In cricket, a run is running the length of the pitch, and is a basic means of scoring. A single run (known as a "single") is scored when a batsman (known as the "striker") has hit the ball with their bat and directed it away from the fielders so that they and their partner (the "non-striker") are able to run the length (22 yards) of the pitch.
Depending on how long it takes the fielding team to recover the ball, the batsmen may run more than once. Each completed run increments the scores of both the team and the striker. The team's total score in the innings is the aggregate of all its batsmen's individual scores plus any extras. To complete a run, both batsmen must ground their bats behind the popping crease at the other end of the pitch. Attempting a run carries a risk factor because either batsman can be run out, and thereby dismissed, if the fielding side can break the wicket with the ball before the batsman has completed the run.
The act of running is unnecessary if the batsman hits the ball to the marked boundary of the field. If the ball reaches the boundary having made contact with the ground, four runs are automatically added to the scores of both the batsman and the team. If the batsman succeeds in hitting the ball over the boundary on the full (i.e., the ball does not make contact with the ground until it is beyond the boundary), six runs are added. Batsmen frequently run singles and also "twos" and "threes". If the batsmen run a single or a three, they effectively exchange positions, so the striking batsman becomes the non-striker for the next delivery, and vice versa. If the single or three is scored off the last delivery of the over, the striker having changed ends retains strike for the first delivery of the next over. There are rare instances of "fours" being all run when the ball does not reach the boundary. A "five" is possible but would almost certainly need the assistance of a mistake by the fielders, such as an overthrow. In certain situations, a five can be awarded as "penalty runs". The batsman is never compelled to run and can deliberately play without attempting to score; baseball's force out rule has no equivalent in cricket.
The batsmen stop running when the ball is being returned to either the bowler or the wicketkeeper. In addition to runs, the team total is incremented by extras, also known as "sundries", which are awarded as a form of penalty against the fielding side, either because the bowler has broken the rules or because the fielders have failed to control a loose ball which did not make contact with the bat. Extras are not added to the batsman's individual score.
If, when attempting to turn for an additional run, one of the batsmen fails to ground his bat behind the popping crease, the umpire declares a "short run" and this is not added to the score. The umpire can, at his discretion, warn the batsman if he considers a short run to have been a deliberate act. In that event, the umpire will cancel all runs made following the last delivery and will instead impose a five-run penalty on the batting team, reducing their score by five: this is an extreme course of action that is rarely undertaken. If the bat is dropped as the striker turns to complete a run, that run will not count.
Sixes and fours are automatic, there is no need to run if they deem the ball will surely touch or go past the boundary rope. If the batsmen decide to run, they will be cancelled off, and four/six runs will be added to the score.
In the written records of cricket, "run" is as old as "cricket" itself. In the earliest known reference to the sport, dated Monday, 17 January 1597 (Julian date), Surrey coroner John Derrick made a legal deposition concerning a plot of land in Guildford that when (c.1550):
"a scholler of the Ffree Schoole of Guildeford, hee and diverse of his fellowes did runne and play there at creckett and other plaies".
It may well be that, in this context, "runne" meant running in general. For a long time, until well into the 18th century, the scorers sat on the field and increments to the score were known as "notches" because they would notch the scores on a stick, with a deeper knick at 20, which of course represented a score. The same method was used by shepherds when counting sheep. In the earliest known Laws of cricket, dated 1744, one of the rules states:
"If in running a Notch, the Wicket is struck down by a Throw, before his Foot, Hand, or Bat is over the Popping-Crease, or a Stump hit by the Ball, though the Bail was down, it's out".
In the 1774 version, the equivalent rule states:
"Or if in running a notch, the wicket is struck down by a throw, or with the ball in hand, before his foot, hand, or bat is grounded over the popping-crease; but if the bail is off, a stump must be struck out of the ground by the ball".
These are the earliest known references to running as the means of scoring. The change of terminology from "notch" to "run" was gradual and both terms were in use in 1800. The result of a match played in Sussex on 3 August 1800 was a win "by 25 notches" while another match in Sussex on 9 August 1800 was won "by an innings and 38 runs".
- "Law 18 – Scoring runs". MCC. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
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- Haygarth, Arthur (1862). Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744–1826). Lillywhite. ISBN 1-900592-23-1.
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- Underdown, David (2000). Start of Play. Allen Lane.