Category: Extras (page 1 of 39)

Cricket beer carrying goes up a notch – The Device gets supersized

Remember The Device?

The Device was created about 20 years ago by Special Correspondent Dad so that he could sidestep the flimsy and unreliable cardboard beer carriers that were handed out at Old Trafford at that time.

Pint-carrying technology has only advanced in two-steps-forward-one-step-back fashion since then so The Device remains the envy of all Test match patrons who behold it.

This week Mike got in touch with us having sighted this beast at Edgbaston.

“Look at this!” he said, understandably and justifiably deploying an exclamation mark. “It’s like The Device squared. If 16/6 was a square. What an effort. Even though it’s only 3/4 full the proponent still complained of the weight.”

We asked Mike for the full story.

Mike said: “This is a random dude I encountered on Saturday and whom I now worship as a God.”

We also showed this to Special Correspondent Dad, who saw fit to question how many of the glasses contained beer.


Cricinfo’s new home page looks really amateur

Cricinfo have redesigned their website so that it looks like one of those ones that scrapes your content and republishes it in breach of copyright. The home page in particular looks like some sort of template from GoDaddy.com.

The home page was dreadful before, in all honesty, but in an entirely different way. Previously it was weighed down by randomly placed subsections, each of which was overfilled. The new one is at least a little bit lighter – although it still feels a bit like someone’s said ‘is there some way we can make absolutely everything really prominent’.

Viewed on a desktop, scorecards are too wide.

The explanation for the change is that they’re putting ‘mobile first’. Apparently no-one’s told Cricinfo that you can have completely different designs for mobiles and PCs through the magic of stylesheets. Even we do that and we’re so bad at this kind of thing that we haven’t even removed the empty menu dropdown on our mobile site.

The new Cricinfo is at least usable on a mobile now. The old version was unusable, so this redesign probably emerges in credit.


Cricket Captain 2017 – PC review

Cricket Captain – formerly International Cricket Captain – has been updated pretty much annually ever since it first came out in 1998. It’s always been a must for fans and also for administrators. However, we haven’t actually reviewed it in ages, so we thought we’d better address that.

Let’s deal with the obvious question first.

Can you pick Kevin Pietersen as England’s spin bowler and bat him at nine in a Test match?

Of course you can! He didn’t complain or anything. We took this as definitive proof that they could have kept him around after all and it wouldn’t have been a problem. Maybe he wanted to bat at nine and bowl more all along. Maybe that’s what they should have done.

That said, we were slightly taken aback when KP took 5-98 in his first match back in the side. We were far happier with his feisty lower order 41 off 37 balls, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for when we selected him.

Can you restrict the game to just Test matches?

Yes! It may not sound much, but this is perhaps the single most important tweak we can remember in the history of the game. In early versions we’d spend hours honing our Test side only to effectively sabotage its chances by half-arseing all the one-dayers. Playing meaningless one-day series was boring, but if you skipped them all your best players lost form.

You can also choose to focus wholly on one-day cricket, T20 or any combination of the three formats. This holds true at both domestic and international levels.

Are the graphics any good?

Do you care? Do you honestly care? This is a strategy game. It’s built on numbers, tables and graphs.

The graphics are fine, albeit far less amusing than those seen in Ashes Cricket 2013 with its ominously waddling umpire and his spectacular effect on fielders.

The menus are clear enough; the main highlights are maybe a bit dated looking, but perfectly serviceable; and Hawkeye is pretty much the same as on TV (although you can’t review decisions, unless we’ve missed something).

Are the numbers, tables and graphs any good?

Yes. Even those who are unconvinced by the worth of beehives, Manhattans and pitch maps in TV coverage will see their value here. They give you a means of deciphering what is and isn’t working in your attempts to bowl out the opposition.

Consult the graphics and you can quickly and easily see where the batsmen are scoring runs and where chances have been created.

Probably worth bowling a bit straighter at Imad Wasim.

Can you play the 1998 series between England and South Africa?

Yes.

Donald v Atherton; Dominic Cork deliberately being an arsehole to Brian McMillan to get him out; Darren Gough suffering from the wild shits; and good old Angus Fraser.

We’re not saying the game simulates all of these things, but you can play the series and fill in the gaps using your imagination.

Any flaws?

We’ve spent long hours playing this game over the years, so there’s an element of nit-pickery about this, but we’ve always thought that it was slightly caught between two stools.

There’s the strategy game, where you pick players, train them and combine them to make your team; and then there’s the tactical game, where you set your field, decide where to bowl and make your bowling changes.

