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.