Ceefax Report – England vs Sri Lanka – Test 1 – 2016

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In this test match Sri Lanka were confronted by a perfect storm.

Their legends have retired, some of their new guys haven’t quite
cemented their places, the clouds were looming, it was May, England were still cross about 2014, Anderson was well rested, and Bairstow was bristling.

10 for 45.

25.1 overs – eleven maidens – forty-five runs – ten wickets.

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Jonathan Marc Bairstow was astonishing too. In bowling conditions only two players scored a number of runs are a good rate – Jonny B and Kusal Mendis. Jonny rode is luck, surviving three reviewed decisions, and went on to be the test’s only century-maker. You may not know that is first class average is almost 48 – you might be less surprised after this match.

I like looking at form of current players, they waver more than career averages and rankings, and as a result often surprised you. This year’s test averages are odd, as we’re only in May, and are easily inflated by one good performance. But do not forget the name Rabada!

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Pathetic Points System

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At least that’s what everyone appears to be saying.
I wrote a response to the 12th Man letter written (possibly) by Andrew Strauss.
I imagine it will disappear into a spam/junk/clutter filter of some kind.
But here, for your pleasure, are my brief thoughts on the idea:

Hi Andrew,nos
Thanks for your letterūüėČ
I’m a fan of the points system. I heard, on the radio today, a very typical English reaction. The kind of thing I’ve been guilty of myself many times.

Dear old Aggers (I think it was) suggested that the points system might make a captain more concerned about chasing a win, and consequently they might be more defensive. Therefore, it’s a bad idea.

OK – maybe that *could* happen. How about the reverse – it could make a captain MORE aggressive. (S)He might be desperate for extra points to help win the series. How very English it was to dwell only on the negative.

I cannot honestly see a problem beyond the impossibility to please everyone with the amount of points awarded for each type of game played.

Yours spiffingly,
Dave.

England’s Next Opener – A Good Story

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England have had a problem in the last few years; not one of Alastair Cook’s many and varied opening parters has managed to cement his place in the team. Conventional wisdom has suggested that, across the counties, no-one else has “knocked the door down” – via weight of runs – to stake a claim either. This is bad; worse than a problem in the middle order, for it puts the side on the back foot right away. People are suggesting moving Root up the order; I’m against that. For whatever reason many batters prefer batting in one position and, for my money, Joe Root isn’t broken so let’s not “fix” him.

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The above table shows the top 10 run makers in English first class cricket, this year. Some familiar names, some new names, a lot of runs. It’s really nice to see Mr Cook there too, that bodes well for England.

Now look at this next table. I have removed all the players who are not England-qualified opening batsmen (as in, opening for their county, this year). SEVEN of the top ten batters, thus far, are openers. Only one has partnered Ali Cook before (Robson) so there are, potentially, five choices – none of them would be poor. And that doesn’t count the not-wild possibilities that Alex Hales might keep his place, Jason Roy could be tried (though he doesn’t open for Surrey, he has shown great character in the international side) and James Vince has been close to contention.

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Who knows what will happen? I sure don’t. But it should be great to find out!

Stupid British Tennis I love You

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jokoThe near future of British tennis is looking pretty good – at least for the ladies. Johanna Konta is closing in, fast, on the world’s top 20, Heather Watson, between injuries, is constantly flirting with the top 40 or 50 – and Naomi Broady, with her BIG serve, has surged into the top 100 over the last year or so. And, possibly, the best talent of all, Laura Robson, is only out of the top 50 due to a phenomenally poor run of serious injuriesūüė¶

However, the men’s game is not so well served. We have Andy, for sure, and Jamie – the world’s best doubles player now … but once you leave Dunblane the men’s game thins out dramatically.

One puzzle is this: we’ve been strong contenders are junior level for – if I understand it correctly – several decades. From that point on, our players (rankings wise) run away and cry in the toilet. A couple guys, right now, are trying to cement a place in the top 100, but the strength in depth of the men’s game is staggering. Not that this is the only reason – that doesn’t explain why our junior players drop off so.

Who knows. I sure don’t. I’m now bored of typing for no reasons.

Joe Root is Ruining English Cricket

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What does he think he is doing? Scoring rapid and orthodox hundreds. Scoring well in all forms of the game. Catching well, and even taking wickets.
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He must be the worst thing to happen to English cricket for decades.

When KP was blazing a trail we could blame his brashness, his arrogance, his sixes, and his success on being South African. We can’t with Joe Root. He’s from Yorkshire – heck, we can’t even blame the weather.

We can no longer blame the short comings of the county system. We can’t blame football, we can’t blame Peter Moores, we can’t blame the ECB, and we can’t even blame ourselves.

