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Cricket Metaphors

Being an integral part of life in many nations, cricket has lent many metaphors to the English language (and no doubt some other languages as well). This page attempts to explain cricket metaphors both in their metaphorical meaning and how it derives from actual usage in cricket.

bat for the other side
To be homosexual.

She was interested in him, but unfortunately he was batting for the other side.
This is a simple metaphor drawing a parallel between the two sides of a cricket team and the two sexes. Literally batting for the other side does not occur in a cricket match, except perhaps in the most casual amateur games when one team shows up a few players short.

bowled over
To be surprised, upset, or pleased by something.

The good news completely bowled him over when he heard it.
Being bowled in cricket is the last thing a batsman expects or wants to happen, so can easily cause surprise or upset. The metaphor has become expanded to take on a more positive context at times, beyond the strict cricket analogy.

had a good innings
Said of someone who has spent a long time doing something, either after it has ended or when the end is in sight. Often applied to a person's life, but can also apply to a career or other long-term endavour.

He passed away at the age of 88, so he'd had a good innings.
This is a direct metaphorical comparison to a batsman's innings. The longer one bats, the more runs one scores, and the "better" the innings.

hit for six
Being astonished or amazed by something; or, slightly more literally, being hit by something very hard indeed.

The phone call came to tell him he'd won the lottery, which hit him for six.
A six is the biggest scoring stroke in cricket, scoring six runs by hitting the ball out of the playing field on the full. It is regarded by spectators as one of the most spectacular feats in the game, thus causing astonishment and delight. It is also necessarily a very powerful hit with the bat.

let (it) through to the keeper
To avoid, ignore, or sidestep a question one does not want to answer or an issue one does not want to address. This is not always a bad thing, as one can also ignore a taunt or insult.

A member of the crowd yelled an insult, but he let it go through to the keeper and just kept walking.
When batting, if a ball is bowled too wide of the stumps to cause a problem if it is left alone, the safest option is to in fact let it go without attempting to play a shot at it. Attempting to hit the ball to score runs carries the risk of mis-hitting the ball either on to your wicket or to a fielder for a catch. A ball left alone travels unmolested through to the wicket-keeper.

not cricket
Something that is unfair or unjust; or doing something underhanded; or taking advantage of someone else's misfortune.

He saved the man's life and then he turned around and sued him for damages; that's just not cricket!
Cricket is usually considered a gentlemanly and sportsmanlike game. As such, unfair play or cheating are simply "not cricket".

play a straight bat
To offer a noncommital or evasive answer to a question one does not want to answer.

When asked about his government's policy on the war, he played a straight bat by saying, "This press conference is about the economy."
When batting defensively against difficult bowling, the basic principle is to keep your bat as straight and vertical as possible to avoid any problems with variation in the height of the bounce.

send down a bouncer
To ask a tricky question or make a difficult request.

Tired of the evasive responses, the reporter sent down a bouncer and asked about his marriage.
A bouncer is a fast delivery pitched short so that it bounces up around head height, and often aimed more or less towards the batsman. This can obviously be dangerous if the batsman is unprepared or lacking in skill. Variations include sending down a googly or yorker, also difficult balls to deal with.

shoulder arms
Equivalent to let through to the keeper.

Rather than confront the parking officer, he shouldered arms and climbed into his car.
This metaphor has actually come originally from a military context, via cricket into common use. Shouldering arms is placing one's weapon on the shoulder as a method of carrying it safely, with no intent to fire. This was brought into cricket to refer to a similar act of lifting one's bat out of the way of a ball when letting it pass outside the wicket.

sticky wicket
A difficult or tricky situation, especially one that requires careful negotiation to get through successfully.

He'd studied the wrong textbook, so the exam turned into a bit of a sticky wicket.
Historically cricket pitches (or "wickets" as they are also sometimes called) were not covered and protected during rain. When play resumed, such a wicket was literally moist and sticky. This makes a pitch extremely difficult and even dangerous to bat on, as the bounce of the ball becomes unpredictable.

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