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What is a substitute player in cricket called, and what can they do?

Jake Nichol October 26, 2021
What is a substitute player in cricket called, and what can they do?

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Substitutes in cricket are less celebrated than in football or rugby but by what other name is the substitute in cricket called and what can they affect in the game?

Substitute name in cricket revealed

Unlike in football or rugby, the coach of a cricket team can’t make changes to their team once the game has started.

They are unable to bring off a player who isn’t pulling their weight for someone new.

That’s not to say substitutes aren’t a thing in cricket.

In fact, substitutes, or subs, often come on to the pitch for the fielding/bowling side.

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That can be for a number of reasons. A teammate might be off the field receiving medical attention or for a comfort break.

A substitute must wait until the end of an over before entering the field of play.

Usually, the substitute in cricket is called the ’12th man’.

This is because they will be listed on the team sheet as the first player outside the starting XI.

Their additional tasks as 12th man include bringing on drinks at scheduled breaks and supplying batsmen with anything else they might need while out in the middle, such as new gloves or a change of bat.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

What can substitutes do in cricket?

The batting team can never make use of a substitute.

Should a batter need to leave the crease for medical attention, they will simply leave the field and the next batter comes in.

A wicket isn’t necessarily lost for this – the injured batter can return to the crease later in the innings if deemed fit.

This happened in the 2019 Ashes Test at Lord’s.

Australia’s Steve Smith was hit on the neck off the bowling of England paceman Jofra Archer in the first innings.

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Smith went off the field for a time, before later resuming his watch. However, he was ruled out of the second innings on concussion grounds.

There, a piece of cricket history was made as Marnus Labuschagne became the first concussion substitute in cricket.

For a fielding team, a substitute fielder isn’t allowed to bowl. They are only permitted to play an active part in fielding, including catches and run-out opportunities.

Has a substitute ever got anyone out?

In the 2005 Ashes, during the pivotal fourth Test, a sub-fielder turned the game in England’s favour.

The Australian batting pair of captain Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn looked well set.

However on day three, Martyn pushed for a quick single. Ponting was well short of making his crease as substitute fielder Gary Pratt ran out the captain.

Ponting was furious, believing England were taking liberties with sub-fielders. What he didn’t know was Pratt was on for Simon Jones, who had suffered a serious injury.

Pratt’s run-out helped England to win the Test by three wickets and take an ultimately victorious 2-1 lead in what has been labelled the ‘greatest Ashes series’.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.