Cricket Competitive Patience

Cricket Competitive Patience



This card simulation of Cricket for two players was played by British prisoners of war during World War II, and apparently taught with some success to the German camp guards. It is still played to some extent in Britain and also in different forms in South Africa and New Zealand.

It is an attempt to re-create as nearly as possible the play in a real live cricket match. However, there are certain limitations: there can only be one batsman and one bowler in play in this playing card version, and there are no 6-ball overs by the bowler. Many of the conventions of cricket can be used including draws, follow-on and declarations. For this reason 11 batsmen are named at the start of play. The players should decide at the beginning of play whether all 11 batsmen should bat, or whether the innings should finish at the fall of the 10th wicket as in real cricket.

Two innings test matches can be played, or single innings club matches.

This page is based on information from Peter Lewin, Kerry Allemann, Derek Hill and Russell Parkinson.

Players, Cards and Preparation

There are two players. One standard English pack of 52 cards is used, without jokers. In play, aces have a value of 1 and pictures (jacks, queens and kings) have a value of 10 each.

A means of keeping score is also needed. A standard "real" cricket score-sheet can be used if desired.

The cards are shuffled and cut to decide who starts. The player who cuts the higher card chooses to bat or bowl. The cards are then stacked face down.

The Play

The player representing the bowling side plays first, and the bowling and batting sides play alternate turns until the innings is ended.

Cricket_Competitive_PatienceA turn, for either player, consists of taking cards from the top of the pack and placing them face up in a 3x3 grid, continuing until no further cards can be placed. The grid is filled row by row, beginning at the top left, as shown by the numbers in the diagram.

If at any stage there are two cards showing whose values add up to 11 (for example 8 and 3, or ace and queen, or 6 and 5), the player may cover both cards with new cards before continuing to fill the grid.

If at any stage there are three cards of the same rank (for example three 8's) in a straight line showing on the grid, the player may cover all three cards. The line may be horizontal, vertical or diagonal.

If at any stage there is a king, a queen and a jack showing anywhere on the grid, not necessarily in a line, the player may cover all three cards before continuing to fill the grid.

When covering a pair of cards adding up to 11, the player must cover both cards before doing anything else; the same applies to covering sets of three. A player is not allowed to interrupt one covering operation to begin a different one.

Play continues until all 9 grid positions are filled and no further cards can be covered. If the cards run out before this happens, all 52 cards are gathered up, the deck is stacked face down and cut, and the same player continues playing with a new grid. There is no limit to the number of times the pack can be played through in this way. A player's turn is over when the grid is full and there are no pairs or sets of three cards that can be covered. Even if this happens when the last card is played from the pack, the turn ends. The turn also ends if the last wicket falls (see below), ending the innings.

During a turn, the cards played from the pack are counted by both players. Although the bowling and batting players play cards in the same way, the effects are different, as follows.

  • Bowling player's turn
  • If the bowler plays 21 or more cards in one turn, one wicket falls, and a further wicket falls for each further 21 cards. If the bowler plays fewer than 21 cards, there is no wicket and the batting player's next turn adds to the score of the current batsman. If the bowler plays 42 or more cards, two wickets fall (one batsman scores a duck). To take three wickets requires the play of at least 63 cards - once through the deck and 11 more cards after restarting, and so on.
  • Jack, queen and king anywhere on the grid gives away a wide (1 run) to the batting team.
  • Three of a kind in a straight line gives away 4 byes (runs) to the batting team.
  • Batting player's turn
  • The current batsman scores 1 run for each card played. If the bowler took no wickets, this is added to the batsman's previous total if any.
  • Jack, queen and king anywhere on the grid score 1 extra run if they are not all the same suit (so a total of 4 runs for playing these three cards). Jack, queen and king of the same suit scores 3 extra runs (6 runs in total for the three cards).
  • Three of a kind in a straight line cause the batsman to be run out, provided that the bowler notices and claims the wicket. Provided that this was not the last wicket, the batting player continues his turn with a new batsman. Cards played before the wicket count for the batsman who was run out; cards after the wicket count for the new batsman.

