A cricket field can be split into two halves either side of the wicket. These hemispheres are known as the offside and the legside and they are defined according to the position of the batsman.
It’s important to understand where the two sections are during the match for a number of reasons. They are particularly crucial in terms of field positioning and the laws of the game.
What are Off Side and Leg Side in Cricket?
For a right handed batsman, the leg side covers all parts of the cricket field located on their left hand side. The off side will, therefore, relate to the section on their right.
For left handed batsmen, the positions will reverse. The leg side will now be on their right and the off side on their left.
The Significance of On and Off Sides
The leg side is sometimes referred to as the on side. The two terms relate to the same side of the wicket and both are acceptable in modern cricket terminology.
The terms can be useful for anyone studying other areas of the game such as the various types of batting shots and fielding positions. Phrases such as leg gully, mid off, long leg and long off are in use and, by understanding where the two halves of the pitch are located, observers will be able to identify the general locations of those fielders.
The same practise can then be applied to shots such as the off drive or leg glance.
Laws Relating to Fielding Positions
The most important law relating to the two halves of a cricket pitch refers to the leg side. In all forms of the game, a fielding side is not permitted to place more than two fielders behind square on the leg side. If a ball is delivered and this law is transgressed, the umpire should call ‘no ball’.
The term ‘behind square’ relates to all positions behind the wicket at the batsman’s end.
Laws are also in place regarding fielding positions in one day cricket matches but they are not specific to either the leg or off sides. For example, in a power play situation, a team may only be allowed to place two fielders outside of the 30 yard circle. (Read more: What is powerplay?)
In test and first class cricket, there is no 30 yard circle and the fielding side can stand in any position as directed by the captain and bowler. In all forms of the game, however, that law pertaining to fielders behind square on the leg side is constant.