After falling in love with cricket in the glorious Ashes summer of 1985 I went in search of every way to feed the voracious appetite for the game that I had developed. Playing outside with friends (pretending to be Gower, Botham or Ellison), magazines (not much around in the market for 8-year olds), books (many hours spent going over and over scorecards), TV coverage (plenty of terrestrial stuff during the summer) and games, both computer and tabletop.
My ZX Spectrum 48k was the gateway into the world of cricket in the virtual world. My Dad bought ‘Test Match Cricket’ and we’d spend hours together deciding whether to “RUN Y/N?” – no matter what you did the same outcome would happen in the first game. Still the novelty of editing the players’ names and watching your stick men scamper between the wickets had me enthralled. My other 1980s go-to game was ‘Graham Gooch’s Test Match Cricket’. You had far more players to choose from and you could control the players yourself, inevitably meaning you’d either be all out for 12 or tick along at 30 odd an over. Watching the brand new cherry come towards you in the centre of the screen when your batsman (with his head on back to front) had struck a perfect lofted straight drive.
Away from the screen, in order to maintain regular shaped eyes the best “board” game by a country mile was the imaginatively titled ‘Test Match Cricket’ – I had the edition with Sir Ian and Lord Gower on the box. Botham resting his magnificent Duncan Fearnley bat on his shoulder like a knight of the round table with his sword, whilst a smiling Gower, hand on his talisman’s shoulder, ball in the other was his usual elegance personified. The game itself was/is fantastic ( I recently rescued it from my Mum’s attic and set it up again, minus a few pieces, it still provided lots of fun) From the rigid batsman to the metronome fast bowler, the fielders who would fall over if the ball was hit at them too hard, the game has it all. Maintaining a flat playing surface is key though, trying to play a cover drive across a few hills is fraught with danger. Likewise, a few bumps on the square leads to a Sabina Park 1998 feel to the wicket.
This leaves the final two games that I whiled away many a youthful hour with. ‘Armchair Cricket’ and ‘Owzthat’. Unfortunately for Armchair Cricket the complexity and necessity for a little cricket knowledge to play put off many of my friends so I never really got a chance to play the game too much, however the front of the box always sticks with me, the boy sat in his armchair in his pads holding his cards in front of him.
Owzthat is a bona fide classic. Great for old or young, it can be as complicated or simple as you like and the key factor for me was that you could play it by yourself. I would fill scores of exercise books up with my own played out versions of all manner of Test Series’ in the late 80s. For anyone not familiar with the game, you had two silver long die. The first one was your batting die, you’d score either 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 or face the dreaded “Owzthat”, if you got “Owzthat” you’d have to roll the second die which had bowled, caught, run out, no ball, not out or stumped. That’s it, that’s the game. So it was that the number of “st Dujon b Holding” dismissals were disproportionately high. Brave keeping to say the least!
That anomaly aside I lost hours to this game, there’s always been something comforting to me about a cricket scorecard and to be able to write my own out whilst playing this game was heaven to me. All the other games mentioned served to educate and enhance my love for our great game, I didn’t even need The Hundred.
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