If you haven’t grown up playing cricket or you don’t have the cricket field positions etched in your memory from decades of watching, we’ve got you covered.
Cricket is one of the more complex sports out there when it comes to the rules, and when it comes to things like the role of the players. That includes fielding, and where they stand on the field.
The fielding position combinations, by the time you’ve accounted for all of the cricketers on the pitch, are almost infinite. However, this guide to all of the field positions will allow you to work out what’s going on (and not make a fool of yourself when your captain sends you to cow corner and you go looking for an actual cow).
You don’t have to be an aspiring cricketer to need to understand the cricket positions either. Fielding positions will help you to appreciate more of what is going on when you watch cricket on TV, and if you are a radio listener it is virtually essential to have a clear image of where each position stands.
Image Credit: Australian Cricket Tours
Fielding Positions – Distance is Key
Before we get into specific names of the fielding positions, let’s look to simplify the field a bit. To do this, it really helps to think about the distance from the batter. The batter is seen as the epicenter of the field, and all positions are relevant.
Close Infield. When you watch cricket, you’ll notice that there are often a lot of fielders nar to the batter and in the areas around the bat. In test cricket, you might have even seen the photos of all fielders within a few yards desperately trying to get the wicket.
The close catching positions are usually within about 10-15 yards. The positions close in the infield are not just about saving runs, they are about taking catches.
The Inner Ring. If you’ve watched the shorter formats of the game, there are actually fielding restrictions about the inner ring. These dictate how many fielders can be there. The inner ring is represented by a circle in those shorter formats, which is not as relevant in test cricket. The fielders in the circle are usually good athletes, nimble, and able to stop the singles as well as being on alert for run out opportunities.
The Outfield. The outfield is all of the areas between the inner ring (around 30 yards from the wicket) and the boundary rope. It’s the largest area, but you may not see as many fielders there. The ones in these positions should be able to run to stop the fours or even take catches in the deep.
“On” and “Off”
These are some of the real basic terms that most cricketers understand, but as the fielding positions in cricket rely so much on whether something is on the “onside” or “offside” we need to make sure we’ve explained those terms.
Oh, and to keep things simple (not) the term “on” is often interchangeable with “leg” so if you see someone refer to legside, you will know what it means.
The simplest definition:
The off side is the side of the field the batter faces when in their stance. The on side (or leg side) is the opposite side of the field.
So, if you were fielding on the leg side, as the batter got in stance to face a delivery, you would be facing their back.
The cricket fielding positions chart below will help you to understand.
We’ll start with the positions that are closest to the batter. These are the cricket fielding positions that are in play the most when it comes to catching, but that isn’t their only role.
The wicket keeper is crucial. If you’ve never seen cricket before, it will be pretty easy to find the wicket keeper, which is why they’re first on the list.
They are behind the stumps, and are usually closer for spinners and further away for fast bowlers. You’ll also be able to tell the wicket keeper because they are wearing gloves, and usually a helmet (always for fast bowlers).
In village cricket, they’ll stand closer up to the stumps as the ball won’t carry as far, but the pros may stand 20+ yards behind the stumps to ensure that the ball isn’t constantly bouncing past them and off for a four.
Stopping those extra runs may be one of the jobs of the wicket keeper, but their main role is helping to take wickets by making catches. In this position, you’ll need great eyes as well as great agility, which is why it is a specialist position.
Wicket keepers also tend to play a big part when it comes to making decisions on decision reviews, but the average village cricketer won’t get those.
When you start watching cricket, it won’t take long for you to hear the term “in the slips” mentioned.
Slip fielders are on the off side. They are in line with where the ball will probably go if the ball is edged off the bat. Slips can be divided into four types, from 1st slip to 4th slip. You may also hear commentators talk about “5th and 6th slips”.
Slip fielders are towards the off side and not far from the wicket keeper. They are in a staggered diagonal line so that they aren’t constantly jumping toward one another (and failing to make catches). Like the wicket keeper, slips will be positioned to take catches before the ball hits the ground, and this is based on the bowler’s speed.
You won’t always have slips in place. Different game situations call for more slips, or fewer slips. Spinners may not need as many slips with their fast reactions and athleticism.
