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Cricket in Jamaica

Cricket is a legacy of British rule.  The late 19th-century colonialists sponsored cricket as a game of true gentlemen.  It was a handy tool for spreading English culture and an admiration for the 'mother country'.  In his book Beyond a Boundary, CLR James postulated that the level of maturity of cricket was used by the British in the first half of this century as a measure of whether a colony was prepared for self-rule.  There is no doubt that cricket has helped cement a sense of regional identity and unity throughout the English-speaking Caribbean islands.

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Jamaica has no national team except for Caribbean matches.  Instead the best players from the cricketing nation of the Caribbean form the West Indies team which has dominated world cricket for two decades.  Cricket fever boils over when the West Indies plays England.  Regional competitions feature teams from individual islands.

Jamaicans turn what is in England a game without spirit into the most exhilarating cricket in the world.  Leading tournaments ignite holy passions.  They're also a social occasion.  Entire families arrive with coolers of beer and hampers stuffed with Jamaican food.  Plenty of rum is consumed, and the calls of the crowd make for great theatre.

The rising Jamaican star is Jimmy Adams who follows in the footsteps of such heroes as George Headley.  In the 1930s, Headly dazzled the world with his unique skills (He is considered Jamaica's Babe Ruth and is still the only man to score two centuries ( a century is 100 runs) in one test match at Lord's, the London cricket ground that is the sport's world headquarters and the most hallowed ground of cricket.

Understanding Cricket

It's easy to get the gist of the game of cricket.  Here are the basics:

Two teams of 11 players compete.  As in baseball, one team fields its entire team while the other team has individuals come up to bat against a bowler (pitcher).  The batsman attempts to protect a wicket - three wooden stumps (posts), on top of which sit two precariously balanced bails (crosspieces) - with a three-foot-long, five-inch-wide bat, flat on one side and ridged on the other.  The bowler attempts to knock the bails from the wicket (home plate), which stands at the end of a 22-yard-long grass pitch- wicket-to-wicket - in the center of a circular field (this is the origin of the 22-yard 'chain,'  a traditional measure still beloved of (Jamaicans).  the batsman attempts to hit the ball, which may be delivered relatively slowly or at 100mph.  The ball usually bounces in front of the batsman on delivery, the bowler having usually put a tricky spin on the ball.  The batsman can send the ball in any direction, including behind, and may choose to run to the end of the pitch to score a run.  Four runs are automatically earned if the ball passes the boundary of the cricket field; six if it does so without touching the ground (the equivalent of a home run in baseball).

If a fielder catches the ball before it hits the ground, the batsman is out (the batsman may also be called out at the umpire's discretion if the ball hits his leg instead of the wicket).  A second batsman stands at the far end of the pitch.  The two batsmen must run past each other to opposite ends to score a run, and can do so as many times as prudence also while the ball is being fielded (the equivalent  of 'stealing bases'; as in baseball, if the ball is fielded to  the wicket before the batsman reaches it, then he is out).  After every six balls (pitches) or 'over,' a second bowler bowls from the opposite wicket.

Each team usually plays two innings.  A single innings (in cricket, there is no singular 'inning' as in baseball) is complete when all the team members are 'out' (there are various other ways in which they can be called 'out' by one of two umpires).  The team can choose to retire before all its members have batted, in which case the average number of runs per batsman can prove strategically useful in calculating a winner (the best batsmen usually bat first).  To hit a 'century' (100 runs) in an innings is considered great - the equivalent of a 'grand slam' in baseball.  To be 'bowled for a duck' (0 runs) is a disgrace.

One-day matches are common.  However, test matches (games between international teams) are played over the course of three to five days, not least because the batsmen are so skilled that it can take a long time to get them out.

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