Cricket vs baseball is a comparison that has been drawn out among international sports enthusiasts for centuries. Although some similarities exist between cricket and baseball, there are more recognisable differences between the sports.
Some of these differences are noticeable immediately. Bowling vs pitching, wearing gloves or mitts vs free hand in cricket are key differences. However, there are some comparisons between the sports that are less obvious.
We will outline some of the key differences between cricket and baseball below. Additionally, we will also look at some of the historical and cultural comparisons between the sports, and show how cricket and baseball have evolved to become popular in different regions around the world.
How is cricket different from baseball?
Cricket and baseball have many stark differences. These encompass many aspects of each sport, including tactics, setup, equipment, player positioning and scoring.
Below are some of the main differences between the sports that are not immediately noticeable.
- Number of Players: There are 11 players on a cricket team and nine on a baseball team. Each game is played by two opposing teams, who take turns batting and fielding.
- Scoring: In both sports, the winner is the team that scores the most runs during a match. But getting to that point is very different. In cricket, a bowler delivers the ball to the batter. They hit the ball and scores runs by running between the wickets with their batting partner. Batters can also add to their team’s score by hitting a boundary (four or a six). In baseball, the pitcher throws the ball to the batter, who scores runs by hitting the ball as far as possible. They then run around all four bases to score a run for their team. Alternatively, batters can hit the ball for a home run – when the ball clears the perimeter fence – for a run.
- Outs: How batting players are dismissed varies between the two sports. In cricket, a batsman can be bowled out, run out, bowled LBW, caught or stumped by the wicket-keeper. There are other more rare methods of dismissal in cricket, such as hitting the ball twice, but these are very uncommon. In comparison, there are many more ways for a batter to get out in baseball. Batters can strike out if they fail to hit three consecutive pitches, and they can be caught if a fielder catches the ball without it touching the ground first. Runners can also be tagged out when a fielder touches them with the ball as they run between bases. Run outs occur if the fielder touches the base before the runner. These are some of the most common ways to get out in baseball.
- Fielding Setup: Cricket is played on a round field with the boundary defining the edge of the playing space. Baseball is played on a 90-degree field, with anything directly to the left or right of the batter classed as ‘foul ground’. The fence is the equivalent to the boundary in cricket. Fielding teams in cricket have many options on where to position players – they can more or less stand anywhere within the boundary unless fielding restrictions are in place. However, baseball fielding positions are more rigid. Bases have to be covered, and three players must be in the outfield. The only similarities between fielding in cricket and baseball are between the pitcher and bowler and catcher and wicketkeeper (both placed behind the batter for the fielding team.)
- Batting Structure: In cricket, a player only bats once per innings, and they can stay at the crease as long as they don’t lose their wicket. A team captain can change their batting order during in match. For instance, a ‘night watchman’ is often moved up the batting order in test cricket. Comparatively, there are nine innings per team in a baseball match, so players bat nine times each during a game. But each batter only faces three legal pitches each time they bat, or less if they hit a legal shot before striking out. Batting orders cannot change in baseball once confirmed.
- Time of play: There are three forms of gameplay in professional cricket, which all vary in length. T20 and one-day matches have two innings – one per team. However, T20 is the shortest format, with 180 balls bowled per innings, while 300 balls per innings are bowled in ODI matches. The longest cricket format is a test match, which can last for five days. There are usually two to five separate matches played throughout an entire test series. Baseball matches are shorter. Each team’s nine innings usually take three-four hours to complete. But, like cricket, separate fixtures can take place over an entire series. One similarity in timings is that there is no official clock to determine the length of the match, as seen in football, basketball, rugby etc.
- Equipment: The two sports require players to wear protective equipment. But the items used in each are very different, particularly for fielders. In baseball, fielders wear gloves in one hand, and the catcher wears a helmet and padded protective gear. Cricket fielders have both hands free, except for the wicket-keeper, who wears gloves, protective leg pads and, occasionally, a helmet if they are close to the stumps. Batters also wear protective equipment in both sports. Baseball players wear a helmet to protect most of their head and thinner gloves. Batsmen in cricket wear a helmet, that includes a faceguard. They also wear protective leg pads, and often have thigh and arm guards for additional protection as a cricket ball is harder than a baseball.
- Tactics: As with every sport, tactics and decision making are essential in cricket and baseball. However, different personnel are in charge of making in-game decisions in each sport. The on-field captain in cricket is the main decision-maker, and off-field coaches have little influence once the game begins. Bowlers, wicket-keepers and the captain will often make decisions together in cricket. However, in baseball, the manager can call and signal to players directly during the match from the dugout to help with tactics. But the pitcher is the key decision-maker on the field, often using hand signals to communicate with the catcher and fielders, who are covering the bases.
- Major Competitions: The biggest baseball competitions are the Major League Baseball (MLB) league and the MLB World Series, which are both contested every year in the USA. Cricket’s largest major competitions are the ODI and T20 ICC World Cup competitions every four years. 16 national teams take part in the T20 World Cup, and 10 play in the ODI World Cup.
Is baseball inspired by cricket?
Cricket has a longer history than baseball, and the former has been played in Britain since the 1400s, nearly 300 years before baseball was invented in the USA. However, the game of rounders, which was first played in Europe during the 1500s, is where baseball originated.
Rounders was popular among British and European immigrants who arrived on the East coast of the US from the mid-18th century. Shortly after cricket and rounders was bought to the US, an alternative version of the sport, called US rounders, was invented. This variation involved just two bases, a pitcher, a batter and a few fielders. The pitcher threw underarm pitches, and the batter had to hit the ball as far as possible, scoring runs by running between the two bases. This variant of rounders had some similarities to traditional cricket. But over time, it evolved more towards the baseball played today in America.
The game shifted from US rounders to a new game called ‘Townball’ in the late 18th century. Four bases were now used instead of two as the game became more popular among urban populations. The introduction of four bases meant the batter had to clear more targets, but more fielders could aim towards the bases.
The beginnings of baseball were set in motion through Townball, but the influence of cricket still remained. Players continued to use cricket bats to play the sport, and fielders weren’t using mitts. By the mid-1800s, most towns and cities in the US were playing some form of Townball, and people began to improve their gameplay by introducing rounder bats that were easier to swing and carry. They were also cheaper than bespoke cricket bats at the time, allowing almost anyone to play the game. With the introduction of new equipment, baseball took off and became less like cricket before the sport eventually became a professional entitiy in the 1880s.
Which is more popular cricket or baseball?
Cricket is more popular worldwide than baseball. With a longer history and expansion of the sport during the British imperial age, more areas of the world have played cricket for a more sustained period than baseball.
Despite originating in England, cricket is now played and watched by roughly 2.5 billion people worldwide. The sport is popular in almost every international region, including South East Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe) and the Caribbean.
In comparison, baseball has a smaller reach on global fanbases. As a result, the sport is played in the US. But there is also a big following in South America and a growing audience in Asia.
The debate on cricket vs baseball (which is better, which is harder, which is more popular etc.) will continue forever between sports fans.
Comparisons between the two sports show that there are many differences between the gameplay, structure and execution. There are actually few similarities between cricket and baseball on closer inspection, so it’s difficult to make comparisons about their difficulty and which is potentially better. Furthermore, with different histories and regional interests in each sport worldwide, making comparisons over their popularity is unfair as cricket has always had a much further reach internationally than baseball.