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Baseball and Cricket scorekeeping

by Matt Smith

Keeping Score Season

As part of our Keeping Score Season, it always seemed like a good idea to compare the scorekeeping of baseball and cricket games.  The recent passing of the Bearded Wonder Bill Frindall made it all the more fitting.

For some reason, baseball and cricket are often set up as opposites, where you should like one and not the other.  That doesn’t make any sense to me.  They are both great sports so why not enjoy both.  Baseball and cricket compliment each other well.  Their similarities and differences are fascinating and the process of scoring games is a great example of this. 

Historic links

Paul Dickson states in his book about keeping score that “the urge to score is as old as the game [baseball] itself and borrows significantly from the book-keeping instincts of British cricketeers [sic]”.

The man most commonly credited for bringing these cricketing features to baseball is Henry Chadwick.  Born in Exeter, his role as a pioneer in the sport is well established, even if the precise facts behind some of the creations credited to him (such as box scores) are not entirely clear. 

Many sources claim that Chadwick’s pioneering measures include the introduction of a scoring system to baseball. 

‘The Father of Baseball: A Biography of Henry Chadwick’ by Andrew J. Schiff was published by McFarland last year and Google Books has a preview of some of the content.  This includes a quote on page 230 from Robert Smith’s book ‘Baseball in America’ in which Smith states: “Chadwick invented a ‘photographic’ (i.e. shorthand) method of keeping score”.  Dickson stresses the importance of Henry Chadwick as well, describing him as “the ‘father’ of scoring (and the man who gave us the eternal K for strikeout)”.

Lack of web resources

One big difference between baseball and cricket scoring is the disparity in online resources.  Baseball fans are spoiled with tutorials and free scorecards, whereas it is much more difficult to find similar quality material relating to cricket.  That’s a bit of a handicap for someone trying to research the topic, but it’s instructive nonetheless.

I’ve been able to put together some key points and these will be explored below.  If you find any other resources that can shed more light on cricket scoring, please pass them on.

Symbols used (in print and verbally)

A scoring system basically involves taking a shorthand account of the game.  Whether it’s baseball or cricket, you need to use a series of abbreviations and symbols to record every individual act that can take place. 

Snitterfield Cricket Club provide a helpful guide to the symbols used in cricket, from wides to leg byes and no balls.  From here we can see a good example of how scoring is used to describe the relevant sports even outside of the scoring context.

When a delivery is simply blocked or goes through to the wicket keeper, that is marked down with a dot.  This has led to the use of the term “dot ball” to describe the event.  In the same way, baseball announcers will refer to a “5-4-3 double play” because of the way it is written down on a scorecard, or they will sometimes state that a batter has “K’d” rather than “struck out”.

Scoring by commentators/announcers

This raises an interesting point about the position of scoring among commentators.  When remembering Frindall, his co-commentator Jonathan Agnew stated: “he brought to life this weird and wonderful world of cricket scoring that other people might find tedious and boring”.  Although he would chip in with comments, Frindall’s role in the team was to be the scorer and statistician and it seems as though none of the other commentators would score as well. 

In baseball, many announcers (as they are known) would be lost without having their own scorecard to refer to, even though there will often be a statistician working alongside them. 

A cricket scorecard

One of the few cricket scorecards I’ve been able to find has been published by The Swiss Federation of Cricket Umpires and Scorers.  This scorecard has two parts to it: one to record the batting information and one to record the bowling information.  This sheet will record one team’s innings, so you would need to print it twice for a one-day game and four times for the longer version of the game.

The batting side allows you to note down the batting lineup, as you would in baseball, but from there the scorecard reflects the many differences between the two sports.  You note down the duration of the batter’s period at the crease, both in terms of minutes and balls faced, before noting down the outcome of every delivery, details of how they got out and the total number of runs they accumulated.

The bowling side is particularly interesting as it shows that every ball is, in effect, recorded twice.  If the first ball of the game was hit for four, you would note this on the batting side and then note down the same thing in the bowling analysis box (listed here in the “Over No.” column).  The analysis box is illustrated well in the Snitterfield guide, showing how you record every ball of every over.

A simple example of some completed lines from a cricket scorecard are available in a Junior Cricket scoring guide from New Zealand.  On the final page, you can easily see how the first over faced by Waugh is replicated in the first bowling analysis box for Hadleigh and so on.

Every ball counts

Every single ball is a unique event in cricket, which isn’t quite the case in baseball.  As stated in the BBfB, you can take an accurate account of a baseball game without recording every ball, something which would be hard to do with cricket.  However, it is certainly possible to record every ball in baseball (as we shall see later this week) and that extra effort leaves you with an incredibly detailed scorecard.  It’s that sort of detail that a cricket scorecard should always provide because you need to be able to account for every run.

The importance of totals

Baseball scorers will be familiar with the task of totting up totals at the end of every half inning, as well as completing batter and pitcher totals at the end of the game.  This process is just as important with cricket scoring, if not more so. 

A cricket score can run into the hundreds and it is absolutely essential that the scorer makes sure every one is recorded and counted correctly.  This is highlighted in the Cricket Victoria Cricket Scoring guide where they refer to the process of ‘Balancing the Book’.  They have an equation by which you can balance the batting and bowling totals, which is a similar process to the equation used to ‘prove’ a baseball scorecard.

