Cricket enthusiasts in US make pitch for their sport

Cricket -- the ''great new American spectator sport?''

It's not really ''cricket'' to say the sport is catching on in the United States. Actually, Bert Smith, chairman of the American Cricket Board of Control, and other enthusiasts in the US ''hope'' cricket will be the naltion's next great spectator sport. That's why they formed a board to regulate it.

So far there isn't much to regulate. Still, some 100 clubs have sprouted here recently.

By its very nature, cricket may gain acceptance in the US with those sports fans who find football and ice hockey too rough-and-tumble. ''You don't have to be six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds to be first rate at cricket,'' Smith says.

Cricket is played with 11 players to a team, on an area that is slightly larger than a baseball field. As in baseball, each player has a turn at bat. But the bat is a flattened version of a baseball bat and the ball is smaller and about an ounce heavier. The cricket pitcher sort of bowls the ball to the batter but with an overhand motion.

Two ''wickets'' stand in the center of the field some 22 yards apart. In each wicket are three upright sticks 28 inches high -- and two smaller stickers, called ''bails'' rest on the larger ones. If a ball hits one of the larger sticks and the bail falls to the ground the batter facing the pitcher, known as the bowler, is out. But when a batter, known as the batsman, hits the ball, he runs to the other wicket and back. Each time the batter goes from one wicket to another he scores a run. The maximum runs he can score on a single hit is six.

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