As a footnote, there is such thing as a leg slip. These are effectively a mirror image of the slips, on the leg side. Instead of four of them, you usually just have the one leg slip.
Not many batters get caught out at leg slip regularly, but it does happen. Behind square, on the leg side, you are only allowed to have two fielders as a maximum, so you won’t see loads of leg slips and the bowler smashing balls down towards leg in the hope of a nick.
Someone at leg slip can be a good tactic against spinners, or as a batter tires and starts to make those lazy or poor defensive shots.
Gully stands to the side of the slips, further onto the offside, and close to the line of slips fielders. The gully stands in front of the slips but along the same trajectory.
Gully is also a catching position, and it is used tactically in a number of positions. Some batters have a reputation of pushing hard at the ball which leads to getting caught at gully more often rather than the slips. This can also be more common on a slow pitch.
You’re also more likely to see a gully when a batsman isn’t settled, so at the start of the innings or even when a brand new batter walks out. It can put pressure on.
Gully fielders need to be pretty athletic and be able to catch balls flying at them quickly, but that is true in pretty much any inside catching position.
As slips have their leg slip alternative, gully has a leg gully alternative. These are further from the batsman on the leg side, close to a leg slip (or where a leg slip would be).
Leg gully is another position that the captain will decide on based on where they think a catching opportunity might be coming. A more hefty nick down the leg side or pushing at a leg side delivery might lead to the ball ending up at a gully position rather than down to the slip.
Silly Mid Off
Time to move on to the “silly” positions.
If you believe the legends, these positions got their name because of the fact that it is silly to stand this close to the batter. Good luck if your captain puts you there.
Silly mid off usually stands on the off side, very close to the pitch, and roughly between the wickets. It is an extreme version of the “mid off” as the fielder gets closer.
Silly point is at about a 45 degree angle from the batsman, and requires a crazy level of bravery.
Silly edge is vital for certain formats of the game and when the spin bowlers are in play. The fielder at silly point will be sniffing for edges or poor shots that flick the ball up in the air ready to catch (you often have to dive to make this catch).
It needs a skilful fielder with a similar level of hand-eye coordination to the wicket keeper. It also requires a lot of protective equipment including a box and a helmet. A fielder at silly point will need to be good at getting out of the way, or risk wearing a very fierce hit from the batter.
Trust us, this is a silly position, just without the name. Short leg is on the leg side of the batter but it is a mirror image of silly point.
The short leg fielding position in cricket is used a lot for spinners, for the same reasons as silly point. However, you might also see it for quicker bowlers.
If a bowler can hit the gloves or force a poor shot from the batter then there is every chance that short leg might come into play. Yes, you’ve guessed it, this is another position that needs a lot of protective equipment, and there is still the chance of getting hit on the leg side.
Silly Mid On
Another ‘mirror image’ position. This is the same as silly mid off, but on the leg side, between the batter and the bowler.
It’s a straighter position than short leg would be. It’s another that is there to be an attacking position and to take advantage when a bad shot is played.
The Inner Circle
The 30-yard circle or “inner circle” is where a lot of the fielding positions also sit, these are the positions that can do some of the catching, but tend to be more about stopping the singles.
If you hear a commentator discuss the “infield” positions and “outfield” positions, they are referring to those either inside or outside the circle.
Let’s explore some of the positions in the inner circle.
Point fielders are in line with the batsman on the off side. This is referred to as “square” of the wicket.
Like a lot of infield positions, they may vary somewhat in terms of how close or how far away they are from the batter. Spinners might allow for the fielder at point to take a couple of steps in towards the batter.
Point fielders come into play a lot, as many batters are constantly trying to hit on the offside. This means if you’re given the job of fielding there you will need to be on the move to stop the singles, try for some run outs or even take catches.
Most bowlers will be targeting the off stump of the batsman, and this means that if the batsman plays attacking shots to balls on this line, there is a high chance the ball could be coming to the fielder at point! As a result, a lot of cricket teams will choose to put their most athletic fielder in the point position.
Backward point is a variation on a theme here. From the point position, moving a few yards behind square of the wicket will see you at backward point.
