The definitive rules of backyard cricket

Ask any famous Australian cricketer where they got their start, and the answer is the same: playing in the backyard or on the street with their family and friends. From the Waugh and Hussey brothers to Aussie wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy and her uncle Ian, the backyard is where our cricket stars are born.

Backyard cricket season is here again, and whether you’re taking a break from the family BBQ for a hotly contested backyard Test match, or padding up with your mates in the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, it’s the pastime that unites Australia.

But every backyard cricket match comes with its fair share of arguments too – after all, we take our cricket seriously in this country. It’s about time we all agreed on a national set of backyard cricket laws. Before you know it, they’ll be using these at the MCG.

Law 1: One hand, one bounce
This one is pretty much universal, and for good reason. Allowing the fielders a spare hand to hold a sausage or a drink, without impairing their ability to catch, means they can remain satiated in the summer sun. Very helpful when cousin Max, the 17-year-old cricketing gun of the family, is approaching 150 not out on a flat bitumen pitch.

One hand, one bounce also increases the potential for classic catches. What’s a game of backyard cricket without a diving one-handed speccy for the highlights reel? Extra points if the diving catch involves a swimming pool.

Law 2: Six and out
Six and out is the great evener of cricket ability, another crucial part of the backyard game. It means less punishment for the bowlers when the batter is showing off and swinging hard for the neighbours’ garden, where everyone knows the biggest dog in the suburb stands guard. Hit one for six? You’re out, and you’ve gotta jump the fence to retrieve the ball, too.

Six & Out also happened to be the name of Brett Lee’s cricketing supergroup/celebrity rock band. Remember ‘Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw’? The Aussie anthem that never was.

Law 3: You can’t be out first ball
Given the unpredictable nature of backyard cricket pitches, it’s only fair to give the batter a chance to acclimatise. Plus, nobody should have to endure the embarrassment of a golden duck, especially if it’s their cricketing debut.

Of course, the charity only extends so far. Out second ball? Tough luck, Nan – on your way.

Law 4: No LBWs
The most ambiguous of all cricket’s laws has no place in the backyard. For starters, LBWs are a sure-fire way to start an argument – professional umpires have a hard enough time with them as it is, and they have ball-tracking technology for assistance.

No, the backyard rule here is much simpler: the ball hits the batter’s leg? Not out. Get on with it. Having said that…

Law 5: The umpire is always right
And by the umpire, we mean Mum, or the nearest non-playing adult. No arguments.

Appendix: Other contentious laws
Like on the golf course, every backyard cricket ground has its local rules. From wrapping half the ball in masking tape for added swing, to electric wickie and inanimate fielders (gnomes, pot plants and the garden shed), it’s the host’s job to define these rules – just make sure all the players know about them in advance.

And remember, any disputes will refer back to Law 5. Now, who’s bowling first?

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