Bluffer's guide to surviving the Cricket World Cup
IT'S that time again, when the whole country goes cricket crazy for a month. Ireland are out to embarrass the big boys at the World Cup, as they did when beating England four years ago.
Your male mates will start talking long legs, and it won't be the female variety; middle-aged women will want to be mothering 'Stirlo'; and the pub bore will tell you at least three times that Ed's father really is James Joyce.
The problem is: you don't understand the game, do you? Don't worry, neither does anyone else. By following this simple guide you'll soon sound as knowledgeable as anyone.
The 11th World Cup is being played in Australia and New Zealand so most of the action will take place when fans are asleep (as it used to be when Geoff Boycott was batting).
There are 14 teams taking part, initially in two groups of seven, with the top four in each progressing to the quarter-finals.
Ireland will play the West Indies, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan. The two host nations have Sri Lanka, England, Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan in their group.
A one-day international usually lasts around seven hours, with one team batting for 50 overs and the other then trying to better their score.
During opening hours it's a great game for pints and betting, not necessarily in that order. Nothing much will have happened while you go to the toilet, at most a wicket or a couple of boundaries.
Never ask "Who's winning?". One or other team may be on top, but it isn't winning.
Remember that teams accumulate runs, NOT points. One run every time the batsmen change ends, four runs when the ball crosses the boundary and six - or a maximum - when the ball clears the ropes.
Run-rate is the calculation of runs scored divided by overs bowled. So a team on 80-2 after 20 overs has a run-rate of 4. Anything above 6 an over (or a run per ball) is considered good and a team will look to double what they score in the first 30 overs in the next 20, aiming for an avalanche of runs towards the end.
A batsman is out (his personal innings is over) when he is bowled (his stumps are knocked over), caught, lbw (leg before wicket) or he is run out or stumped (the stumps are broken when he is short of the white line in front of them).
A team is bowled out when 10 of their 11 members are out. This doesn't happen too often in ODIs and it is considered something of a crime if the side batting first does not use up its full allocation of 50 overs.
The two 'referees' in the middle are supported by a TV umpire, whose job is to look at close calls and then back whatever decision was originally made, unless is was a real howler, in which case he will look at it at least five times before backing the original decision.
The on-field umpire will raise his index finger to signal a batsman is out. If a bowler sends the ball behind the batsmen's legs, or out of reach on the other side, the umpire signals wide by outstretching his arms as if to greet a portly aunt. One run is added to the total and the ball has to be bowled again.
A fielding side must have a minimum number of players inside 'the circle' at any given time. More at the start of an innings and during the batting powerplay, and fewer at other times. Before the circle was introduced, captains were able to place all their fielders on the ropes to prevent boundaries.
There are two sides to a cricket field: the off-side and the leg-side, which is the side the batsmen's legs are. Female readers may be relieved to know that there is no off-side rule, except that it's opposite the leg-side.
It's always safe to say: "There are too many gaps on the off-side/leg-side, for my liking" because there are always too many gaps everywhere.
Sound on intimate terms with the Ireland team by referring to Porty, Stirlo, Joycie, Nobby, Balbo, Willo, Johnboy, Cusie, Maxie and Dockers.
When Ireland bat second, impress your friends by saying: "We'll win this if Stirlo stays in for 30 overs and Willo finishes it."