Bat-and-ball games

Young men playing a bat-and-ball game in a 13th-century manuscript of the Galician Cantigas de Santa Maria.

Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games[1]) are field games played by two opposing teams, in which the action starts when the defending team throws a ball at a dedicated player of the attacking team, who tries to hit it with a bat and run between various safe areas in the field to score points, while the defending team can use the ball in various ways against the attacking team's players to prevent them from scoring when they are not in safe zones.[2][3] The best known modern bat-and-ball games are baseball and cricket, with common roots in the 18th-century games played in England.

The teams alternate between "batting" (offensive) role, sometimes called "in at bat" or simply in, and "fielding" (defensive role), also called "out in the field" or out.[4] Only the batting team may score, but teams have equal opportunities in both roles. The game is counted rather than timed. The action starts when a player on the fielding team puts the ball in play with a delivery whose restriction depends on the game. A player on the batting team attempts to strike the delivered ball, commonly with a "bat", which is a club governed by the rules of the game. After striking the ball, the batter may become a runner trying to reach a safe haven or "base"/"ground". While in contact with a base, the runner is safe from the fielding team and in a position to score runs. Leaving a safe haven places the runner in danger of being put out. The teams switch roles when the fielding team puts the batting team out, which varies by game.

In modern baseball, the fielders put three players out. In cricket, they retire all players but one, though there may also be time limits or limits on the number of legal deliveries. In many forms of early American baseball (townball, roundball), a single out ended the inning. Some games permit multiple runners and some have multiple bases to run in sequence. Batting may occur, and running begin (and potentially end), at one of the bases. The movement between those "safe havens" is governed by the rules of the particular sport, and runs (points) may be scored when the batting team's players go from one safe haven to another.

Common features

This list may not apply to all bat-and-ball games, but covers certain features common to many of them:

  • Safe haven rules:
    • Only the first player to reach a safe haven is protected by it (i.e. both batters can't stay in the same batsman's ground in cricket to avoid a runout).[5]
    • The minimum number of safe havens is 2.
    • Runners may be called out for passing other runners; that is, if one runner advances further around the safe havens than another runner.
      • In cricket, there is no penalty if one batsman runs between the two safe havens more than the other batsman.
  • How to score runs:
    • How runs are scored by running:
      • In cricket, there is one player from the batting team in each safe haven, and one run is scored everytime all of these players advance. There is no limit to the number of times they may advance around the safe havens.
      • In various baseball-like and Schlagball-like games, a runner must complete a full trip around all of the bases to score a run, though they might not be allowed to pass other players on their team who are ahead of them.[6]
    • Penalties for not properly touching the necessary safe havens when running:
      • In cricket, it is considered a short run if a batsman doesn't touch the ground he is running towards, meaning the run does not score.
      • In baseball, runners can be put out by an appeal play if they have not touched each base in the proper order.
    • Alternative ways to score runs:
      • A ball that is hit very far (such as to the edge of, or out of the field) through the air (such as a home run or six (cricket)), or potentially in a specific area or place, such as in Bat-and-Trap, may automatically give the batting team some points, or at least the chance of earning points. [7]
  • Ways for a batter to get out:
    • When a batter hits a ball in the air that is caught by a fielder without bouncing, the fielding team gets closer to getting the batting team out, or otherwise receives an advantage.
      • In baseball and cricket, catches get the batter out.
        • In early forms of baseball, the ball could bounce once before being caught.[8] The "one hand, one bounce" rule of street cricket is similar.
        • When a catch is made, any runs scored before the catch on that delivery are nullified (see Tagging up).
      • In Schlagball, a one-handed catch taken "without bobbling" earns the fielding team a point. [9]
      • A fielder must remain within the field of play for the catch to be valid.
    • The batter may have a "strike zone" above their safe haven within which they are obliged to hit or deflect the ball if it is thrown there, lest they be put out. (In baseball, 3 unhit deliveries in the strike zone get a batter out, while one ball hitting a batter's wicket gets them out in cricket).
    • When the batter hits the ball and advances, he may be out if the fielders touch something connected to the safe haven the batter is running towards with the ball, so long as the batter is the nearest player on his team to that safe haven. [10]
  • Penalties are rewarded to the batting team if the ball isn't thrown "fairly" to the batter (i.e. isn't thrown from far away enough, or is thrown out of the batter's reach)
  • Strategy:
    • Batters have some latitude in terms of how far or when to run when scoring points (i.e. a baseball batter may stop at 1st base or continue to 2nd if they desire, though their choice also depends on whether there is a runner at 2nd or 3rd; see Base_running#Strategy), and this creates a risk-reward decision that could result in either more points or more outs.
      • Generally, the further the ball is hit from the fielders, the more time this affords for running.
    • There may be decisions on where to place fielders (see Infield shift) in anticipation of where a batter may hit the ball, or decisions on how and who best to deliver the ball to the batter so as to prevent them from hitting it and scoring (see Bowling_(cricket)#Bowling_tactics).
  • There may be certain places where the batter is not allowed or penalized for hitting the ball to. See foul ball.
  • The ball may be thrown through the air to the batter, or it might bounce on the ground before reaching them. (See bowling (cricket))
  • How players alternate roles:
    • Substitution of players:
      • Cricket does not allow substitution, except for fielders to temporarily leave the field.
      • Other bat-and-ball games allow substitution, with baseball not permitting players who are substituted out to play any further role in the game.
    • How batters alternate the batting:
      • In cricket, the two safe havens are occupied at all times by one player each from the batting team. The ball is delivered to the player standing in one of the safe havens, with the two players being a batting pair that face all deliveries for their team until one of them is dismissed, at which point another player from the batting team comes to occupy the now-unoccupied safe haven.
        • The batting order (cricket) is not fixed, and a player may not be on a safe haven if they were out earlier in the inning.
      • In baseball and other sports, every time the batter runs to a new safe haven, another batter comes in to bat.
      • These games can have a fixed batting order, and players can bat unlimited times in an inning.
    • How pitchers/bowlers alternate the throwing: In both baseball and cricket, any fielder can switch roles with the pitcher/bowler.
      • In limited overs cricket, each bowler has a limited number of legal deliveries they can bowl. In addition, bowlers can only swap after they have bowled the 6 legal deliveries of the over.


