Matthew Gottlieb's story about cricket in the April 2012 issue of Virginia Living, "Batsmen Up!", not only shed light on the Commonwealth's cricket scene—which seems particularly healthy in Northern Virginia—but also introduced us to some of magnificently ludicrous language that gives cricket its unique character.
We only had room in the magazine to decode a small sampling of cricket's charming terminology, but here at VirginiaLiving.com we can offer an extended explanation of the sport's seemingly silly lexicon.
Ashes, The: Biennial contest between England and Australia, dating back to 1882, when Australia beat England in England for the first time, leading one British newspaper to declare the death of English cricket. Whichever teams wins the five match test series takes possession of a small terracotta urn.
Beamer: An illegal delivery of the ball, aimed to bounce at the batsman’s head.
Boundary: Perimeter of the field. If the batsman strikes the ball beyond the boundary, he scores four runs. If he does without the ball bouncing, he scores six runs.
Century: When a batsman scores 100 runs. Also refereed to as a "ton."
Declaration: When the batting side ends their innings before all their batsmen are out. They do this to prevent time running out.
Googly: A surprise delivery from a bowler that the batsman expects to spin in one direction, but actually spins in the opposite direction. Known in Australia as a “wrong’un.”
Duck: A batsman who is dismissed without scoring a single run is “out for a duck,” because the number zero resembles a duck egg. If dismissed on the first ball he faces, it’s a “golden duck.”
Duckworth-Lewis Method: Mathematical formula used to recalculate the batting team’s target in games affected by rain.
Dibbly Dobbly: A bowler of limited skills.
Dolly: An easy catch.
Full toss: A ball that reaches the batsmen without bouncing.
Gardening: When the batsmen repairs scuffs or divots in the turf, even if he doesn't really need to.
Grubber: A ball that bounces very low after striking the surface of the pitch.
“Howzat?”: The fielding team’s appeal to the umpire when they believe the batsman is “out.” The umpire cannot dismiss the batsman unless the fielding team appeals.
Jaffa: A ball delivered so perfectly as to be unplayable.
Leather on Willow: When the ball (made of leather) is struck by the bat (made of willow).
LBW: Acronym of “Leg Before Wicket,” where the ball would have hit the wicket had the batsman’s leg not been in the way. If the umpire deems the batsman was LBW, he is out.
Maiden: An over (set of six deliveries by the bowler) in which no runs are scored by the batting team.
Michelle: When a bowler takes five wickets, it’s called a “Michelle,” after actress Michelle Pfeiffer. Why? Because bowling statistics are expressed as a ratio of number of wickets taken to number of runs allowed, such as “five for 50.” Get it?
Nightwatchman: A less talented batsman sent in to play when light is fading, so that the more talented batsman is not risked in poor light.
Nelson: A score of 111, associated with Lord Nelson and considered to be unlucky in England. Superstitious players will stand on one leg during a “Nelson.”
Plumb: When the batsmen is very clearly LBW. No room for argument.
Popping crease: The area in which a batsman must stay (or return to) to avoid being stumped out.
Run-chase: Towards the end of a match, the batting team will know how many runs they need to win.
Sledging: Verbal abuse, often humorous, directed at a batsman in an attempt to unsettle him before he faces a ball.
Tail-ender: A batsman low down on the batting order.
Teapot: Bowlers often subtky (or not so subtly) indicate their disappointment with a teammate who fails to make a catch by standing with hands and hips. Teapot-style.
Yorker: A delivery intended to bounce close to the wicket, or at the batsman’s feet, making it very difficult to play.