The Minnesota Cricket Association is hosting one of the nation's most important tournaments, the Western Conference Championship. Many of the country's best cricket players will be in the Twin Cities for the tournament, hoping to earn a spot on the U.S. National Cricket team.
The vast majority of the cricket players, who will compete at Bryn Mawr Meadows in Minneapolis this weekend, came to the United States from other countries.
"Cricket is most popular in the south of Asia: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh," says Masaood Yunus, Vice President of the Minnesota Cricket Association. "Australia is actually the hub where all the cricket development, technology-wise, tactics-wise, strategy-wise happens. England is kind of counterpart to Australia because England is the one where the cricket was really born. So, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe."
Yunus says that cricket is growing in popularity in the United States. "There are plenty of leagues all around America," he says. "It's just that because most of the people who play cricket are immigrants, it doesn't really get that much exposure out here. But in New York, for example, it's played at school level now."
Of course, baseball is this country's dominant bat and ball sport and most Americans don't understand cricket at all. But cricket is like baseball in many ways.
Each play begins with a pitch to a batter. The batter tries to hit the ball and then run to a base. The fielders record outs by catching the ball on the fly or by throwing the ball to the base before a runner gets there. Teams score runs by advancing on the bases, and the team that scores the most runs wins the game.
The biggest differences between baseball and cricket have to do with the layout of the field and the structure of the game. A cricket field has only two bases. They are called wickets and they are 66 feet apart.
Each play begins with two batsman, one in front of each wicket. The pitcher, known in cricket as the bowler, throws the ball from one wicket toward the batsman at the other. If the batsman swings and hits the ball, he has the option of running to the other wicket. If he runs, the other batsman has to run as well. If they both make it to the other wicket before the ball gets there, they score one run for their team.
"Once they score a single run, if they see there is a chance to steal another run, they can steal another run too," says Yunus. "Two to three runs is a standard thing, but four runs is usually something extraordinary effort."
Unlike baseball, there is no foul territory in cricket. A batsman can put the ball in play by hitting it in any direction, however there is a circular boundary to the field. If a batsman hits the ball past the boundary on the fly, his team scores six runs. If the ball rolls past the boundary, it counts for four runs.
The wicket is actually three thin poles that are each 28 inches tall. They are stuck in the ground a few inches apart. If the bowler hits the wicket with a pitch, the batsman is out. Unlike baseball, once a batsman is out, he doesn't hit again for the rest of the game.
In cricket, if ten batsman on one team are put out, the teams switch places and the other team gets to bat. Each team only gets one turn at bat.
But in most games, the teams do not get all the way through their batting order. Instead, their turn at bat ends after they have been thrown a predetermined number of hittable pitches. In this weekend's tournament that limit is 300 pitches per team.
"Cricket is a long game," says Yunus. "An international game usually stretches around seven and a half to eight hours; we get bored sometimes too. Lets be honest about it."
Promoters of cricket believe that the game's duration is a big reason why cricket isn't more popular in this country.
"The taste of Americans is basically a short version of sports," says Yunus. "That is why [the] International Cricket Council has actually established a couple of shorter versions of games."
A short version of cricket usually lasts about four hours.