What’s the best way to follow a Test match?

Armpits of Botham! It’s a Test match tomorrow!

How do you prefer to follow a Test? A lazy assumption is that live TV coverage presents the best option, but we’re increasingly questioning that. When a match is tight and it’s the closing overs, it’s hard to beat – but those situations are rare. We wonder how much we’d really miss live coverage if we didn’t have access.

When we started this website in 2006, we didn’t have Sky Sports and we’re far from glued to the screen now that we do have it. We often listen to the match on the radio while doing other stuff before watching the highlights later on. This approach means we get to experience events as they happen without the Test entirely monopolising our time. It’s not like we don’t know what a cover drive looks like, after all.

It’s funny the way people experience cricket. A few years ago, we were struck by a theme in the comments on a series of posts about the 2005 Ashes. It seemed like hardly anyone had actually watched the matches and yet this had precisely no impact on the excitement people felt.

How would you follow a Test match in an ideal world?

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31 Appeals

  1. It’s Cricinfo for me. Home test matches are played between 11 o’clock and 6 o’clock, which is pretty much entirely during my working day. But what about weekends, I hear you write? However, I have kids.

    One of the best aspects of Cricinfo cricket is that sometimes you might be away from the computer when at work, needing to extrapolate from when you last knew the score. Here is a handy reference guide for test match progression while you are away:

    0 – 4 wickets per hour
    20 – 60 runs per hour
    0 – 1 notable incidents per hour

    So you miss two hours of an England innings, hope beyond reason that England has added 120 for 0 in the meantime, convince yourself you’ll be happy with 90 for 2, then find they’ve lost 7 for 50, KP was caught on the boundary for a golden duck and the captain’s resigned.

    I’ve become so indoctrinated into the Cricinfo way of experiencing a test match that on the odd occasions when I do get chance to watch it live I tend to have Cricinfo on my laptop alongside. That way I get to experience all the good bits twice.

    Actually watching live in the ground is good too. Here I don’t have Cricinfo available. The bar trip takes so long at most grounds that it is normal to double up on a round of drinks, hence I don’t have any hands free for adequate laptop operation.

    • You could always resign your job and give up your kids for adoption. Sorry Bert, but it seems all you are doing is coming up with lame excuses for not leading a lazy life.

  2. In the office:
    Cricinfo for the most up to date score, scorecards and the links to how each wicket went down.
    Also the Telegraph over-by-over. It’s a bit behind, but it’s funny and has lots of quotes from Sky commentary team.
    Often dip to the BBC for their comments from TMS.

    When there’s no manager around a bit of Sky Go on my phone propped up at the edge of the keyboard doesn’t go amiss.

    TMS at the weekends while painting fences and such.

    But in an ideal world I’d spend all 5 days with my Dad and some beer at the ground.

  3. In every way possible at any given moment.

    Ideally, if I’m not at the match, I want to be lying on the sofa in front of Sky, with the Guardian OBO on auto-refresh, the cricinfo ball-by-ball in another tab, with the TV muted and the Sofa playing if Beefy is in the Sky booth, and probably obsessively checking Twitter to see who’s snarking what about all of the above.

    If work intervenes then Twitter can be dispensed with, I guess.

  4. Page 341.

    Stay a few paces behind, try not to be visible in reflections in shop windows. If the test stops, go past and move to a nearby shop where you can continue to observe. Ideally, operate a rolling tail with a few other people so the Test doesn’t realize it’s being followed.

  5. No longer have Sky, so Cricinfo for me too. Be the first Test summer in a while without Sky, so TMS may come into play.

  6. Sky Sports with TMS audio.

    It’s the impossible dream.

  7. King Cricket

    May 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Everyone opting for Sky Sports – would you sit and watch all five days or would you mix it up a bit?

    People opting for Cricinfo because they’re at work – is that really your ideal world?

    • I would gladly pay Rupert Murdoch to provide me with cricket were I an eccentric billionaire and then spend the rest of my life watching nothing else.

      Unfortunately I cannot afford a Sky Sports subscription and feed myself as well. Also I think that the price is too high for a person who cannot stand to watch premiership football.

    • I wouldn’t watch anything on Sky unless Rupert Murdoch paid me. That fucker isn’t getting a penny out of me if I can avoid it.