If Joe Root can be this bloody good with all of our traditionally, and deeply held, British handicaps cricket will suffer. We’re a nation of moaners and he is ruining everything.

Joe Root … thanks for nothing.

Probab Ali Moeen

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Moeen is potenti-Ali (sorry) the most significant newcomer to the England test (and ODI) teams in recent years. For the longest time have England craved a batsman who can bowl more than “part time” spin. It enables the easy selection of two spinners on turning tracks, and the option to always have a spinner – even when you don’t think you need one – on green seaming wickets, for example (though I personally loathe that view).

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However, I don’t wish to talk him up right now – I aim to defend him for what I expect will¬†be a very ordinary game for him – this, the second test vs the West Indies.

When he was first selected, he was under only a little pressure. He was batting well, and Cook barely bowled him. Genuine expectations of him, as a spinner, were low. And whenever he bowled a good ball people were surprised and happy. And the more he bowled the better he got. In the end, we all believed.

Then injury. And James Tredwell … a 100% bona fide spinner. Of considerable¬†years and experience. Not flashy, but accurate and steady. And looks 300 years old. Almost. And he bowled terrifically well in the first innings, taking 4 for spit. BUT he “only” took one more wicket in the 2nd innings and was dropped – due to injury claim some.

This time Moeen was selected, on what would likely be a spinning track, with the expectation of bowling out the WI in their second innings when Tredwell couldn’t. To me this is wholly unfair. With this knowledge of replacing a genuine spinner in the team can come only pressure. And for what is, without question, the 2nd string to his bow.

I thought of penning this early on day, but because I’m lazy I didn’t get around to it until now (tea-time on day 4). Sadly – thus far – it doesn’t look good for our story’s hero. I’d not be surprised if this pressure (however unwittingly) causes his loose shot in the first innings and his run-out in the second. He is bowling a bit better in the 2nd innings, but I’ll not be shocked if Root (again) returns the better figures.

I hope I’m wrong and that Moeen can rise to the occasion but, for me, he’ll be a much better player if he is the 2nd spinner in the side (pick Ali AND Rashid) or the one spinner who is only called upon for smaller spells.

Remember when he looked like this?

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American 9-Ball In Decline

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mosconiA decade ago, in the 9-ball world, the USA were winning almost everything Рespecially the Mosconi Cup. Their superiority was based around smarter tactics, more experience, and a general higher level of nous.

Now Europe, and in particular Britain, has caught up. Well, they’ve actually done more than that – they have surpassed the USA. While there is no real difference in terms of skills and brain-play, the gap is down to a far superior technique displayed this side of the pond.

A snooker background is more common in Europe (especially Britain) than in the USA, and now that “we” have narrowed the gap tactically it is the USA’s turn to look about¬†and attempt to decipher what is¬†causing their slide.

If you watch the American players, their fundamentals are poor. Examples vary: a loose or curious stance, unconventional bridges, wobbling heads; too much movement. This failure will most commonly manifest itself in silly mistakes, or long pots, when under pressure; a good and solid technique can protect you, in part, against this.

I believe that, having invented the game of 9-ball, the Yanks are currently too arrogant to reach outside their own area in search of ways to improve.

I predict a very strong 9-ball future for Europe.
And victory, of course, in this Mosconi Cup!

Pokémon Starter Guide

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Pocket MonstersBACKGROUND

What is Pokémon?
Pokémon is a portmanteau word derived from the original Japanese name of the game: Pocket Monsters. It all started back in 1995 Рnearly twenty years ago Рand it is wholly remarkable how little the core game has changed in all that time. Each Pokémon game involves a young hero, his friends, a team of bad guys, and lots and lots of monsters: which you can defeat in battle or have fighting at your side.

The first goal of the game is to follow the story, defeating bad guys, “gym leaders”, the “elite four”, and usually an additional super-tough cookie. But that’s just the start! If you enjoyed yourself you may feel a strong urge to find all the Pok√©mon in the game’s region (or country). This is referred to as¬†“completing a Pok√©dex” – gotta catch ’em all.

THE GAMES

Which game should I buy?
Why are there so many of them?
The “proper” Pok√©mon games are released in pairs: X/Y, Heart/Gold, Black/White, Ruby/Sapphire, Red/Blue, Diamond/Pearl etc. Each game of a “pair” (for example Ruby and Sapphire) will tell EXACTLY the same story in EXACTLY the same “region” – think of a country in the Pok√©mon world. The only real difference between Ruby and Sapphire are some of the Pok√©mon that you can encounter during the game.

