Backyard cricket (known as "beach cricket" when played on the beach) is an informal version of the game cricket which is extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand. It is mostly played in a backyard, hence the name "backyard cricket". It can also be played in places such as parks, streets, public tennis and basketball courts and other open areas.
The equipment typically used in a game of backyard cricket are:
- A bat; usually wooden, plastic, or hand-made from a piece of fence paling or other suitable scraps being saved for the next barbecue.
- A ball; usually a semi-bald (although sometimes new) tennis ball is used. Balls may also be improvised from round objects made of plastic, foam or rubber.
- At least one set of stumps; there are popular versions made from metal but, again, stumps may be improvised from objects like garbage bins, a tree, box from slab of beer, empty tinnies (duct tape optional), outdoor chairs or grandma. The stumps can also be drawn onto a suitable wall or fence, or can be an appropriately size sheet of something leaned against something.
- Some kind of object to mark the crease, e.g. a straight stick, a hat, a drawn line (commonly with chalk)
- "Fieldsmen". These are any objects that can be placed in suitable positions to act as fielders - the garbage bin, barbecue, peg basket, wheelbarrow, baby sister, anything that if hit on the full means the hitter is out. These are only used if there are not enough players to fill all positions
There are many rules for backyard cricket, mostly informal, however it is rare for all rules to be used in a game. Some commonly used rules include:
- Auto-keeper, also known as auto-wickie and other names, is where any ball hit on the full into the area where a wicketkeeper would usually stand is said to be caught out by the wicketkeeper. This rule is commonly used where there are insufficient players to cover for all positions on the field.
- Auto-slips is similar to auto-keeper. Any ball hit into the slips is said to be caught out by the slips. This rule is also commonly used when there are insufficient players to fill in all positions.
- One hand one bounce is where a fielder has the opportunity to catch the batsman out if it has only bounced once, however they must catch the ball with one hand.
- Tip and run, also tippity, tippy-go and other names, is a rule when players must run every time they hit, no matter what the circumstances.
- Six and Out, a rule that "goes back to the ark", where a hit over the fence, or through the bathroom window, onto the roof, down the gullet of an unfriendly dog; or anywhere else where ball retrieval can be difficult, is given the score of 6 runs, but the hitter is "out".
- Out on the full is a less common rule, often used when the backyard environment leads to an increased chance of a six and out (low fences, etc.). Under this rule the batsman is given out if they hit any stationary object on the full; unless it is mother hanging out the washing then it is...well... everyone goes home. You could say: "Stumps are drawn."
- LBW is technically not a "rule" as such, but it is commonly said when it is decided to incorporate the LBW rule into a game that it is "playing LBW" The problem with this is the usual disagreement between the batting side and the fielding side - since the fielding side is usually everyone except the batter, the batter is usually forced out (unless the batter is only 6 and has Mum (Mom) on his side.)
- Retire on X is a common rule in quick games of informal cricket. It means all batsmen must retire (give up their turn) once they reach a certain number of runs (such as 20, 50 or 100) to make sure all players receive a fair go.
Beach cricket, a common variety of the game played in the warmer Australian states (it's usually too rainy to play in Victoria and we won't talk about Tassie, Ricky notwithstanding), is one of the most popular intergenerational sports - it is quite common for 4 generations to play, ranging from grandparents to the dog (often a fine catcher but not particularly good at returning the ball.) One-hand catching, even general fielding, is a frequent feature of the game, especially amongst the older generation, as the non-fielding hand is usually holding a beer, usually in a stubby or can (nearly always within a "stubby cooler", a fine Australian invention). Fielders can find themselves charging around on the dunes or waiting for the ball 30 yards out to sea. (Possibly the origin of the phrase beloved of commentators: "caught in the deep".) Sometimes, there is no limit to the number of runs that can be scored from a single shot - this is where a well-trained dog can win the game for a batter - fielding the ball and taking off up the other end of the beach while the batter runs up and down the designated pitch until exhausted or the umpire (grandma) calls dead ball.