This can be a useful position against a batter that loves to play cut shots on the offside, for cutting off their singles or possibly even for taking some special catches if they flash one in the air.
Mid off is a much-used fielding position. This position is in place to try and cut off the drive, or stop batters from playing it altogether.
Mid off fielders are a little bit wider than being straight ahead of the bowler, around 30-45 degrees. A fast bowler may even pass them on thor run up.
Lots of batsmen aim to hit their shots toward the boundary in this area, so a fielder that can cut off these shots is essential.
This is a good position in the field for either a bowling partner or a captain, as it is somewhere that it is easy to chat to the bowlers during their run ups and share your tactics. A lot of captains do like to be in the slips for their best view, anyway.
Cover is more square, at around a 45 degree angle of the batter toward the offside boundary, towards any point fielder.
This is a tactical position on the field. Given their ideal conditions, a lot of batters would hit this area time and time again, so some captains like to leave it open to tempt drives and bring the slips and catchers into play.
Cover fielders tend to be good athletes and be able to block and cover the ground around this area. You might have to stop some important runs.
This is between the mid off and cover positions. A fielder may be positioned here depending on the skills and preferences of the batter, who might choose to hit in this direction a lot.
Cover and extra cover can be used interchangeably, and one fielder might move around the two positions based on what they think the batter might do.
We’re into those “mirror” positions again. Mid on is the twin of mid-off, just on the leg side.
Like mid off, this position is there to stop drives down the leg side, and to ensure there are no easy singles by working the ball into the leg side.
Square fielders are in line with the batter and wicket. Square leg is in line with the batter on the leg side.
There is often an umpire positioned at square leg, which gives you a clue about what this position looks like. You certainly get a good view of the action.
Depending on the rest of the field, the square leg fielder might be responsible for mopping up a lot of the little flicks to the leg side, so it is a good idea to have someone who is quick across the ground working this field position.
Hook, sweep and pull shots may all end up in this sort of area. If the batter likes to flick the ball of their pads then you could have your work cut out in this position.
Backward Square Leg
What backward point is to point, backward square leg is to square leg.
From square leg, take a few steps until you are a few yards behind the batter and you’ll be in the backward square leg position. This is a key fielding position in a lot of setups, and may be used for batters who like to take on the spinners with sweep shots, both to cut off runs and potentially even for catching opportunities.
Fine leg is at a more narrow position on the leg side than a backward square leg, and often stands right at the edge of the inner ring. You can use this fielding position to cut off sweep shots against a spinner, or if you have a batter in situ that likes to flick the ball incredibly fine in the search for boundaries.
Fine leg fielders are around 30-40 degrees behind the batsmen, of course down the leg side.
Mid wicket is situated on the leg side, just in front of square, and usually close to the edge of the circle.
Mid wicket will be in charge of stopping some of the bigger shots the batsman may attempt, such as the pull shot. If you can stop the single, you’re likely to have done your job at mid wicket, though some fielders might also be able to cut off shots that would otherwise go to the boundary, especially if there’s nobody fielding in the other leg side positions.
Mid wicket is a bit like mid off, in that you are likely to face a lot of powerful shots in this fielding position.
Back to the off side now for one of those unusual “one-off” fielding positions.
The fly slip is effectively behind the slip fielders, but they can be situated all the way back to the edge of the inner circle if needed, depending on the batter in place and the tactics to try and get them out.
If a batter is trying to get those glancing shots and cutting the ball away then a fly slip might be ideal for cutting off the runs, stopping boundaries that would otherwise trickle all the way to the rope, or even for taking some catches if the batsman really flashes at it.
Fly slip fielders don’t necessarily cut the ball off all that much, it could be that you end up having to chase a ball that has gone past you, and stop the shot from reaching the boundary. Quicker fielders might be useful for this position (well, that’s always the case).
Outfield Fielding Positions
Outfield positions obviously tend to be more spaced out, as those deep spaces of the outfield require fielders who can sweep up and run to stop the boundaries. Stopping boundaries, or taking catches from those big shots gone wrong, are two key jobs of outfield fielders.
Draw a line from your slip fielders all the way to the boundary, and you’ll be somewhere in the third man region.