The two are obviously linked, but there are times when the tactical side can feel like time-consuming micromanagement that’s keeping you from discovering whether your long-term masterplan will come to fruition. Sadly, autoplaying matches is still greatly counterproductive, so it isn’t really an option.

Does it feel realistic?

This is often a stumbling block for cricket games. When you’re forever being bowled out for under 100 or you can’t help but rack up 500-plus every time you bat, gameplay suffers, regardless of whether the opposition is making similar scores.

We haven’t done a full 20-season test run-through, but from what we’ve seen so far, the game performs well in this department. Batsmen approach Twenty20 with the correct boundary-hitting intent and Test totals have taken in everything from whopping declaration totals to fourth innings skittlery on a deteriorating pitch.

Worth the investment?

It’s available via Steam for £18 at the minute, which isn’t too sizeable an outlay in this day and age. If you haven’t played it before, it’s definitely worth a go. If you have, you may find the latest version resolves a few of the irritations from some of the older instalments.

We’ve found T20s particularly good because you can come up with a system and the games are of manageable enough size that you can watch more of the highlights and get a bit more of a feel for how things are panning out.

There are mobile editions too, although we haven’t played those. Let us know if you have and what they’re like in the comments section.


Sky Sports Cricket is going to be cheaper and you won’t have to subscribe

We were bemoaning the out-of-date way in which broadcasters sell sport to consumers a month or so ago. We said it was too expensive and you had to sign up to too much that you didn’t want.

Maybe they listened.

Sky Sports has announced a series of changes which will (eventually) address all of these concerns. They didn’t announce a new deal that would see the company break away from Rupert Murdoch, unfortunately – but time will take care of that eventually. You can’t persuade time to call off its assault, Rupert. You can’t scare away the Grim Reaper with a load of bullshit headlines.

The Guardian reports that Sky Sports is going to do away with its policy of peppering cricket across multiple channels and is instead going to stick it all on Sky Cricket. You will then be able to subscribe to that channel alone at reduced cost, as you won’t also be signing up to a whole bunch of football you couldn’t give a toss about.

But that hasn’t been the only issue. TV sport subscriptions are merely the tip of an investment iceberg which also requires you to get a base TV package and probably your phone and broadband from the same provider. It looks like this too could change.

When we wrote about using Kodi to stream live cricket, we pointed out that the fragmented marketplace meant there were no guarantees that the TV channel you subscribe to would even be showing all of the matches you’re interested in. If the broadcasters can’t afford to provide everything you want, chances are you don’t want to commit to paying them for a year when they’re only doing half a job.

This is where Now TV comes in.

Now TV is a pay-as-you-go subscription-free TV service. At present, this flexibility means it is a pay-through-the-nose-as-you-go TV service where one day of Sky Sports will cost you eight quid, a week will cost you £11 and a month will cost you £34.

But again, you’re paying for six channels you aren’t even watching and so the changes to Sky Sports subscriptions should drip down to the cost of this service as well.

This is good news. You may however be concerned that much of this is irrelevant as BT Sport is buying up more and more cricket. Well, rest assured that anything Sky Sports does, BT Sport will also do, only slightly later. We fully expect their own subscription-free TV service to materialise before too long.

Immediately before this winter’s Ashes series would a very good time to launch.


Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld to retire from TMS

Henry Blofeld (CC licensed by ramograph via Flickr)

Henry Blofeld, the long-serving Test Match Special commentator with the extraordinary accent and a strong proclivity for getting players’ names wrong, is calling it a day at the end of the season. It’s safe to say we’ve always had mixed feelings about the man.

If we were to try and sum up those feelings, we’d say that we like the idea of there being a commentator who works in a similar way to Blowers – we’d just maybe prefer it if that person wasn’t Blowers himself.

“A lot of our audience are people doing housework wanting a comfortable voice,” he said, announcing his decision to stand down. “I talk about pigeons, seagulls, policemen and the girl in the red dress in the grandstand. It’s all that, I think, which attracts people along with the cricket.”

You may think that. But not everyone will entirely agree.

If you’re trying to follow a match, this kind of thing is not always endearing. Sometimes it’s just irritating and maybe even a bit embarrassing – but then at times Blowers becomes such a self parody that it actually becomes endearing again.

It’s a tricky one and no mistake.

The issue, as we see it, is this. Test cricket ebbs and flows and commentary must ebb and flow with it. There are definitely times for talking about irrelevant bollocks, but there are also times where you need to focus on the action.

Blofeld isn’t bad at conveying excitement and he certainly understands cricket. He does however seem to have been taking less and less of an interest in touring players and what they might have achieved outside of the English summer.

