World Fat XI from 2010

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Am I fatist? Why have I done this?
I’m not fatist, but rather fat.
I’ve done this because I’m frustrated that certain really good players are not near national sides because of their shape. Sometimes this is justified; Yuvraj Singh, perhaps, has only himself to blame. Samit Patel and Mark Cosgrove have been badly treated. Size does not meanyou cannot bat. Ask Inzamam-ul-Haq. Aravinda De Silva. Mark Taylor. Darren Lehmann. It doesn’t even mean you can’t bowl. Botham, Flintoff, and Warne have all (at times) sported a few extra pounds. So here then, is my list of currently playing cherished fatties from all around our lovely planet. