Cricket is England's national game. Teams, called
sides, are made up of 11 players each. They play with a ball slightly
smaller than a baseball and a bat shaped like a paddle. Two batters stand
in front of wickets, set about 20 metres apart. Each wicket consists of
three wooden rods (stumps) pushed into the ground, with two small pieces
of wood (bails) balanced on top. A member of the opposing team (the bowler)
throws the ball towards one of the batters, who must hit the ball so that
it does not knock a bail off the wicket. If the ball travels far enough,
the two batters run back and forth between the wickets while the fielders
on the opposing team try to catch the ball. The game is scored according
to the number of runs, which is the number of times the batters exchange
The English also enjoy soccer, known as football. Major teams, or clubs, include Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. The highlight of the English soccer year is the FA (Football Association) Cup Final each May. Rugby, another popular sport, is similar to soccer, but played with an oval ball. Players can carry the ball and tackle each other. The best rugby teams compete in the Super League final each September.
Horseracing and greyhound racing are popular spectator
sports. People can place bets on the races at legal off-track betting shops.
Some of the best-known horse races are held at Ascot, Newmarket, Goodwood
and Epsom. Motor racing is equally popular. Some of the world's best racing
cars are designed and built in England. Every year, a Formula One car race
is held at Silverstone.
England's Olympic athletes include ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, decathlete Daley Thompson and rower Steve Redgrave. The world's best tennis players come to England to compete at Wimbledon, known for its grass courts. Ballroom dancers come to compete at Blackpool.
Water sports include sailing and rowing. Every year,
a rowing race between teams from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge
is held at Henley on the River Thames. The English also love to walk in the
countryside. Footpaths criss-cross England, many of them centuries old.
According to tradition, walkers have the right to use historic paths that
cross private property, provided that the path is regularly used. In pubs
and clubs, people enjoy playing snooker (a game similar to billiards) and
Fox hunting is popular in some rural areas. The sport
is traditionally associated with the aristocracy. Riders in "pink" (actually
scarlet) jackets and their hounds chase a fox over fields and through forests.
Animal rights organizations want the practice banned.