      I don’t know if there’s any option to get proper creeket on telly in the US anyway. I know if I was an idiot I could pay a small fortune to watch IPL.

    • So maybe I was unfairly maligning the good people at Willow TV.

      It seems that as well as offering “live broadcasts of India’s premier domestic cricket events, with exciting match-ups played by India’s top international players. You also get top rated cricket-themed shows featuring Bollywood stars.”, they are in fact showing the NZ and Aus tours as well. Of course, the games will all be on in the middle of the night, but you can’t have everything.

  8. I miss Ceefax.

  9. Ritesh Banglani

    May 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I am not so sure KC. The vividness of my memories of a test series is directly proportional to the percentage of action I watched live.

    I watched every ball of India’s tour of Australia of 2003-04 and can summon at will the turning points of every match. I watched at least 50% of the 2005 Ashes and can describe the better bowling spells fairly accurately. But the games of the recent England-India series, which I followed via the Cricinfo/Highlights route, have already started blending into one another.

    I think watching cricket live makes you far more emotionally invested in the game than passively “following”it on cricinfo.

    Curiously, I don’t remember the finer details of most games I have watched at the ground. Of course the overall atmosphere of the game or a particular innings/spell is very vivid, but ask me how Dravid got out in Bangalore test of 2004 and I will draw a blank.

  10. I will try and listen on the radio at work, in the car, at home, while scoring for my team, studying, reading, playing video games or indeed at any time that Dr Who is not on (I have some sense of proportion in this universe).

    How much of a match I get to hear is down to the whims of my wife, other family members, my boss and managers, customers, teammates and any clashes with episodes of Dr Who.

    I counter this by trying to arrange work, family and Dr Who commitments around any time that test matches are on. An act that is easier, oddly enough, when matches are held in the middle of the night or the small hours of winter mornings. I am thus the antithesis of the fair weather cricket fan.

  11. Ideally, I’d be at the ground for the first day. Probably the second too. After that, in an ideal world, I’d follow it all on the radio and watch the exciting passages on the telly.

    In practice, I catch bits on the web, I sneak a listen on the radio when I can and watch on telly if I’m not busy elsewhere. I’ll usually see a day or two of test cricket in a year as well.

    I find it hard to watch a full day on the telly. The commentary grates and I feel as though I should be doing something more useful.

  12. If I had the time – no work and no social life – I would be more than happy with five days of Sky Sports. But I hate the commentary. Particularly Bob Willis.

    • I hate Bob Willis with a passion as well. I would happily watch all five days on Sky Sports, but I would complain constantly about Willis and Botham.

      I might just “work from home” tomorrow

    • Willis may be bad, but he’s at least not Danny Morrison or Ravi Shastri.

  13. tms is great. I remember driving round Cornwall not wanting yo stop listening to the 2009 last ashes test. am hoping to lords on Saturday my 2nd live day of test cricket. first one was rained off at lunch not convinced this will be much better. also agree on the comment about missing ceefax. what a thing it was when growing up. now I have the ecb app. not the same.

  14. If I had the luxury, I’d watch a test match on Sony with Ravi and Siva commentating. At the end of five days, I’ll wipe the blood and do it again.

  15. Surely some of the intense pleasure comes from the variety and choice of methods in itself, so the ideal (for me) would be a mixture of methods over the summer.

    For example, I love attending test match cricket and hope to see five or six days of live test cricket this season; the first of those being this Friday. I could enjoy attending more, but I’m sure I wouldn’t want to attend every day of every match.

    I also love following the test at home on the weekend; ideally a mixture of radio and TV coverage. If the weather is good, then the garden is a real draw, which historically meant TMS. But now SkyGo can come into play in the garden too. Also, Daisy acquired a taste for Test Match Sofa when we were in Egypt late last year, where “Sofa” was our only option. So we’ll be spoiled for choice in the garden this summer.

    I love Lord’s, as many of you know and love to spend time at County Championship matches. So I have acquired an occasional habit of attending County matches on test match days and watching the county game while listening to the test match on the radio. Quite a few people do this, but it is a tad bizarre and can blow my poor little brain at times. Still, it is up there as one of the choices in the ideal category for me; perhaps a couple of times a season.