Maybe you think that’s unfair, but we can’t really recall him saying anything about a player that we didn’t already know. Getting people’s names wrong can also derail things when listeners are trying to follow a crucial passage of play.

That said, we’re not delighted about Blowers’ departure, as we perhaps would have been a few years back. There was a period when the narrow array of TMS accents made us embarrassed to listen to cricket in the back garden as it sounded like coverage of some niche upper-class pursuit.

Nowt wrong with a plummy accent, but there was a lack of diversity in the commentary box for a while there. As someone who is essentially a cricket evangelist, this frustrated us enormously as it reinforced a widely held perception of the game that we have always thought unfair.

TMS accents are less of an issue these days and it’s pleasing to see that the programme’s commitment to diversity belatedly extends to gender too. Maybe at some point soon they’ll feel there’s a significant gap and find themselves actively seeking out a rambling Old Etonian to put in the occasional shift.


The Cricket Kingdom Champions Trophy fantasy league result

The King Cricket Champions Trophy fantasy league eventually attracted 74 teams – so many, in fact, that after a couple of games we started to think we might look bad if we didn’t get in amongst it and actually try and do well.

We eventually secured a top ten position, which seems respectable enough that we should be allowed to continue writing this website.

However, the winner of all the respect/resentment from their peers was Sesha, whose INDIAN XI positively walked it – unlike the Indian XI, which famously got battered in the final.

Maybe if it had been a fantasy knock-out, things would have panned out differently. But it wasn’t. It was a league and Sesha won.

Just as importantly, here’s the arse-end of the table – a full bottom ten, no less – where Deep Cower secured an almost equally impressive losing margin over (under?) Hippity, who is a green bunny.

Well played these people, particularly Alphamonkey who secured negative points from the final and so secured the highest step within the sunken podium trench.


Laurence Elderbrook warms up for action

Previous instalment from Laurence Elderbrook

Nerves are good. Nerves are a sign that a batsman cares, and a batsman with such passion is more likely to be sharp and effective when his moment arrives.

I, Laurence Elderbrook, am not by nature a nervous man, but the tempestuous nature of cricketer errantry has encouraged an exaggerated sensitivity which can only benefit my cricket. I welcome this development for it means I will be that much more effective when I take the field.

The nerves are, however, significant and one cannot allow them to take control. I have always found gin an excellent countermeasure and so dose myself carefully to maintain an optimal balance between performance-enhancing tension and relaxation. I take small glasses regularly throughout the morning, refilling only when necessary.

When I summon Darron-with-an-O, I inform him that there is to be a change in protocol for today’s match – he will be needed for directions only. In my sharpened state, there will be no need for him to enquire whether or not a club requires my presence. I will simply inform them of my participation, for surely no man on Earth would wish to deny the expression of genius.

I have already selected a team to grace. They are a rural side whose ground lies in the most exquisitely bucolic setting and upon arrival I see that the match is already underway. There is no time to waste. I park my car firmly against the pavilion and exit the vehicle to undertake my trusted exercise regimen. I essay twenty to thirty mad gambols followed by a series of naked frisks. Darron looks on in wide-eyed awe, anticipating the wonders to come.

The pavilion door is a trifle stiff, so I incline my weight towards it. My entrance is appropriately dramatic and the excitement among the onlookers within is palpable.

Whether they recognise me or just instantly comprehend that great feats are about to take place, enthusiasm gets the better of some of their number and they approach me in a state of some feverishness.

Celebrity can at times leave one feeling vulnerable and the exposure of one’s rarities serves only to magnify this sensation. This is perhaps what compels me to unfurl a series of cross-batted strokes in their direction, after which I hare towards a table of victuals to gain energy for what is to come.

Balance is the key to sports nutrition, so I endeavour to consume sandwiches of ham, egg and cheese, rather than placing too much emphasis on any one particular filling. I intersperse my feeding with further swishes of my cricket bat, demonstrating my full range of strokes to my advancing fans.

Perhaps it is the overwhelming nature of the transcendent state in which I find myself, but when I then attempt to round the table and make my way towards the pitch, I gently clip its corner with my hip. As I sprawl to the floor, I ask myself whether it is in fact possible to be functioning on such a level that one can no longer operate on this plane of existence.

I swiftly pick myself up and continue my journey towards my stage. The sward lies before me, but as I exit the building, the doorway strikes my cricket bat. I react swiftly but cannot protect my opposite shoulder from a collision with the opposite side of the door.

As I again journey towards the ground, it is clear what I must do. I must purge my body so as to return it to the terrestrial realm.

