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A cricket net is a practice net used by batsmen and bowlers to warm up and/or improve their cricketing techniques. Cricket nets consist of a cricket pitch (natural or artificial) which is enclosed by cricket nets on either side, to the rear and optionally the roof. The bowling end of the net is left open. Cricket nets are the cricket equivalent of baseball's batting cages, though fundamentally different, as baseball cages provide complete ball containment, whereas cricket nets do not.
Cricket nets serve to stop the ball travelling across a field when the batsman plays a shot - saving time and eliminating the need for fielders. They also negate the need for a wicket-keeper should ball travel past the bat. They allow greater intensity of training, specifically when multiple lane cricket nets are used. Cricket nets allow solitary batting practise when used with a bowling machine.
Cricket nets are fundamental to cricket practise and are used at every level of cricket. Professional cricket establishments are likely to have over 10 lanes of nets, and have the capacity to practise indoors and outdoor. Cricket nets are also very prevalent in educational establishments; including schools, colleges and universities. They are particularly desirable in these fields as they allow safe and efficient training with a high volume of pupils where there are significant constraints on time. Completing the spectrum is their use as garden cricket nets. Cricket nets are very common site in the gardens of keen cricketers and are probably rightfully considered highly important to the development of young cricket players.
There is also a safety element that cricket nets bring. By containing the majority of aerial cricket balls, cricket nets nullify the danger of potential injury occurring from 4¾ oz and 5½ oz cricket balls striking people who are within range of the batsman. Though due to the practical requirement of having an opening in the net (for the bowler to bowl) it is still common for balls to exit the net, as such shouts of heads up are commonly heard.
Indoor cricket nets differ significantly from outdoor nets. They are often suspended on an aluminium track way (runners) which are fixed to the ceiling of sports hall or gymnasium. The nets can then drop 8-4 metres to reach the ground, before travelling at least 20 metres laterally, which provides a substantial practise enclosure. Indoors nets are commonly multi lane, with 2 or 4 bay nets being particularly common. Unlike outdoor cricket nets where the netting is black, indoor nets tend to be white. They have a separate canvas screen which enclose the area immediately surrounding the batsman and rise to a height of 3 metres. The purpose of this is twofold; the netting to the sides and rear of the batsman has by far the highest work rate, canvas is significantly more durable to tradition mesh netting and as such the use of screens improves the life span of the net. The second is from a simply privacy aspect - the impression of seclusion allows for more focused batsman and reduces the risk of distractions. Indoor cricket nets will be found in almost all sports halls and gyms where the suspension on runners provides a curtain type system for the nets and allows the nets to be pulled in and out of use. The flexible nature of these nets allows for multi sport use of sports halls which is fundamental to the success of all commercially operated sports centres.
Outdoor cricket nets are the standard and most common form of practise nets. They take shape and form in many different guises, with some nets being homemade whilst others are professional manufactured and installed, and this is reflected throughout the world. Regardless of their design and construction, outdoor crickets all have the same purpose of allowing batting and bowling practise within an enclosed space where the ball is contained. The design and construction of outdoor cricket nets tends to be based around two factors; the frequency and age of those who will use it, and also the space which is available. In schools and cricket clubs where levels of use will be high the construction of the cricket cage will be tailored to suit these requirements. A further unfortunate consideration has to be made into the likelihood that the cricket nets will be subject to misuse or vandalism. Therefore, the frames of cricket cages are often constructed out of heavy duty galvanised steel with an overall diameter ranging from 34mm - 50mm, the steel tube is then joined by galvanised key-clamp brackets. This system requires ground sockets to be concreted into the ground, although these cannot be removed the actual frame of the cage can still be dismantled. There are variations in the design of outdoor nets such as a pulley and ratchet system where the net is mounted on a cable which spans posts located at either end of the practise net. Garden cricket nets are frequently DIY and quite often take the form of a professional design with locally sourced components. This occurs primarily due to cost implications, but also due to the fact cricket nets are fundamentally simple in design and purpose and thus greatly increase the feasibility of constructing a homemade cricket net. There are few rules of thumb to follow particularly with size. The width should be no less than 9 ft, with 12 ft being optimum. The height should be no less than 9 ft if the length of net is longer than 24 ft, this is increased to 10 ft up to a length of 36 ft and nets with roof lengths beyond 36 ft should have a net height of 12 ft - this is to prevent balls ending up on the roof of the cricket net after being bowled. The length of the net is flexible, however the longer the net the more ball containment and the safer the surround training area is. There is a further type of outdoor cricket nets, this is a mobile cricket net. A steel framed cricket cage can be adapted with wheels to allow them to be become completely portable.
For a cricket net, the netting is the most important component. The net is usually manufactured in a synthetic polymer such as polyethylene, this is a hard wearing and relatively economic material. Prior to the mid-1990s nets were often made from nylon, however after the significant spikes in crude oil prices it was no longer viable to use nylon. The net will be black in color or occasionally green. The mesh size of the net will be 50mm and will commonly have a twine diameter ranging from 1.8mm - 3.0mm. Cricket nets are supplied from a knotless or knotted netting - as a rule of thumb knotted nets are considered to be superior. It is important to understand that twine thickness of knotted and knotless nets are not directly comparable as breaking strengths of knotted nets are higher than knotless. A good standard cricket net will be UV stabilized and rot proof. For people who construct their own cricket cage, the netting is the only component which they need to purchase from a specialist supplier. Cricket netting is seamed at the edges to stop netting fraying. These seams are usually a 6mm cord sewn into the netting where it meets a cage or end. Canvas blinkers can be added to offer privacy and to reduce net wear. Also, partial canvas skirts of 0.5m (at the lower portion of the netting) are added to prevent animal damage at night from creatures walking into the netting and chewing out of it.