What is a Sticky Wicket?
In general usage, the expression is akin to “being in a pickle.” For example, try explaining to your boss what you were doing at the casino, where you were spotted, after you had called in sick.
In cricket parlance, a “sticky wicket” refers to the condition of the playing surface of the game – the 66-feet long by 10-feet wide strip in the middle of the field.
When the wicket is adversely affected by moisture, the surface – called “the wicket” or the “pitch” – is likely to cause the bounced ball to behave in an unpredictable manner. It might pop up, go right, go left, or creep like a rat toward the batsman.
Even the most talented of batsmen, the ones with the sharpest of eyes and quickest of reflexes, can be surprised by such a delivery, end up playing the wrong stroke, and getting out.
In short, a “sticky wicket” is a batsman’s worst nightmare. Conversely, bowlers salivate at the prospects of bowling on it.
The wicket normally is covered on the onset of rain to avoid giving an advantage to the bowlers, but heavy overnight fog and morning dew can create a sticky wicket.
In the novels, the “Sticky Wicket” subtitle alludes to the pickle in which protagonist Freddie Watkins finds himself. The Philadelphia Inquirer book critic summed up that predicament this way:
“His wife is set to bolt; his adult daughter looks back in anger; and his raison d'être — his beloved Fernwood, N.J., Cricket Club — is in collapse. He can save the marriage and make amends with his daughter. But to do so means he will have to turn away from that last issue, his cricket club, which, in fact, stands as his lifetime pursuit. It’s the very thing that got him into trouble in the first place.”
What is a googly?
As in baseball, every cricket bowler has an arsenal of deliveries, but not everyone is skilled at bowling the googly. That’s because it requires the uncanny ability of the bowler to deliver the ball with a very unorthodox movement of wrist and fingers, enabling it to turn opposite to the direction that the batsman thinks it will turn. That deception means that the batsman is likely to play the wrong stroke, increasing his risk of getting out.
What is Leg Before Wicket (LBW for short)?
In cricket, the bowler’s main objective is to hit the three knee-high sticks – called the “wicket” – behind the batsman. If the ball strikes the batsman on either of his padded leg and the fielders think it would have struck the “wicket” had the leg not got in the way, they typically jump in the air with upraised hands and scream at the umpire, “Howzat!”
That’s short for “How is that?” If the umpire thinks it’s a valid appeal, he puts a finger up, signaling the batsman out “Leg Before Wicket,” whereupon the fielders celebrate with high-fives and bear hugs, or might even dance the jig.
In international games, if the umpire denies the appeal, the fielding team can ask for a review by an off-field umpire. That umpire then views the trajectory of the ball on his recording system to determine whether the on-field decision is a right or wrong decision. If wrong, the on-field decision is overturned.
Similarly, if the batsman thinks the umpire made the wrong call in giving him out LBW, he can ask the off-field umpire to review the decision.
In America, there is no such high-tech review of umpire decisions. And cricket being a gentleman’s game —allegedly —players are supposed to accept the on-field umpire’s decision without question. However, some batsmen tend to forget the code of conduct when they see the umpire point that dreaded finger skyway, signaling they are out LBW — “Leg Before Wicket” – and they react in a very ungentlemanly manner.