Cricket? A Sticky Wicket

4th over: Pakistan 18-0 (Ali 10, Khan 7) "Beefy is happy that the third umpire is on no-balls, while Sharjeel takes a single and Azhar two, before Wood chucks in a wide. He responds with another delivery that clatters the pad -- it's outside the line, and Azhar was probably just about playing a shot. But England won't mind this start at all."

That is from the Guardian's live-blog of a cricket match between England and Pakistan. I understand each word in the post but don't have a clue what is going on.

Let me posit here that I am a sports fan, one who is old enough to have seen the Brooklyn Dodgers play at Ebbets Field. That is why to this day I root for two teams -- the Mets and anyone playing the Yankees.

I can figure out all kinds of sports from the recent Olympics, including badminton, water polo and even that thing called handball which is nothing like the one-wall variety we played with a Spaldeen against the wall as kids. If bocce was added to the Olympics, or shuffleboard for that matter, I would be a knowledgeable observer.

But the only cricket I knew growing up was named Jiminy. And cricket is an affirmation of the difference between England and America -- we are two peoples separated by a common language.

There are overs and wickets and stumps and runs and batsmen and bowlers and test matches and all kinds of terminology that confuses this sports fan. The England-Pakistan game was an ODI, which it turns out is a One Day International taking place at the same time Australia was taking on Sri Lanka. Some games seem to go on for days at a time while others have one innings. (Yes, innings is both singular and plural in cricket.)

"Azhar clumps Wood on the up, but again, Roy makes an excellent stop in the gully, then dives again in response to a shot played off the next delivery, fingering the ball to Stokes who shies at the stumps as the batsmen sneak a single," wrote the blogger in the England-Pakistan game.

New York's growing population of people from the Caribbean, joined more recently by large influxes from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, has seen growing dedication of parkland to cricket fields. The city Parks Department lists 29 cricket fields across the city, including three in Brooklyn's Canarsie and Spring Creek, near where I grew up in East New York, to serve this diaspora of the British Empire.

I have watched games and tried desperately to better understand but have more work to do.

And I am not trying to on-up anyone since I had a reverse experience when I took an Israeli reporter friend to his first baseball game at Shea Stadium more than two decades ago.

Tsadok Yecheskeli, who was at the time Yedioth Ahronoth's New York correspondent, knew sports since he had been a sports reporter in Israel. In fact, as I remember the story, for all the horrors of struggle and violence in Israel, he was the first reporter (or one of the very few) to have been attacked for his work when he was stabbed in the parking lot outside a stadium after writing a critical story about a star on the national soccer team.

(Yecheskeli survived far more serious injuries, in a far more serious situation, years later when he was caught in the middle of the Georgia-Russian war in Tbilisi, but that is a story for another day.)

Because Yecheskeli had been a sports reporter, he had a sense of what does into a game. I don't remember who the Mets were playing but it had all the elements that bewilder first-time baseball observers. There were walks, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, bunts and double plays. As I explained the various things that were happening, the fans around us got into the discussion explaining the nuances of the game.

Then there was a balk. All of a sudden, the helpful surrounding fans were silent since not even lifetime baseball fans fully understand what constitutes a balk and what constitutes a pitcher's need to scratch inappropriate parts of his body at inopportune times. A lengthy discussion of pitcher's obligations when coming to a stretch position with runners on base ensued and he was polite enough to stop asking for further clarification when it became apparent I had exhausted my repertoire of explanations.

That sense of foreigners' bewilderment at just what Americans see in baseball is what I feel when watching cricket.

So I very much want to understand cricket better, but in the meantime enjoy the game-day blogs in the Guardian and the BBC where, again, I understand each word but have no clue what is going on.

Like this post from the Guardian about a match between Surrey and Lancashire taking place at the same time as England-Pakistan.

"Burns has 50, and a good one. Rob Jones's drop last night already looking costly. He gets there by edging wide of third slip from his 80th ball, and hits his 10th four shortly after with a hook that bounces just inside the fine leg boundary. 90 without loss. I see no reason why Kumar won't get a big ton today."

I hope nobody balks.