Innings and match

After all 10 wickets (or 11 wickets if agreed) have fallen, the bowling and batting players exchange roles, and another innings is played. In a two innings test match, each player plays two innings as bowler and two innings as batsman, and the winner of the match is the player (side) that scored more runs.

Cricket conventions

Some of the normal conventions in cricket can be used in this playing card version:

  • Follow-on:
  • In a two innings match, if the side that bats second fails to reach their opponents' first innings run score by a margin of 200 runs all out, they can be invited to follow-on. In this case they continue their batting from the 1st batsman again without changing to become the bowling side, effectively playing both their innings one after the other.
  • If the side following-on fails to reach 200 runs all out, the opposing side win by an innings and however many the shortfall of runs, it being unnecessary for them to bat again. If the side following-on exceeds 200 runs, the balance over 200 runs becomes the target for the opposing team to get to win the match.
  • Draw:
  • To have something like a real match draw in the playing card version, a time limit must be agreed by both players before play begins. If the outcome is not settled within the time limit, the match is declared a draw. (In a real test match played over 5 days, if at the appointed end of play time on the 5th day, if a side still batting could still exceed the total number of runs accumulated by the opposing side if more time was available, the match ends with no conclusive outcome, therefore a draw.)
  • Declaration:
  • If the batting side has scored a very large number of runs for very few wickets lost (e.g 450 runs for 5 wickets lost) the batting side can "declare" its total at this point. The batting side voluntarily ends its innings at this point, and it the opposing side's turn to bat.
  • The purpose of a declaration is to increase the chance of winning a match within the time limit rather than drawing. In a two innings test match, declarations are most common in the second innings.


In a letter to the Daily Mail in May 2006, Derek Hill described a simpler version of the above game. The differences are as follows.

  1. In each innings, the batting side plays first. (Therefore it is impossible for the first batsman to score fewer than 9 runs.)
  2. A king, queen and jack in the grid have no effect on the score, but all three cards may be covered.
  3. Three of a kind in a straight line in the grid always results in the fall of a wicket, irrespective of whether the bowling or batting player is playing.
  4. Three consecutive cards in a straight line (irrespective of suit), such as A-2-3 or 9-10-J or Q-K-A also result in the fall of a wicket. In this version, because a triplet or run always results in a wicket, the batsman will try to minimise the chance of this by always covering cards when allowed and delaying the completion of the grid, while the bowler will prefer to deal the whole grid as soon as possible to maximise the chance of a wicket.

South African Cricket

Kerry Allemann describes the following variation played in South Africa. This is much faster than the British game: runs are scored more quickly and wickets are more frequent.

It is compulsory to cover any pair of cards whose values add up to 11 before playing any other card. If the batting player fails to do this he loses a wicket and ends his turn, scoring no runs. If the bowling player fails to cover, his turn ends and he takes no wicket.

The batting player scores 1 run per card played, as above. The bowling player takes 1 wicket for every 11 cards played (instead of 21 cards).

Threes of a kind and three-card sequences have no effect and are not covered. A king, queen and jack have no effect unless they appear in a straight line. KQJ in a straight line (in any order) score a half century (50 extra runs) if they appear during the batting player's turn. KQJ in the bowling player's turn take 5 wickets. In each case the three cards must be covered before any further cards are placed, and the penalty for not doing so is the same as for a pair.

When covering cards, a player may not look at the card in his hand before placing it. He must decide which cards he is going to cover (he need not announce this) and then cover them without first looking at the covering card in the hope of influencing the game later.

New Zealand Cricket

Russell Parkinson describes a variant played in New Zealand, possibly passed on by his father who was in the NZ Air Force from 1945. It differs from the above versions as follows.

  1. When covering two cards that make up 11 the lower number must be covered first - for example 3 before 8.
  2. There are no byes or wides. So a Jack-Queen-King set is just 3 more cards covered.
  3. The bowler scores a wicket for each 20 cards played rather than each 21.
  4. Covering three matching cards in a row (e.g. three sevens or three queens) gives the player a bonus 60 runs if batting or a 3 wicket hat trick if bowling.
  5. As an alternative to a 2 inning 'test match', sometimes a 'one day game' is played in which each player has one innings of say 10 turns maximum.