On hands and knees, I insert two digits and liberate the gin and sandwiches from my corporeal form. Shortly after this moment, my earthbound consciousness is replaced by something beyond comprehension; something which alas denies me any memory of the innings I played.

When I inform the officer of this later in the day, he is understandably dubious. My cricketing feats are now, quite literally, beyond comprehension. As such, I resolve that this shall be my final performance of the season.

More Laurence Elderbrook


A free Champions Trophy fantasy league – because, why not?

ICC balaclava

We’re going with the ICC’s own fantasy league this time around. It’s free.

If you want to join the King Cricket private league, you’ll need to get a team selected by 10am Thursday, UK time. There’s then a ‘join/create league’ link in the Leagues dropdown.

The private league code for The Cricket Kingdom is 826856-3985

The prize, as ever, is the respect/resentment of your peers.

There are no ones

When selecting your team, you’ll notice that every player has been assigned a value. The values range from 2-10. Either the ICC are innumerate (highly likely) or they’re leaving open the possibility that England might inexplicably call up Jim Foat at the last minute and are giving themselves room for manoeuvre.

You can make transfers

If you’re that way inclined. This still seems to us to be some sort of insane threshold that we will never cross. But who knows? Strangers things have happened.

We remember this one time when we were about eight, Matthew and Gavin were playing Top Trumps and when Matthew lost a card, he threw it in a temper and it arced through the air and landed right on top of the deck in Gavin’s hand.

You think about it like that and maybe there’s a chance that in a fortnight we’ll feel moved to spend 60 seconds replacing Shakib-al-Hasan with someone who’s still taking part in the tournament.

Your players can actually lose points

They’ll be penalised for recording a duck, scoring fairly slowly, bowling wides and no-balls, and for conceding loads of runs.

This seems a good thing. We were sorely tempted to pick a side that could strive for an overall negative score – but frankly we’d already invested time selecting one side and couldn’t be bothered going through the process again. It’s still an option for you though.


Laurence Elderbrook fights and defeats nerves

Previous instalment from Laurence Elderbrook

I have concluded that it is irresponsible to open the batting. I am a gifted, match-winning batsman and to expose myself to the vagaries of the new ball is to introduce an element of chance to proceedings when a fair fight would always see me prevail.

This is why, on my next outing as a cricketer errant, I inform the captain that I will be batting at five. By side-stepping unpredictable early movement, I give myself the best possible chance of delivering for a team in need.

Ironically, today’s pitch is a flat one and the team quickly advances to fifty without losing a wicket. They are building a good platform for me; I mustn’t begrudge them that. However, my appearance at the crease may be some way off, so I instruct my squire, Darron-with-an-O, to purchase me a small glass of gin such that I might while away my time until I am needed.

The score grows. The wickets do not fall. I savour a couple more gins lest this interminable wait have some fraying effect on my nerves. Anxiety has met its match in Laurence Elderbrook and I conquer it easily.

At the fall of the third wicket, an onlooker has the temerity to ask whether I am able to bat. Does he not know who I am? I take the only option available to me in such a situation. I let fly a huge bestial roar and strike him on the side of the head with my gin glass.

One of the great challenges of being a cricketer errant is that in many ways one is always an outsider. Over the years I have grown used to members of the opposition taking against me for spurious reasons, but my fleeting appearances as the star player on a team can on occasion breed resentment among even my own team-mates.

That is what happens here as one of the dismissed batsmen – doubtless ashamed and suffering some sort of inferiority complex – sides with my foe and attempts to strike me. With cat-like reflexes I feint to the left, deftly upending a table in the process so as to distract him. Grasping a glass from another table, I instruct Darron to warm-up the motorcar and inform the room that they have forfeited their right to my presence with their boorish behaviour. To drive home the message, I launch the glass at my foe and exit the room.

Later in the week, I return to the ground. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I urinate on the clubhouse door with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.

Next instalment from Laurence Elderbrook

More Laurence Elderbrook


Which cricket mobile apps do you use (if any)?

ICC mobile app

As the Champions Trophy rolls towards us like the wooden wheel that we made each week in Craft, Design and Technology at school (having always lost the previous week’s wheel at some point in the interim) it seems a decent enough time to pay a visit to the subject of cricket apps on smartphones.

We’ve always maintained our distance from these things up until now, generally having found them to offer much the same information as the internet only in a much less accessible form. However, we’re giving the ICC one a go at the minute and at first glance it seems okay. It’s not too massive and the scorecards feature a little more information than we see on the BBC site.

But what do we know? Nothing, give or take. Do you use a non-rubbish cricket app? What do you get out of it? Leave a comment on the site and let’s see if a consensus magically emerges.


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