The safe havens of a cricket field (left) and baseball field (right) are depicted in green.

In cricket and baseball, the playing field is large (at the highest levels of each sport, the minimum distance between the two furthest ends of the field is about 400 to 500 feet (120 to 150 m)[12][13][14]), and is divided into an infield and outfield (based on proximity to the objects the fielding team can touch with the ball to put out runners).

Cricket has the delivery and hitting of the ball done in the same area where the batters can run (the cricket pitch), while baseball does the running in a separate area. The distance between the two batsmen's grounds in cricket (the areas that batsmen run between to score runs) is 58 feet (though batsmen may run slightly less distance, since they are allowed to use their bats to touch their grounds), while the distance between bases in baseball is 90 feet.[15]

Most bat-and-ball games have playing area in front of the batter (such as Schlagball), but may (like baseball) restrict batters from hitting the ball behind themselves or too far to the side; see foul territory.

Bat-and-ball sports can be modified to be played in an indoor court. For example, indoor cricket takes place in a 30 metres (98 ft)-long facility.

Fielding positions

In baseball-like games, the fielders (also known as "position players") operate in a standard set of baseball positions because it is generally possible to cover most of the field by spacing the fielders out in certain ways. By contrast, the significantly larger cricket field has many possible cricket fielding positions, with the 11 fielders occupying the slips cordon behind the batter, or other areas of the field.

Game length

T20 cricket and baseball both last about 3 hours, while other forms of cricket can last either multiple days or less than three hours. Informal bat-and-ball games may take place in shorter periods of time, and in general, the possibility of a team's batters getting out rapidly in succession makes it theoretically possible for certain periods of play in most bat-and-ball games to end quicker than usual, with the opposite also being possible.[16][17] Both baseball and cricket can theoretically go forever, since baseball games only end after a certain number of outs and innings in cricket can be prolonged by illegal deliveries; however, in limited overs cricket, fielding teams are penalized if they do not bowl enough legal deliveries at a certain rate, essentially imposing a time limit of sorts on these types of games.

  • The game may be played for a certain number of innings.
    • There can potentially be time restrictions (as in Test cricket), or the possibility of a game being suspended and resumed at a later date if necessary.
    • The trailing team can end up batting more times than the other team and still lose,[18] potentially because it was forced to do so by the other team.
  • There may be no restriction on the number of innings, deliveries, or time.


Bat-and-ball games are played until:

  • In baseball and Timeless Test cricket, the trailing team must complete all of its scheduled batting turns.
    • 5-day Test cricket also has the potential of a draw, which is where time runs out before the non-leading team(s) complete all of their batting turns.

