Expressions in English from the sport of cricket, by English with Stephen

Word Stories: Cricket, lovely cricket

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast episode that looks at words and expressions in English associated with the sport of cricket

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Hello and welcome to English with Stephen. My name’s Stephen Greene and today we are going to talk about one of my sporting passions.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved the sport of cricket. Now, there are a lot of people who don’t know very much about cricket. I get this, really I do. It is a sport you have to grow up with to really love. And I really love it.

The sport of cricket is mainly played by countries that were part of the British empire. The main countries are England, Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, the islands in the Caribbean, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

In the countries of the sub-continent, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, cricket can sometimes seem like a religion. And this means that cricket is, by some accounts, the second most popular sport in the world.

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that, but if you think of the number of people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, it starts to make sense.

Anyway, there is a World Cup of cricket starting about now, so I thought I would look at some expressions in English that come directly from the sport of cricket.

After this.

Before we talk about cricket, I’d just like to quickly recommend another podcast. It is called What You Say in English and is a pretty unique podcast. Every episode, the host listens to English learners from around the world and then offers feedback on how they can improve their spoken English. The feedback is constructive and applies to lots of English learners. I think most students will gain from listening to this wonderful show. You can search for What You Say in English on your favourite podcast app, or I will post a link to the show on my website, EnglishwithStephen.com

If you would like to see some cricket or learn about the basic rules of cricket, then I have some links on my site EnglishwithStephen.com. On that site, you can also find a transcript of this episode as well as links to all the previous episodes of this podcast.

I will also post a link to a couple of Netflix sites where you can watch some really interesting documentaries about the history of cricket and how it is played today. You’ll find all of that on my site, EnglishwithStephen.com, that’s S T E P H E N, EnglishwithStephen.com.

And now back to some common expressions that come from cricket.

There is this idea that people who play cricket are much more polite and refined than people who play other sports, like football or rugby. Cricket players like to think that the sport is the most important thing and that we are honest and transparent. We would never cheat at the sport. Oh no. Never. Because of this, if someone says “it’s just not cricket”, it has the meaning that the person or situation is not fair, sportsmanlike, or genuine. For example, “it’s just not cricket that some athletes use drugs in the Olympics.”

When you are playing cricket, one team bats, or hits the ball, and the other team bowls, or throws the ball. When you are batting, it is your “innings”. The idea is to have as long an innings as possible so you can score as many runs, or points, as possible. Away from cricket, if somebody “has a good innings”, it suggests they have lived a long time or worked in a place for a long time. For example, “Did you hear that Alice died? She was 92, so I supposed she had a good innings.”

There are many ways to score runs when you are batting. One of the ways is to hit the ball out of the ground. If you can do this, it is a great moment and worth six runs, but you have to hit the ball very hard. When you say “I was hit for six” you are saying something bad hit me very hard and it was a bad experience. For example, “I was in bed all last week. I had a flu that hit me for six.”

The next phrase is “off your own bat”. If you do something off your own bat you do it from your own initiative, you don’t wait for anybody to tell you what to do. For example, last night, my wife and I were working late. I walked into the living room and asked my son if he wanted anything to eat. He said he wasn’t hungry because he had fixed himself something to eat off his own bat. I was amazed as I think this is the first time he has done anything like this. Normally he waits for someone else to tell him what to do.

There are many ways you can finish your innings. One of them is if you are stumped. It doesn’t happen very often and it means that the batter has made a serious mistake. Outside of a cricket match, if you are “stumped” it means you have no idea what the answer is or what to do. For example, “I was stumped for ideas when I realised I had no money in my bank account. I just didn’t know what to do.”

When a team is “bowled over” everybody has performed badly and all of the batters have failed or “fallen over”. We can say somebody was “bowled over” if they are completely shocked or impressed. Interestingly, unlike in the sport where it is negative, in real life it can be positive. For example, “I was completely bowled over the moment I saw her. I just knew that she was the one for me and that we would spend the rest of our lives together.”

The place where you bowl and hit the ball is called the wicket. The quality of the grass on the wicket is very important. If it is old grass, or if the grass is of bad quality, then we can say it is a “sticky wicket”, which means it is very difficult to play on. If you say something is a sticky wicket in day-to-today life, you are saying it is a difficult and complicated situation.

Some players are very good when the wicket is flat and easy to play on, but when the wicket is difficult they are not very good. Another name for the wicket is a “track”. If you are a “flat-track bully” it means you are brilliant when everything is easy, but disappear as soon as the going gets more difficult.

Finally, if you “catch someone out”, in cricket, you catch the ball which means the person who hit the ball is out and has to stop playing. In real life, if you catch someone out you prove they that they are doing something wrong, and then they have to pay the consequences. For example, “I suspected John was stealing from the company, and I caught him out when we checked his expenses.”

So, these are some of my favourite expressions from one of my favourite games. The expressions are more common in places that play cricket, which means they are less likely to be heard in the USA, where they play baseball instead of cricket. I am sure baseball is good, but it really just isn’t cricket.

Don’t forget, you can find the transcript for this episode, as well as links to other interesting articles, videos and series on my site, EnglishwithStephen.com. And one more thing, remember to check out the What You Say in English podcast for some really useful feedback and ideas on how to improve your English.

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