away from the fielders, and to score runs. A ball that is struck outside of the field and beyond the boundary markers will be declared as a four or a six depending on whether or not it has bounced.
It is the job of the fielding side’s captain to place his or her team in strategic positions around the field. The wicket keeper will be placed directly behind the stumps at the striking batsman’s end so that leaves nine fielding positions to be occupied.
In test match and first class cricket, it’s common to have slip fielders and a gully who stand in an arc around the wicket keeper. In limited overs matches, slips are less common and the fielders are placed deeper into the field. Common fielding positions include mid off, mid on, square leg, point, cover, long leg, mid wicket and extra cover.
There is one additional section of the cricket area which is referred to as the ‘square’. This is the area immediately outside of the pitch where previous matches have been played. Pitches can be marked on any part of the square and will lay dormant, ready for future use.
Beyond the square, we have the outfield which extends to the boundaries. The terms ‘square’ and ‘outfield’ are commonly used but they have no direct bearing on the laws of the game. Because the square contains pitches that have previously been used in a game, the grass is shorter and the ball tends to travel faster across it.
Like all sports, cricket has its own terminology and it’s very important to understand that the pitch and the field are two entirely different entities (not to mention the cricket ground). Essentially, the main action takes place on the pitch with the bowler and batsman in direct competition while the remainder of the fielding side are waiting for the ball to enter the wider ‘field’.
The dimensions of the pitch are fixed and they must be adhered to for every game of cricket. All formats are expected to comply so those dimensions are set for test and first class cricket, one day cricket and T20 cricket.
It is the job of the groundsmen to ensure that the dimensions are correct. Before the start of the game, both umpires will walk to the pitch to make sure that the proportions are exact and that it has been correctly marked out.
In contrast, the field does not have a requirement for exact proportions and this makes cricket different to sports such as tennis and baseball. In general, fields may be shorter for limited overs matches as the formats revolve around high scoring totals. For test match and first class cricket, the dimensions are likely to be wider in order to establish a better balance between bat and ball.
Still, the dimensions and proportions of a cricket field are quite significant even in terms of making comparisons between cricket grounds according to their straight or square boundaries.