Ties can be dealt with in several ways:

  • The tie may simply be considered a tie.
  • An inning, either full-size or abbreviated, may be added to the game, with this potentially repeating until the tie is broken.
Run chases

When one of the teams is not leading and only they have completed all of their allotted batting turns, this allows the other team to win automatically by surpassing the number of runs scored by the first team. In cricket, this situation is referred to as a "run chase", with the "target" of the batting team being the number of runs scored by the other team plus one. In baseball, the home team can be considered to be chasing, with the aim of scoring the "walk-off" (winning) runs, when they are not leading after the eighth inning, as a regulation game sees the trailing team bat at least nine times and the teams alternating the batting, with the home team always batting last.

Margin of victory

In addition to the number of runs a team won by over their opponents, other factors which are relevant to determining which team wins, such as the number of outs or legal deliveries that were remaining in the batting team's turn (if they won/there was a limit on either resource), can be included with the statement of the result. The result may also mention how many more times the losing team batted than the winning team.

Shortened games

In some circumstances, a complete game may not be possible in its originally envisioned timeframe because of weather or other reasons. In baseball-like games, which generally have many innings, it is possible to call the result of a game after both teams have batted only a few of their scheduled turns, or otherwise to finish/replay the game at a later date. In cricket, however, which is generally played to only one or two batting turns per team, a match may not be callable for the simple reason that only one of the teams has had the chance to score so far. However, cricket matches that are interrupted by rain can still be considered completable so long as there is enough time left in the match to allow the second-batting team to face a sufficiently long batting turn; in these circumstances, a rain rule is applied such that any runs scored by the first-batting team are devalued.[20]


Here are some terms or concepts common to many bat-and-ball games:

  • The person who delivers the ball to the batter: the bowler (cricket), pitcher
  • The main fielder behind the batter: the catcher, wicketkeeper
  • Getting the batter out by throwing the ball at something near the batter, when the batter doesn't hit the ball: strike out, Bowled#Dismissal_of_a_batsman
  • The act of getting the batter or runner out when they are not in a safe haven:
    • If the ball is thrown at the runner: plugging, soaking (see Schlagball
    • If a fielder touches the runner with ball in hand: tagout


  • Bat: generally resembles the round shape of a baseball bat or the flat shape of the larger cricket bat. Other designs include something similar to a hockey stick.
  • Ball: Often about as large as a cricket ball.
  • Protective equipment for the batter and/or fielders, ranging from helmets to gloves.

In the field, there may be:

  • Physical markers for the safe havens (such as bases, wickets, and lines like the crease (cricket))
  • Physical markers for the "strike zone" near the batter (see the target in Vitilla)
  • A physical boundary for the field (see the fence in baseball)

Informal variants

Bat-and-ball games can be played with modified rules in unorthodox places, such as in the street or the backyard. Oftentimes, players are forbidden or penalized for hitting the ball out of the field into an area where it would be hard to reach, and play may be modified so as to ensure all players have an opportunity to participate, such as in Kwik cricket.


At the international level, the World Baseball Classic is the premier baseball tournament. For cricket, the ODI World Cup, ICC T20 World Cup, and ICC World Test Championship are the premier tournaments. The Pesäpallo World Cup is played every 3 years.

At the domestic level, baseball tends to be played in leagues with two major divisions, with the playoffs being contested in a best-of-seven format. T20 leagues in cricket tend to have 8 teams and follow the Page playoff system (two semi-finals, with an additional match played to determine which team enters the second semi-final, followed by a final).

List of bat-and-ball games

Notable bat-and-ball games include:

Hybrid bat-and-ball games

  • Composite rules Softball-Baseball – a hybrid bat-and-ball sports which combines the elements of Baseball and Softball, played on the large identical baseball diamond with the larger ball, ten rather than nine innings, and allowing pitching the ball either underarm, overarm, or sidearm.
  • Composite rules Baseball-Cricket – a hybrid bat-and-ball games combining elements of baseball and cricket, played by two teams of 12 players with the 9-inch diameter baseball on the oval-shaped field about 220 yards long by 176 yards wide, at the center of which is a baseball field about 92 feet apart with the rectangular 66 feet 6 inch by 12 feet pitching area roughly at a distance between the pitcher and 2 batters (consists of the striking batter and non-striking batter), equidistant between first and third base, and a few feet closer to home plate than to second base. The objective is one batter (striking batter) on and at the right batter's box is pitched to, other batter (non-striking batter) stands on the left batter's box, then the striking batter must hit it and batter must runs around the bases in the normal counterclockwise direction, while the non-striking batter runs around bases in a clockwise direction at the same time. The game could last 12 innings of 5 overs.

