While cricket is often thought of as a British sport, evidence of the game being played in the U.S. dates back to the early 1700s, according to Smithsonian. It was on May 6, 1751 that a U.S. match—between a team of Londoners and a team of New Yorkers—was first publicly reported. In honor of that game, and to decipher some of the seemingly complex intricacies for the uninitiated, check out these 15 corker cricket terms.
An innings in cricket is analogous to an inning in baseball, except that the plural is always used in cricket, whether about a single innings or more than one (cricket matches usually max out at two innings). To have a good innings means to have a good run or a long life.
Also known as a wrong ‘un, a googly is a type of throw or bowl in which the spin of the ball causes it to veer sharply to the leg side of a right-handed batsman. The googly is sometimes referred to as a Bosie, named for its inventor, English bowler Bernard Bosanquet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the origin of googly is unknown, although it might be related to goggle, which describes eyes that are protuberant and rolling.
Related to the googly, the doosra breaks from the leg of a right-handed batsman, and it's bowled in a way to deceive. The term has been used in English since the late 1990s and means “another” or “the other one” in both Hindi and Urdu. The technique was created by Pakistani bowler Saqlain Mushtaq, who was often instructed by his wicket-keeper, Moin Khan: “Doosra abhi karna hai,” or “Bowl the other one now.”
A jaffa is a pitch that's exceptionally good. Also known as a corker, the origin of the cricket sense of jaffa is unclear. Jaffa originally referred to an ancient port in Israel, and then a sweet, thick-skinned orange grown near that port. Jaffa cakes are a kind of spongy chocolate-topped cookie with orange-flavored filling. A jaffa in cricket might come from the idea of a particularly good orange or a tasty biscuit.
A perhapser is a risky or erratic stroke. While the OED cites 1954 as the year of origin, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says it’s been in use by Australian cricketers since the 1930s.
A lolly is an easy catch. The term originated in the early 1920s and might come from lollipop or loll, to hang loosely or be suspended. Other words for easy catches include dolly, gaper,and percher (especially when the easy catch was missed).
“Howzat?” a fielder might ask an umpire, meaning "How's that batsman? Is he out or not?" Howzat can be shortened even further to “zat.”
8. BREAK ONE’S DUCK
To break one’s duck means to score a first run in an innings, thus breaking a duck’s egg, or zero score. A duck’s egg is also known as a blob while a duck can refer to a player who hasn't scored.
A red-inker is an undefeated or “not out” batsman. The term comes from the practice of using red ink to enter undefeated innings in a scorebook.
10. DOROTHY DIX
Dorothy Dix is Australian rhyming slang for a score of six runs. The term was originally Australian political slang referring to a question asked in Parliament which the respondent knows will be asked. This comes from the pseudonym of American journalist, Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, who wrote an advice column for which she often devised her own questions.
11. STICKY WICKET
A wicket in cricket refers to a set of three sticks, or stumps, at which the bowler aims and the batsman defends. The ground between two sets of stumps is also known as the wicket, which after a rain can cause the ball to behave unpredictably, hence the phrase sticky wicket. The 1880s is the first time sticky wicket is used in a literal sense, and it's around the 1950s that the phrase began to be used to refer to any difficult situation.
The Snickometer, also known as the Snicko, is an audio and visual slow motion device invented in the 1990s by British computer scientist Alan Paskett. The Snicko allows umpires to determine whether or not the ball has touched the bat or batsman, which in turn determines whether or not a batsman is out.
13. OFFER THE LIGHT
When an umpire asks a batsman if he wants to continue playing in bad light, he’s offering the light. However, as of 2010, umpires are allowed make decisions about bad light without consulting the batsman.
14. NERVOUS NINETIES
The nervous nineties might occur after a batsman has scored more than 90 runs in an innings and is feeling the pressure to score a century, or a hundred runs, considered a milestone in cricket. Analogous are the yips in golf, a state of anxiety that causes the golfer to miss easy shots.
15. THE ASHES
The Ashes refers to a long-time rivalry between England and Australia in the form of the Test cricket series. Test is the longest form of cricket, with matches lasting as long as five days. The series is held every two years and the winner is awarded the Ashes trophy, a tiny urn that legends says holds the ashes of two burned cricket bails.
The tradition started in 1882, when Australia beat England for the first time on English soil. British weekly The Sporting Times printed a mock obituary of “English cricket which died at the Oval,” a cricket ground in London. The obit noted that “the body” would be “cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
The English cricket team vowed to regain the figurative ashes, and at one point the English captain, Ivo Bligh, was gifted a small urn by a group of women, including Florence Morphy, who’d later become his wife.
To this day the Ashes gets passed between the two countries (metaphorically), depending on who the winner is, which at last count was England.