For example, each will have a different “Legendary” Pok√©mon (often the one pictured on the box) and a about dozen other Pok√©mon that will only appear in Ruby or Sapphire – the other couple of hundred will be the same in both!! The idea being that someone with Ruby will trade unique Pok√©mon with someone with Sapphire in order to catch all the Pok√©mon – which is a nice little way of making the game sociable; even if most of the trading is now done on-line instead of with underpowered infra red ports or antiquated link-up cables!

While each pair tells the same story, each different pair will tell a different in a different region, with a different threat to the world’s safety, and an fresh team of baddies. However, some titles have been remade, upgraded and updated, to appear on newer versions of Nintendo’s consoles.

Some story arcs¬†have had a 3rd game published –¬†a kind of “super” version which usually¬†contains all the Pok√©mon from the other two and a few extras. For example, Pok√©mon Diamond and Pearl were enhanced¬†in Platinum … if you have Diamond or Pearl there’s no need to get Platinum, but if you don’t have either¬†of them then Platinum is the one to go for!

Confused? You might well be. Here is a summary of the games, each column represents on “story” in the Pok√©mon world. Assuming you want to experience ALL the Pok√©mon stories, play through one game in each row!

Red/Blue/Green*(GB) Yellow**(GB) Fire Red/Leaf Green(GBA)
Gold/Silver(GB) Crystal**(GB) Heart Gold/Soul Silver(DS)
Ruby/Sappire(GBA) Emerald**(GBA) Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire(3DS)
Diamond/Pearl(DS) Platinum**(DS)
Black/White (DS)
Black 2/White 2(DS)
X/Y (3DS)

*Red and Green were the names of the original “pair” in Japan, elsewhere they were named Red and Blue.
**One of the “special” versions that enhanced the preceding pair (to the left).
If you want to start on the Pok√©mon road, grab any one of the 3DS games and you’ll be fine.

THE SPIN OFFS

To further complicate matters Nintendo have released a plethora of “spin off” games. While some of these are perfectly adequate games in their own right, they are certainly not as good as the “proper” Pok√©mon games. They are often considerably cheaper but, unless you’re simply after all Pok√©mon you can eat, I can’t honestly recommend them. These games are the Pok√©mon Mystery Dungeon series, the Pok√©mon Rangers games, Pok√©mon Rumble, Pok√©mon Link, Pok√©mon Stadium, Pok√©mon Battle Revolution, Pok√©mon Park etc. Don’t get me wrong, they can be fun, but they do not represent a good entry into the world of Pok√©mon.

GAMEPLAY BASICS

BATTLES!
Pok√©mon is all about battles but defeated Pok√©mon aren’t killed; merely knocked out and are soon revived by a visit to a Pok√©mon centre. Battles are turn-based affairs and each Pok√©mon can have up to 4 moves; they can be attacking, defensive, or of a stat-boosting variety. Each Pok√©mon in the battle will choose a move, then each move will occur in turn, with the faster Pok√©mon likely to go first. This is repeated until all the Pok√©mon from one team/trainer have been defeated (normally not a long ordeal).

POKéMON TYPES!
All Pok√©mon have one or two types and each move of a Pok√©mon is of a single type. At the start of the game most moves are of “normal” type which are “normally effective” against other Pok√©mon. After a few battles, your first Pok√©mon will learn a grass/fire/water move depending on its type. Grass moves are “super effective” against water Pok√©mon, water moves are “super effective” against fire Pok√©mon, and fire moves are “super effective” against grass Pok√©mon. This is a neat little triangle and will help you, early on, to gain a significant advantage over your foes. However, Pok√©mon has MANY types and all of strengths and weakness are not terribly easy to remember. While initially daunting, this chart will really help you (1) realise how deep the gameplay of Pok√©mon is, and (2) keep one step ahead of most of your foes throughout the game.¬†DESPERATELY DAUNTING TYPE CHART

MOVE TYPES!
You should also be aware that a Grass Pokémon executing a grass move, will perform that grass move at 150% of its normal strength. A fire Pokémon executing a grass move will perform that move at 100% of its normal strength. A water & grass (twin type) Pokémon executing a grass move will perform that move at 125% of its normal strength.

TWIN TYPES!
But is isn’t even that simple! Some Pok√©mon have 2 types. For example, one could be a Flying and Water type – both of these types are weak to electric attacks, so electric attacks on a fire & water Pok√©mon will be FOUR TIMES more powerful than normal! Understanding twin types, and how they work, can be critical in the later stages of the game.