The Cricket Victoria guidance also shows two further similarities between cricket and baseball scoring.  Firstly, as you would expect, there is a strong link between a knowledge of the rules of the relevant game and the process of keeping score.  Secondly, it is not the scorer’s job to notify the umpire of any errors that may have been made (e.g. bowling a seven ball over).

Bill Frindall’s own system

The final main similarity between baseball and cricket scoring is that there is endless scope for creativity.  The basic principles stay the same, but from there you can modify the system in whatever way you wish.  Frindall’s system was based on an earlier method by Bill Ferguson that is described as a ‘linear system’.  Further details can be found in several books written by Frindall and a review of one of these by the Independent glories in “the awesome complexity of Frindall’s personalised match-scoring system”:

“This bears scant resemblance to the basic tablet of bowlers’ and batsmen’s names familiar to all village cricketers. Frindall uses three different sheets simultaneously: 17 bespoke codes gloss the scorecard with further information on the type of delivery and shot (or attempted shot), but Frindall also records the stroke’s direction and notes on the fielding. This enables him to come up with a precise breakdown of, say, how often Andrew Flintoff has been dropped at third slip when mowing a Glenn McGrath bouncer towards cow corner.

Wickets cause pressure points, when about a dozen entries have to be made in two minutes. ‘The secret is to keep calm and establish an order of action’, Frindall confides. ‘Scoring relies on rhythm’.

As an exercise in data capture, his rhythm method is remarkable”.

Baseball and cricket together

In his obituary of Frindall, former England bowler Angus Fraser stated:

“Only in cricket, with its obsession for statistics and records, could the rather anoraky image of a scorer, the person who chronicles each and every ball of a game, be transformed into that of a celebrity”.

I’m not sure if there are any baseball-scoring celebrities, so Fraser’s point may be accurate.  However, that description of an “obsession for statistics and records” applies just as well to baseball as it does to cricket.

That’s exactly why if you’re a fan of keeping score of one of these two sports, you will find it interesting to learn about the other.

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Joe Gray February 16, 2009 - 9:16 am

Nice post.

A major difference between being a baseball scorer and a cricket scorer, of course, is that in the latter you simply record what takes place on the field without passing any judgement. For instance, whether a run goes down as a leg-bye or a bye – something akin to deciding between wild pitches and passed balls – is a decision made by the umpire in cricket.

In baseball, in contrast, the scorer regularly makes judgements of what has happened.

I wonder what would happen if cricket attempted to adopt something along the lines of the error? You could award bowlers wickets if an easy chance was dropped, and you could base batter’s averages on how many runs they make before they give their first reasonble chance. If, for example, a batter was dropped on 0 and then went on to make a ton, you would count it as a duck in the player’s average (or perhaps a duck and a century).

I’m not seriously suggesting that this is something that would benefit mainstream cricket stats, but it certainly would be interesting to track this on the side as an experiment.

A more serious suggestion I have is that I think one place where cricket could really borrow from baseball is in the advanced fielding stats now used in the latter. It would be really useful for cricket selectors to quantify how many balls hit into a fielder’s “zone” were kept to the minimum number of runs you would reasonably expect… and then to weigh that up against what a player is likely to contribute with the bat.

I don’t know if something like this is done already? Cricket sabermetrics appears to be budding right now.

Joe Cooter February 16, 2009 - 2:15 pm

A few things about Henry Chadwick, who spent the majority of his career as a sportswriter with the New York Times. Legand has it that he first discovered the beauty of the game of baseball in 1858 after stumbling upon a game while returning to the Times’ offices after covering a Cricket Match. Back in thoughs days, Cricket recieved more coverage in the press than baseball.

There is no way to measure how importand Henry Chadwick’s contributions to the games of baseball. In addition to covering the games he also played a major role in writing up the rules of the game. When Albert Spaulding invented the now rediculous story that Abner Doubleday invented the game in Cooperstown, NY in 1839, Chadwick vehomently opposed the story saying that in his opinion the game did indeed evolve from games like Rounders and Cricket. One hundred years later, the discovery of the Brey Diary serves as a form of vindication for Chadwick.

Chadwick’s place in the Hall of Fame is rather unique. To this day, he is the only Sportswriter who is in the Hall of Fame proper and has a plaque up on the wall alongside the greats of the game in cluding Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb. No other sportswriter has ever been so honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Writers and broadcasters are annually inducted into the Hall, but they do not recieve plaques to hang up on the wall. There names are written on a display located in a small exhibit area in the back of the building near the research library is located.

Matt Smith February 16, 2009 - 6:03 pm

Thanks for the info on Henry Chadwick, Joe C. It’s great for Brits that someone like Chadwick played such an important part in baseball’s history and development.

Zone ratings in cricket would be very interesting. There are quite a few cricket sabermetric sources I’ve found. Andy Bull from the Guardian has written a very good article about it:

He talks to David Barry of the Pappus’ plane blog:

Another good blog to look at is:

Steve Hiller April 11, 2009 - 3:33 am

What is the Brey Diary?

Steve Hiller
Pembroke Pines, FL

John Bour July 29, 2017 - 2:57 am

A great article written by Hugo Young. I’m fascinated by his mentioning the names of legendary cricketeer’s such as Gough, Trueman, Sharpe etc and legendary announcer’so as Bill Frindall. Being an American and having adopted the Detroit Tiger’s as my team, I earnestly welcome the opportunity to learn more about baseball’s cuz.


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