Non-bat-and-ball games

Striking the ball with a "bat" or any type of stick is not crucial. These games use the foot or hand, and often either involve significant restrictions on the way the defensive team delivers the ball to the batter (to make it easier to hit), or give the batter possession of the ball at the start of each play. Otherwise their rules may be similar or even identical to baseball or cricket. The first two use a large (35 cm) soft ball.

Using the legs:

Using the hands:

  • Punchball – four bases, sometimes called volleyball-style baseball or slug
  • Baseball5 - four bases


  1. ^ Dickson, Paul (2009). The Dickson Baseball Dictionary. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 734. ISBN 978-0-393-06681-4.
  2. ^ "Baseball Vocabulary | Vocabulary | EnglishClub". www.englishclub.com. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  3. ^ In some games for a small number of players, such as workup and the way old cat games, there are no teams and players rotate through the positions.
  4. ^ Note that the terms "in" and "out" can have several other important meanings in various bat-and-ball sports; for an example of wordplay involving this in cricket that demonstrates the ambiguity inherent to the terms, see https://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/page/429550.html.
  5. ^ "Base Runner Baseball Rules - Two Runners Occupying a Base". www.qcbaseball.com. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  6. ^ "Runners Passing Runners, Oh My!". Baseball Rules Academy. 2018-08-10. Retrieved 2020-10-30.
  7. ^ https://protoball.org/Modern_rules_of_Schlagball "Long hit pointIf a player hits the ball over the pitch into the long-hitting field, thus over 70 meters, the batting team is given a long hit point."
  8. ^ https://www.mlb.com/cut4/10-bizarre-rules-from-baseballs-past/c-124363454"2. Fly balls could be caught off a bounce until 1864, and foul balls until 1883"
  9. ^ https://protoball.org/Modern_rules_of_Schlagball "Catch pointIf the batted ball caught by a player of the fielding team directly from the air, with one hand and without bobbling [Nachgreifen], the field team receives a catch point. Catch points also may be earned off invalid hits of the batting side by catching the ball."
  10. ^ This is an example of a baseball force out if done at 1st base, but could apply to cricket as well: if the striker and nonstriker have crossed for a first run, and the wicket at the bowler's end is put down, then the striker is out.
  11. ^ The distance between the two popping creases in cricket is 58 feet, and the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate in baseball is 60 feet and 6 inches.
  12. ^ https://resources.pulse.icc-cricket.com/ICC/document/2020/09/02/6dec295c-9378-46ae-8caf-bd799858c144/05-Mens-T20I-Playing-Conditions-2020-V2.pdf According to Law 19.1.3, "no boundary should be shorter than 65 yards (59.43 metres) from the centre of the pitch to be used.", meaning there the field should be 130 yards (120 m) across.
  13. ^ "What is a Field Dimensions? | Glossary". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2020-12-13. "The rulebook states that parks [...] must have a minimum distance of 325 feet between home plate and the nearest fence [...] on the right- and left-field foul lines, and 400 feet between home plate and the nearest fence [...] in center field."
  14. ^ http://web.mit.edu/~xsdg/Public/papers/himcm-2003.pdf "The width [of a baseball field] is the distance between foul poles... the Twins’ field width (473.9 ft) and the Braves’ field width (470.2 ft) is not significant. However, the difference between the Rockies’ and Yankees’ field widths (492.9 ft and 446.9 ft, respectively) is very significant."
  15. ^ Wister, Jones. A "Bawl" for American Cricket.
  16. ^ "Test Cricket - Least Overs Bowled in a Completed Innings". www.howstat.com. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
  17. ^ "How rare were Minor's 3 outs on 3 pitches?". MLB.com. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
  18. ^ For example, if the home team is ahead by the bottom of the ninth inning in baseball, then it need not bat again.
  19. ^ "O jogo de bets praticado pelas crianças de Itambé, Paraná: aprendizagem, regras e fundamentos". www.efdeportes.com. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  20. ^ "Swingin' in the rain - why cricket can't be baseball". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 2020-12-14.

See also

External links

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