STATS!
Pok√©mon have stats – lots of stats actually – too many to talk about here. But you should know a bit. Each Pok√©mon has two attack stats: attack and special attack, and two defence stats: defence and special defence. Each move uses either attack or special attack. Some Pok√©mon have strong special attack stats while other have strong (physical) attack stats, while others still have similar levels of each. Be careful not to give special attacks to your Pok√©mon that have poor special attack stats. Similarly, attacking a Pok√©mon with a high special defence with a special attack move won’t do as much damage. You can play perfectly well without paying attention to all of these, but it will explain why some moves perform unexpectedly better than others.

EVOLUTION!
Battle wins provide experience points for the victor and these points equate to an increase in the level, and therefore power, of your Pok√©mon. These increases may appear small they soon mount up. After a few level increases, your Pok√©mon may “evolve”. This means that it will turn into a more powerful creature; a good thing. Some Pok√©mon, however, require a certain item to evolve, or to only evolve in a certain location, or at a certain time of day, or even only after being traded with a friend! The variety here can also be quite daunting, but there are guides to tell you how to evolve each and every Pok√©mon – and characters in the game’s story will often give you hints.

IN SUMMARY

So those are the main principles, don’t be daunted, leap in and have fun – but be loosely aware of the mechanics in the background.¬†You kids will love it – they’re not violent games and there is a strong ethical sense of right and wrong throughout.¬†Honestly, I’ve been playing games for over 30 years and I can’t recommend this series highly enough. For certain it won’t grab everyone, but it really is worth finding out if you are one of the many of us fall for its many charms!

Captain Commando

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I love a good brawler. Or a scrolling beat ’em up. You should be familiar with the genre; many folks’ favourite games come from within. Final Fight, Bare Knuckle (aka Streets of Rage), Golden Axe, Dungeons and Dragons, and various others.

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There are a few, particularly on the Super Famicom or SNES, that I didn’t play back in the day. The Rushing Beat series, Undercover Cops, Ninja Warriors Again, and Captain Commando, being the highlights. Those games all have something else in common – price. Insanely high prices, in fact. A loose cart of each will most probably cost you the wrong side of ¬£50 ($80). Captain Commando, however, was also released on the Sony Playstation. I had an eBay search going for both versions of this game for a few months, and somehow everyone else in the world forgot to bid on one that sold for $69. Honestly, that is almost 50% cheaper than normal. I felt very lucky.
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Anyhow, this game arrived today and I had a brilliant time playing it. I bloody love it … If you have the coins, please do yourself a favour and grab this mad but wonderful game!
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It is three player sim! That is fully awesome … I hope to cajole both of my robot daughters into playing it with me one day!

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The instruction manual has only this single screen shot! Weird.

IMG_0140.JPGBaby Commando! Sure, why notūüôā

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Beware the trio of lesbians for they wield electric tuning forks, and they are not afraid to use them. Curiously fetching bunch, too; all called Carol.

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This gentleman is tough: interestingly his name seems to be Sh1t Rom Jr.

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Turns out a giant sword is pretty effective.

IMG_0144.JPGTime for some fun chasing ninjas on motorised surfboards. I’m in.

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Now to chase the mad scientist into the sewer! But of course.

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One scientist down!

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This large lady, with whom I’d have no quarrel, has 2 attacks; one is to hurl you forcefully across the screen and the other is to vomit a pool of purest green at you.

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And the last piece of the classic brawler puzzle – the fish-man with extendible claw hands.

SOMEHOW, YOU MUST PLAY THIS GAME!
My day one rating: 9/10.

Tales of Frustration Graces

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Tales games.
I should love them. I really should.
I’ve been playing JRPGs for over 20 years.
And I love them.
I love battles and item management.
I even like random battles.
Turn-based and strategy (grid-based) are my favourite types … Zelda is too “actiony” for me.

Tales games have action-based battles, but at their heart they play like a turn-based game. They always feature cool characters, great stories, lovely art, and superb music.

Why then do they make me so cross?
It’s simple.
Or rather, it isn’t.
The battle systems, especially of late, are over-complicated, and any break in play (which happens frequently if you have any semblance of a normal life) means you will most likely forget the subtleties and nuances of the crazy-deep battle more and be reduced to button mashing or setting people to “auto”ūüė¶

There was, in Tales of Graces F – clearly the “F” stands for Frustration, a dungeon that was simple (in concept) yet so samey myself (and my two JRPG daughters) kept losing track of where we were. AND THE INTERNET HAD NO MAP!!! No, really.¬†It’s true. NO MAP. Well, save one that was so hopelessly inadequate it might as well not have been there. There were a few instructions like “up, north, descend, east” etc. But that’s a bit crap if you’ve lost your starting point!

So we made a map and got minced¬†by the bossūüė•

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