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. 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 runs (points). The defending team can use the ball in various ways against the attacking team's players to force them off the field when they are not in safe zones, and thus prevent them from further scoring.[2][3] The best known modern bat-and-ball games are cricket and baseball, 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 (the "bowler" or "pitcher")[5] puts the ball in play with a delivery whose restriction depends on the game.[6] A player on the batting team attempts to strike the delivered ball, commonly with a "bat", which is a club whose dimensions and other aspects are governed by the rules of the game. If the ball is not fairly delivered to the batter (i.e. not thrown within his reach), then penalties generally occur that help the batting team score.[7][8]

The batter generally has an obligation to hit certain balls that are delivered within his reach (i.e. balls aimed at a designated area, known as the strike zone or wicket),[9] and must hit the ball so that it is not caught by a fielder before it touches the ground.[10][11] The most desirable outcome for the batter is generally to hit the ball out of the field, as this results in automatically scoring runs;[12][13] however, in certain bat-and-ball games, this can result in a penalty against the batter.[14][15] If the ball is struck into the field, then the batter may become a runner trying to reach a safe haven or "base"/"ground".[16][17] 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 (eliminated). The teams switch roles when the fielding team 'puts out'/'gets out' enough of the batting team's players, which varies by game.

In modern baseball, the fielders put three players out.[18] In cricket, they "dismiss" all players but one,[19] though in some forms of cricket, there is a limit on the number of deliveries (scoring opportunities) that each team can have, such that the fielding team can become the batting team without getting anyone out.[20] 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. The game ends when the losing team has completed the maximum number of innings (batting/scoring turns), which may range from 1 (as in limited-overs cricket) to 9 (as in baseball) or more.[21][22] Ties are generally broken (if at all) by allowing each team to have an additional turn to score.[23][24]

Some variations of bat-and-ball games do not feature bats, with batters instead using parts of their bodies to hit the ball; these variations may also give the batter possession of the ball at the start of each play, eliminating the defensive team's role in starting the action. A prominent example of this is Baseball5, one of the main sporting disciplines governed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation along with baseball and softball. [25][26]


Main articles: History of cricket and History of baseball

Cricket and rounders are some of the earliest bat-and-ball sports,[27] and originated in England. Baseball appeared later in its modern form, having been shaped in America.[28] Over time, several variations of baseball appeared in America, with some being informal (kickball)[29] and others becoming professional sports in their own right (softball).[30] In 1971, the ODI (One Day International) format of cricket was first played internationally; the ODI format shortened cricket from a five-day long game (Test cricket) to a one-day long game.[31] In 2003, the T20 format of cricket was invented, further shortening the game to roughly 3 hours.[32] And in 2017, an even shorter format of cricket, known as T10 cricket, was played in its first major tournament, the Abu Dhabi T10; T10 cricket lasts approximately 90 minutes.[33] In the same year, a variation of baseball was invented by the World Baseball Softball Confederation known as Baseball5, which removes several elements of conventional baseball such as the pitcher and the bat. Baseball5 is similar to other baseball variants that have been historically played in different countries, such as cuatro esquinas in Cuba and punchball in America.[34]

Types of bat-and-ball games

See also: Forms of cricket and Variations of baseball

There is a great deal of variation among bat-and-ball games; for example, more runs are generally scored in a cricket match than dozens of baseball games combined,[35] and while a T10 cricket match generally ends in 90 minutes,[36] a Test cricket batter may bat for hours over several consecutive days.[37] Overall, most bat-and-ball games can be categorized as being baseball-like or cricket-like, with many of them following the same basic outline:

Common features

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

Running rules


Player roles


Elimination of batting players

Delivery of the ball


Main articles: Cricket field and Baseball field

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)[54][55][56]), and is divided into an infield and outfield (based on proximity to the batting area).

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 (18 m) (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 (27 m) and in softball is 60 feet (18 m).[57][58]

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 by 12 metres (98 ft × 39 ft) facility, while Baseball5 is played on a 21 metres (69 ft)-square field.

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 in some cases.[59][60] Both baseball and cricket can theoretically go forever, since baseball games end only 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, which essentially imposes a time limit of sorts on these types of games.[61]

Pace of play

In some bat-and-ball sports, there are team penalties designed to ensure the game goes at a faster pace. For example, in various formats of cricket, there are over rate penalties which kick in if a team has bowled too few deliveries within an allotted amount of time,[63] while in some baseball leagues, there is a pitch clock that penalizes batters and pitchers for taking too much time between pitches.[64]


Bat-and-ball games are played until:

Ties can be dealt with in several ways:

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.[66] 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 anytime 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.[67]

Margin of victory

Main article: Result (cricket) § Statement of result

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.[22]

Shortened games

In some circumstances (e.g. bad weather), 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,[68] 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 usually devalued.[69]


Main articles: Glossary of cricket terms and Glossary of baseball terms

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


In the field, there may be:

Informal variants

Main articles: Street cricket and Street baseball

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 2 major divisions, with the playoffs being contested in a best-of-seven format. T20 leagues in cricket tend to have 6 to 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).[71]

List of bat-and-ball games

Notable bat-and-ball games include:

Hybrid bat-and-ball games

Games without a bowler/pitcher

Gilli Danda

See also: Tip-cat

Gilli Danda (which is related to several other traditional games in other parts of the world) is an Indian game with similarities to baseball and cricket. The aim of the game is for the batter to knock a stick on the ground up into the air using a stick held in the hand, and then to hit the airborne stick as far as possible. The batter is out if the stick is caught by a player on the other team before it touches the ground. Points are earned either based on the distance the stick travels, or by the batter running to a designated area while the fielders collect the batted stick and throw it back to the hitting area to try to get the batter out. The game ends after each team has batted once, with each team batting until all of its players are out.[72][73][74]

Non-bat-and-ball games

Striking the ball with a "bat" or any type of stick, or having the defensive team deliver the ball to the batter, is not crucial. These games use the foot or hand to hit the ball, and make it significantly easier to hit the ball overall, either by placing significant restrictions on the way the defensive team delivers the ball to the batter, or by giving 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.[75] The first two use a large (35 cm) soft ball.

Using the legs:

Using the hands:

Involving throwing:

Related games

Some features common to most bat-and-ball games are also present in other games. For example, there are several variations of tag (such as kho-kho and kabaddi) which also feature the concept of teams taking turns on offense and defense, with players attempting to tag opponents to get them out.[76][77] (Baseball, one of the main bat-and-ball games, also features players trying to tag opponents to get them out). Two of these tag variants, atya-patya and surr, also have offensive players score points (or otherwise help their team win) based on how far they can advance (based on progression from one safe area to the next, with each safe area being a place out of the reach of the defenders) without being tagged out by the defensive players.[78]

See also


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