Cricket 2005: it can make you cross, batting © EA Sports

These days you can no longer bet against Bangladesh pulling off an upset - and, believe me, it is pretty upsetting when they skittle your team for a miserable 3 in your first innings and a joyless 7 in your second. But it's OK, because you've got that well-known new-ball duo Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss on hand to bundle them out for 6 and then 2 with the slowest and shortest bouncers possible. It's fairly funny, it's certainly silly, it's Cricket 2005; the latest offering from EA Sports.

This version has *new!* and *improved!* izzy-whizzy features such as superb replays from a whole host of different angles and the best graphics yet of any cricket game. And the complexity, too, is impressive. But first you have to learn the basics, and if you can't connect - if you can't make even KP and Freddie fire - then where's the fun?

Conventional wisdom has it that if you put the hours in, the rewards will come. Three-point turns, quadratic equations, riding without stabilizers: all these things are achievable - honest - with a little application. So it's off to the nets for me. But after many hours spent there (Duncan Fletcher would be so proud) I still couldn't judge the length of the ball (Big Dunc would be less proud) - and ended up playing and missing with depressing regularity - ie every ball.

My real-life team-mates may say that's just art imitating reality, with some justification, but in my defence my fellow guinea pigs fared equally badly. Back out in the middle was no different; as a procession of Tavares marched to the crease: we hit one four between us in ten matches (ten!). And that was a streaky edge. The fans weren't impressed.

A better feature is the bowling, which you can actually time; it's much better, in fact, than in any other game on the market. A quick net is all you need to pick up the basics, although the coaching voiceover can be negative to say the least. The monotone refrain - "You're bowling it too wide" - isn't sneered by professional miserablist Bob Willis, although it may as well be. But whisper it: with such tight control over swing, spin and shape, for once bowling can actually be fun. Budding Harmisons and Muralis lace up your boots.

In fact, you don't have to be an international bowler at all: you can literally be you (er, if you are male, that is). By dint of some intense geekery the science bods at EA Sports have come up with image manipulation technology so complex that you can recreate your own mush, right down to the height of your ears, the width of your eyebrows and the colour of your wristbands - should you want to. In the interests of research my boyfriend Tom, an artist, makes a passable attempt at recreating his face, but the result is more patchy police photofit than artist's impression. Still, such face-painting makes for an amusing sideshow ahead of the main event.

The real thing is dignified by 'improved' voice-over commentary which is at times humorous, at others wide of the mark. "That's a superb delivery" cooed Richie Benaud as yet another rank long-hop failed to get the treatment it deserved. This game can make Benaud look a fool - and that, of course, is wrong; almost as wrong as a later exclamation "That's four runs off the over!" when it was actually five. Oh dear. But the most implausible feature has to be that Ashley Giles can bowl the doosra. Ha!

More realistic, though, are the stadia the matches are played in, while the scoring and analysis options will set mini-Frindalls positively drooling into their beards. And - get this - the pitches have been programmed to wear over the course of a Test, too. Coo-ee! Unfortunately, on this occasion we will have to take the manufacturer's word for it: we've not yet hung around long enough to find out. At this rate, with 'Tests' taking just 30 minutes when two humans are on the dials, pitches will have to deteriorate faster than Faisalabad to see any effect. It's frustrating.

After a week spent reviewing this game we were still no better. We will persist, though, if only to hear Richie's delight when we finally crack a genuine four.


Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo