Few sporting moments can stir the juices of the back page headline writers as effectively as yet another England cricketing disaster, especially when defeat of the hands of Sri Lanka occurs only a few months before the Ozzies turn up to defend the Ashes. National pride demands a spritited performance and nothing short of victory will drag the names of the 11 unfotunate white-clad sportsman out of the ninth circle of hell to which every sports journo in Wapping bahinshed them after the winter tour.
Graham Gooch's World Class Cricket is the latest of a small group of games which have attempted to simulated the sport, and comes which have attempted to simulate the sport, and comes closer than anything yet released to the real thing.
God games of this sort are difficult produce because cricket doesn't lend itself as readily as football to a fast exciting computer game, but GGWCC combines simulation accuracy with slick gameplay and brings it off very nicely.
Just about every rule and aspect of cricket is implemented, from LBW's to run-outs, and the superb graphics catch the eye as soon as play commences. Crammed onto one disk as it is, GGWCC loads quickly, play quickly, and disk access is minimal, so nothing gets in the way of the simulation.
In play, the game can be as complex or simple as one likes, and there should be enough options to keep even the cricket fanatics happy. Play can be over anything from one to five days and the number of overs can be set from 20 to unlimited.
A selection of world teams is on offer, complete with realistic and current player lists, but the novice need only have the computer select the best 11 to proceed to the action. The more finicky among us can chop and change team selection by dipping into the full squad, and the even more dedicated will find the option to edit teams, team names, and even players' individual characteristics to suit any taste.
It would, for instance, be perfectly possible for a nostalgic player to change the England and Australia line up to repeat the infamous "body-line" tour of the 30s complete with Don Bradman and company.
In playing, bowling, batting, and fielding are all taken care of in simple but effective fashion. Bowling is a matter of placing the intended landing point for the ball then clicking the joystick button, at which point one of two things will happen depending on the type of bowler being used.
If playing a fast bowler, the player will see a speed bar in the corner of the screen which can be controlled by waggling the joystick back and forth to increase speed.
Spin bowlers vary in that they bring up a selection for leg or off spin, then the player waggles the joystick to increase the amount of spin. For added realism, a natural leg spin bowler will be able to spin the ball faster in that direction. Batting can be tricky - my first innings score of ten all out should be ample testament to that - but with practice and good timing the eight types of shot on offer give the player enough flexibility to deal with all sorts of bowlers.
There is little in the way of the delicate touch, but the choice of where in the crease to stand, when to hit the button, and which shot to play makes batting a challenging enough affair without fancy extras.
Once you manage to pull a decent shot out of the bag, joystick waggling is again needed to make the batsmen run at anything more than a relaxed canter, so play can become quite physical as one player waggles furiously to deliver a fast ball and the other does likewise to squeeze a single out of a short cut to the midfield.
Fielding is less controllable, but one feature I liked was the ability so set a different field placement for each bowler, then save them to disk for later use. It is possible to arrange the fielders for one fast bowler then copy it to all the other fast bowlers, so quick tactics changes are possible before and during play.
When an opposing batsmen hits the ball, the display changes to a more distant view showing about a quarter of the field, and the fielder under control is highlighted by an arrow. Players have little or no control over what happens, and my input seemed to be limited to just pressing the button to throw the ball.
Overall, despite using the same graphics for European, Caribbean, and Asian players, the lack of a tour or World Cup option, and a few reservations about some cricket fans' willingness to indulge in joystick waggling, GGWCC is easily the best cricket game available on the Amiga, and one of the most well polished and neatly implemented sports games I've ever had the pleasure to play.