The term crease also refers to any of the lines themselves, particularly the popping crease. Law 9 of the Laws of Cricket governs the size and position of the crease markings. The actual line is considered to be the back edge of the width of the marked line on the grass, i.e., the edge nearest to the wicket at that end.
Four creases (one popping crease, one bowling crease, and two return creases) are drawn at each end of the pitch, around the two sets of stumps. The batsmen generally play in and run between the areas defined by the creases at each end of the pitch.
Bowling creaseOne bowling crease is drawn at each end of the pitch such that the set of stumps fall on it (and consequently it is perpendicular to the imaginary line joining the centres of both middle stumps). Each bowling crease should be 8 feet 8 inches (2.64 metres) in length, centred on the middle stump at each end and terminating at one of the return creases.
The bowling creases lie 22 yards (66 feet or 20.12 m) apart and mark the ends of the pitch, and so may be used to determine whether there is a no ball because a fielder has encroached on the pitch or the wicket-keeper has moved in front of the wicket before they are permitted to do so.
Formerly, part of the bowler's back foot in the delivery stride was required to fall behind the bowling crease to avoid a delivery being a no ball. This rule was replaced by a requirement that part of the bowler's front foot in the delivery stride must fall behind the popping crease (see below).
Popping creaseThe odd name of the popping crease refers to the early history of the game of cricket, when batsmen used to have to 'pop' their bats into a small hole that was located in the middle of the crease for a run to count. For a player to run a batsman out, he had to pop the ball into the hole before the bat was grounded in it.
One popping crease is drawn at each end of the pitch in front of each set of stumps. The popping crease is 4 feet (1.22 m) in front of and parallel to the bowling crease. Although it is considered to have unlimited length, the popping crease must be marked to at least 6 feet (1.83 metres) on either side of the imaginary line joining the centres of the middle stumps.
The popping crease is used as one test of whether the bowler has bowled a no ball. To avoid a no ball, some part of the bowler's front foot in the delivery stride (that is, the stride when he releases the ball) must be behind the popping crease, although it does not have to be grounded.
Batsman out of his groundIn addition, the popping crease determines whether a batsman has been stumped or run out. This is described in Laws 29, 38, and 39 of the Laws of cricket. Both involve the wicket being put down before a batsman can touch his body or bat to the ground behind the popping crease and make his ground. A 2010 amendment to Law 29 clarified the circumstance where the wicket is put down while a batsman has become fully airborne after having first made his ground; the batsman is regarded to not be out of his ground.
- If the batsman facing the bowler (the striker) steps out of his ground to play the ball but misses and the wicket-keeper takes the ball and puts down the wicket, then the striker is out stumped.
- If a fielder puts down either wicket whilst the batsmen are running between the wickets (or otherwise forward of the popping crease during the course of play), then the batsman nearest the downed wicket is out run out.
Return creaseFour return creases are drawn, one on each side of each set of stumps. The return creases lie perpendicular to the popping crease and the bowling crease, 4 feet 4 inches (1.32 m) either side of and parallel to the imaginary line joining the centres of the two middle stumps. Each return crease line starts at the popping crease but the other end is considered to be unlimited in length and must be marked to a minimum of 8 feet (2.44 m) from the popping crease.
The return creases are primarily used to determine whether the bowler has bowled a no ball. To avoid a no ball, some part of the bowler's back foot in the delivery stride must land within and not touch the return crease.
Batting creaseThe batting crease is the popping crease where the batsman stands while batting.
Using the creaseBatsmen 'use the crease' when they move toward leg or off, before or while playing a shot.
Bowlers 'use the crease' by varying the position of their feet, relative to the stumps, at the moment of delivery. In so doing, they can alter the angle of delivery and the trajectory of the ball.