This is a popular fielding position in shorter forms of the game where slip fielders are seen as a luxury, so you can rely on your third man to cut off those boundaries from the cut shot or from batters just running the ball down and using the pace of the bowler.
Deep point is the same position as point, but…in the deep.
It is a position square of the wicket, on the off side, but much closer to the boundary. If a batter has a tendency to attack down to the off side boundary with cut shots or even drives then you might find that your deep point has a lot of work as a sweeper, moving up and down and stopping the fours.
Deep Backward Point
Deep backward point is out towards third man, a little deeper and behind square rather than in line, like point.
If there’s a quick outfield and the batsmen are flashing lots of late cuts down toward this position, it is worth moving your backward point a little deeper to stop more boundaries.
Deep cover is a position used when batsmen are driving a lot. Some batters will always be looking to drive down to this position. This could be good news for your slips, especially if the ball is swinging and hooping around. However, if the ball isn’t moving and the batters keep hitting the ball through the covers, a deep cover can act as a sweeper, stopping the boundaries down to this area. This is very much a defensive position, but often an essential one.
Deep Extra Cover
A very similar position to deep cover but a little straighter. This is another role that will see you sweeping up and stopping the fours as much as you possibly can.
As you’ve probably guessed, it’s an extension of mid off.
The long off position is only just into the off side of straight, right out on the edge of the boundary rope.
A good batter can threaten this area of the field a lot, so you’ll find a long off used very commonly in cricket, especially in some short formats where batters are constantly trying to go up and over.
Fielding here means you should be a useful catcher, especially in T20 or one day cricket.
Into the onside, this is the exact same as a long off but on the leg side of the wicket, designed to deter long shots for six and four, or to cut off boundaries if the batter is going back over the bowler’s head a lot.
Deep Fine Leg
We’ve already explained the fine leg position, at around 45 degrees from the batter’s crease.
If you keep following the line all the way to the boundary then you will be in the deep fine leg position, that some cricketers just refer to as “fine leg”.
This is popular as a position to stop a lot of runs that can be scored from quick bowlers as the batsmen just tickle the ball away. Fielders here also need a good arm on them.
This is another one of the boundary-riding positions that can see you doing a lot of running around.
It is a more square-on version of long leg, which makes about a 60 degree angle when compared to the batsman, but this is the sort of position where fielders need to be on their toes, moving along the rope to stop the fours.
Remember that in these sorts of deep positions behind square on the on side, there are limitations on how many fielders can be put in place.
Deep Square Leg
This is the mirror of deep point.
Fielders here are in a defensive position, cutting off the runs that might come from pull shots. A deep square leg is a useful sweeper anyway, but you may also need to consider the fact that they pair perfectly with bowlers who are ending down some short stuff as the batter is likely to try and pull.
Deep Mid Wicket
Another boundary rider that is more in front of square. They can stop any shots driven toward the leg side or pulled away into this area, which is somewhere batters love to attack, especially when trying to score quickly.
Cow corner could be seen as a variation of mid wicket, it is basically a bit straighter than deep mid wicket, and you will rarely see these two fielding positions used together. It depends what areas the captain thinks the batters are likely to target.
Long stop is basically a back up position behind the wicket keeper, all the way back at the rope. In professional cricket, you don’t really see it used. It’s more of a protective, sweeping position for bouncers that go over the keeper’s head or anything they might miss.
Remember that those fielding restrictions in place can stop fielders down on the leg side behind the batsman, which is designed to prevent tactics like the controversial “bodyline”.
This has hopefully explained all of the cricket field positions that you may see used, but keep in mind the fact that some regional variations exist on what positions are called, and some even use different terms to mean the same things.
On top of that, you need to consider tactics, which are a huge part of any level of cricket. Captains have their work cut out to set the right field based on who is bowling and who is batting. These are the intricacies that make cricket such a fascinating sport, right?
With global cricket coverage, all of the fielding positions we’ve mentioned in this post tend to be the ‘standard’ terms we all use to describe where the fielders are at any given time.
Keep referring to our chart, and the next time you have cricket commentary on the radio, things might make a whole lot more sense.