Some cricket grounds are huge. At Australia's Melbourne Cricket Ground, which hosted the 1956 Olympic Games, batsmen must hit the ball 300 feet to clear the boundary from their stance in the middle of the ground. By contrast, the average club cricketer plays in an oval with boundaries half that distance. Cricket, like soccer and baseball, has no standard dimensions apart from the pitch itself.
The pitch dimensions are 66 feet from wicket to wicket and 10 feet across, with a number of marks and creases to consider. Two batting creases are four feet inside each wicket. These mark the area inside which the batsman is safe in his ground when the ball is in play. The bowler may not step over the batting crease at the other end when releasing the ball.
In October 2009, the International Cricket Council stipulated minimum and maximum boundaries for test matches under its jurisdiction--the only governing body to set limits. The council says, "In all cases the aim shall be to provide the largest playing area, subject to no boundary exceeding 270 feet from the centre of the pitch." The official laws of cricket, from the Marylebone Cricket Club in London, do not cover venue dimensions.
The cricket council says the test match playing area shall be a minimum of 450 feet wide, from boundary to boundary, square of the pitch. If the pitch is not dead-centre, the shorter of the two square boundaries must be a minimum of 195 feet The straight boundary at both ends of the pitch shall be a minimum of 210 feet, from the centre of the pitch, 420 feet from end to end.
The pitch is not always central because each pitch in the centre "square" needs time to recover after use. The square is an area of grassy clay soil about 50 feet wide, from which ground staff prepare and mark out the match "strip" while the other strips regain their grass cover, says Julian Knight in "Cricket for Dummies."
The Melbourne Cricket Ground easily meets the international stipulation and holds 100,000 people. Its field dimensions are 560 feet long by 480 feet wide. Most Australian venues that host test matches have large boundaries. They may shorten a little for the one-day versions of the game. The Sydney Cricket Ground, for example, comes in at 530 feet from end to end and 468 feet square of the pitch.
New Zealand's Seddon Park, Hamilton, is on the small side, though it hosts test match cricket. In its favour, Seddon Park gives all spectators a chance to picnic on grass banks while enjoying a close view of the game (see Resources). Eden Park, New Zealand's premier test match venue, has one notoriously short boundary 116 feet from the centre of the pitch.
The ICC notes that "any ground which has been approved to host international cricket prior to 1st October 2007, or which is currently under construction as of this date, which is unable to conform to these new minimum dimensions to the adoption of these regulations, shall be exempt."