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First Cricket Field Opens in Howard County

The president of the International Cricket League even flew in for a visit.

Expect to see bowlers, batsmen and wicket keepers at Schooley Mill Park in Highland; Howard County's cricket community finally has a dedicated field.

On Monday, the county officially opened its first dedicated cricket field, which will be home to a growing adult league and a fledgling youth league.

The field features fresh sod on a 300-foot diameter circular playing area that overlays two multipurpose fields. The field cost the county approximately $450,000 to build, according to an Explore Howard report.

The president of the International Cricket Council flew in from Dubai and the president of the U.S. Cricket Assocation flew from Florida to visit the new field last week. They both said it was the nicest recreational field they had seen, according to Derek Ludlow, the commissioner for the Howard County Cricket League.

Ludlow said the field is the result of years of discussion with local cricket players who had been operating a "cell phone league" around the county: They would call each other to put a game together at an open field.

This occasionally caused problems at county fields when other sports teams were scheduled to use a field occupied by cricket players, according to Ludlow. Last year, the county established an organized league, which held games at Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City.

Now the league has its own dedicated field.

Ludlow said that the established league will use both Schooley Mill and Meadowbrook for games. The addition of the Schooley Mill field allowed Ludlow to form a schedule featuring up to 32 teams, whereas before there was only enough space for 18.

"As word spreads about what we have at Schooley Mill, the league will grow," said Ludlow.

According to the Howard County Cricket League website the adult league, which plays on Saturdays, includes 20 teams. The county also intends to introduce a youth instructional leauge according to County Executive Ken Ulman's Facebook page.

On Monday night, Ulman was joined by Del. Guy Guzzone at a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new field.

Cricket, which is somewhat similar to baseball, is played by two teams with 11 players per team. One team bats while the other "bowls," throws the cricket ball, bouncing it off the ground in an attempt to knock the bails off of three wooden posts, called a wicket.  

Around the pitching area, which in Howard County is made of turf, is a grass circle. The fielding team can set up outside the batting area and try to catch balls hit in front of or behind the batsmen, resulting in an out. Runs are rewarded when players hit the ball out of the circle, or players run from wicket to wicket. In the batting area, two wickets are set up across from each other.

A bowler is basically a pitcher. A bowler can get a batter out if he knocks the bails off the wicket without the batter striking the ball. 

That's the short version of it, but as with any sport, there are a number of other rules that affect the game—for example, a batsman that hits the ball into the wicket and knocks off the bails is out.

The game is popular around the world, particularly in India, Pakistan and South Africa. It is just beginning to catch on in the United States, especially in Florida, California and the Washington D.C. area, according to a Washington Post report.

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