    Cricinfo is a sub-ideal fall-back for me, in the test match context. During the working day it is often the best/only viable choice for me, but certainly not ideal. I do enjoy following multiple county championship matches on Cricinfo, especially if/when more than one match is approaching a possible “moment of truth” at the same time. This can sometimes hold me in blissful thrall.

    Final point, probably mere personal nostalgia, but in an ideal world I would want the test match television commentary mostly delivered by Richie Benaud and Jim Laker, as it was when I was growing up. I learnt so much about cricket listening to their commentary, but never felt condescended, fact-bombarded, cliche-stricken or lectured at. Perhaps if I heard that commentary now I would think less of it, but I doubt it. So those guys would be doing the talking when I was watching the test on TV in my ideal world.

  16. It’s a funny situation this summer. Ideally, it’d be TMS with maybe an OBO.
    But on the continent, I can’t get a TMS stream for love nor money, whereas the ashes are going to be available for free, legally, high quality, on youtube.

  17. Cricinfo + Testmatchsofa + twitter + cricketweb + sky player (for when something “happens”)

    If you have fewer than 4 tabs you’re doing it wrong

  18. Depends on the time of day. During work hours it’s cricinfo with a dash to the breakroom when it gets close. Less than ideal but I work for a conservative organisation that has some old fashioned ideas about whether watching the cricket counts as ‘working’.
    At home it’s free to air TV (home series) which only really covers the national team, everything else has to be sourced via the web. For home seasons I substitute the ABC radio coverage for the TV audio. It’s lost a bit since Peter Roebuck was so offended by the South African constabulatory’s line of questioning that he decided to leave the room via a window, but Kerry O’Keefe is still great value.
    Unsure if you’ve encountered “Skull” over there but here is a small sample:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y3AXzZqg2k

  19. usually cricinfo… accompanied by TMS where this is possible. we are another household from whom murdoch won’t be getting any money any time soon

    in an ideal world, would see some of it live. back when we lived in north london, we attended a couple of “last days” at lord’s and it was a lot of fun. my missus also went to the oval once… some guy who worked with her was a cousin of usman afzaal who was playing for england at the time… tenuous eh

  20. cricinfo for ball-by-ball, then over to BBC a couple of minutes later for the additional commentary on “notable incidents”. Never been to a test match live, probably too late to start now, may well be disappointed if I ever do go. Living in a non-test playing country doesn’t help, no more than having kids, a wife, a job, etc. Sigh.

  21. Cricinfo and Guardian OBO, with TMS if nobody is looking. Although I kind of wish I had none of these options today, as work is actually more interesting. When nobody is listening, I’m sneaking in doing presentations instead of listening to the cricket.

  22. Tms primarily although if the mrs is not around I’d also have it on tv.

  23. i go for the illegal stream route. in the USA there’s only willow.tv, as someone mentioned above, but i’m skint enough that $15 per month is a bit much just for cricket. if it’s a good enough stream, i’ll even hook up the computer to the tv and pretend i have sky sports for real.
    otherwise, TMS if it’s available world wide or just cricinfo. for the 3rd test against nz i was stuck with kiwi radio for the last 3 overs as my stream died. very weird.

  24. You seem obsessed with this proposition that people prefer to “follow” cricket in preference to actually watching it.

    My Favorite methods of watching are (would be if they existed):
    1. Being there.
    2. Pay TV in the pub.
    3. Free TV with TMS
    4. Free TV without Mark Nicholas
    5. Free TV.
    6. Dodgy Indian Online TV (is that legal?).
    7. Pay TV round someone else’s house.
    8. TMS
    9. Stop motion animation portrayal of key plays of the day carried out by lego figures.
    10. Cricinfo/ bbc/ post teletext teletext.
    11. Newspapers
    12. Having to pay Rupert Murdoch cash to watch it.

    The availability of these determines how far down this list I have to go. Go to the pub (option 1! quids in). visit relatives (option 8) followed by option 7 if poss (option 10 if at my Nan’s house).

    • King Cricket

      May 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Not so much that it’s a preference, more that it’s the reality. Five days is a long time and many of us therefore like to combine following the Test with doing other stuff. It’s a bit of a compromise, but then again, you might get diminishing returns if you set out to watch every ball of an entire Test match.

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