More on the difference between cricket and baseball catches

In an earlier post, I wrote about the fact that although there is an essential similarity between a ‘foul tip’ in baseball and a ‘caught behind the wicket’ in cricket, they have very different consequences, with the batter being immediately given out in cricket.

TThere is another difference involving catches. In baseball, ‘fair territory’ lies in the 90o arc in front of the batter defined by the lines from home plate to first base and from home plate to third base. The rest is foul territory and if a fly ball enters that territory and is touched by a fielder, the ball is dead. Interestingly, it is the location of the ball that determines if the ball is dead or not, not the location of the fielder’s feet at the time of the catch. In other words, if the fielder is standing in foul territory and leans over the line and catches the ball in fair territory, the batter would be out. Conversely, if the fielder is in fair territory but leans over and catches the ball when it is over foul territory, the batter is not out.

In baseball, one also sees fielders leap to catch balls near the home run fence and if the catch is made while the ball is still within the field of play, the batter is out and it does not matter if the fielder’s momentum causes him to fall over the fence while still holding the ball. (Baseball mavens, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong about these rules.)

[UPDATE; See comments #1 and #2 for things I got wrong above about baseball.]

It is quite different in cricket. For one thing, the entire 360o around the batter is fair territory and there is no foul territory at all. For another, the perimeter of the field is marked by a line along the ground, not a fence. But the crucial difference is that it is the location of the fielder’s contact with the ground, not the location of the ball, that determines if the batter is out or not. As long as the fielder has contact with the ball, his feet must stay inside the field of play for the batter to be out. If his feet touch the ground outside the field of play, then the batter is not out and in fact the batter scores six runs, the equivalent of a home run.

This can lead to some extraordinary efforts by fielders to stay within the field of play as long as they hold on to the ball. Watch these catches in cricket where the fielders catch the ball very near the boundary and since they knew their momentum would force them to step over the boundary after they caught the ball, they engage in incredibly agile actions to keep the ball in the air while their feet step temporarily over the line so that they can then came back into the field of play in order to make a fair catch.


  1. DonDueed says

    Mano, I’m afraid you’re incorrect on a couple of points.

    In baseball, a caught fly is an out, fair or foul. A ground ball, however, is only in play if it’s within the foul lines. Things get a little trickier when the ball is rolling along the foul line, or is a fly ball along that line (but not caught).

    For home runs, when a fielder catches the ball but is carried over the fence and out, that’s a home run. But if he stays in the field, it’s an out even if the ball was past the fence and then pulled back.

    Combining those two cases, though: if a foul ball is caught but the fielder goes into the stands or other obstacle (such as one of the dugouts), it’s an out as long as the fielder holds on to the ball.

  2. psweet says

    Little bit of a baseball primer here — a foul ball that is caught on the fly (except a foul-tip, obviously) is not dead, and the batter is out. The runners can even advance, although since most fields have very little foul ground beyond the infield, this is a rare thing to see.

    A foul ball that is dropped by a fielder, on the other hand, is a dead ball. Any ball that is first touched in foul territory without being caught is also dead. (Even if it subsequently rolls fair — on the other hand, a ball that is first touched in fair ground is fair no matter where it subsequently travels.) The real fun comes on grounders that roll along the baseline. Until a fielder touches them, they aren’t dead, even if they roll in and out of foul ground. Watching a third baseman who knows he can’t throw someone out follow a ball hoping it will roll foul is rather funny.

  3. fentex says

    I’m pretty sure Mano is mistaken in detail about those rules, but I don’t think he is in general about the principle it’s the ball only and not the player that matters, is he?

    Catching a ball on a baseball boundary with momentum taking the catcher over the boundary doesn’t stop a catch from being a out does it?

  4. says

    In baseball, one also sees fielders leap to catch balls near the home run fence and if the catch is made while the ball is still within the field of play,

    Technically, a baseball field is infinite. The outfield wall marks the point of home runs and ground rule doubles (like a four-hit in cricket). But a regulation baseball game can be played on any flat ground with no outfield wall. A hit ball that rolls to a stop 700 feet from home would still be a live ball.

    The rule for live balls is very much the same in cricket, world football (soccer), North American football, basketball and several other sports. If a player’s feet are in bounds and jumps into the air out of bounds, the ball is still live and can be touched. But start out of bounds and touch it, it’s a dead ball. (See also: team handball and the crease.) Here’s one I posted a few months ago, and one you’ve not seen:

    In baseball, the outfield wall is the same as other sports: if you are out of bounds when you catch it, it’s a home run, stay in bounds and it’s a catch (which can include hanging onto the wall to stay fair). All ground within the walls is the same for catching fly balls. It doesn’t matter whether the player or the ball is fair or foul.

  5. says

    From my own game of Rugby , if a players foot is out of bounds then his whole body is considered out of bounds.

    Quick thinking players who understand the rules can take advantage of this and turn what look to be brilliant opposition kicks into foul ones.

    The explanation of the rules start 30 secs in.

  6. fentex says

    world football (soccer)… If a player’s feet are in bounds and jumps into the air out of bounds, the ball is still live and can be touched.

    I don’t think that’s true of Association Football -- if the writer means to imply that a ball over the line can be played by a player not in contact with the ground. In Association Football the ball is out, always without exception, if it crosses the line -- on the ground or in the air and it’s got nothing to do with the players position.

    I remember being surprised by this when brushing up on the rules as a player because I noticed and checked it meant curving a ball through the air over boundaries was technically putting the ball out of play.

  7. jockmcdock says

    @fentex #7 Yes, that’s my understanding as well and, unless they changed the rules since I stopped playing, that’s how it’s been for a long, long time. It’s the position of the ball relative to the line that counts. Aussie Rules football has a similar rule. A player may gather the ball while running towards the boundary and hold the ball within the field with his feet outside the boundary.

    And here’s another stunning cricket catch. The guy who is on the boundary leaps to take the ball but is aware he is going to land outside the boundary and tosses it to a teammate.

  8. jockmcdock says

    A follow up to Danny Butts #6, from Rugby League (rugby has two variants, Union and League with some similarities and some differences). In this clip, the ball is clearly over the backline but one the players jumps over the line and is able to throw the ball back to a teammate who scores a try/touchdown.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    fentex @7:

    curving a ball through the air over boundaries was technically putting the ball out of play.

    Yeah, you can see this quite often with corner kicks, where an outswinger will land fair after going over the line. The result is a goal kick.

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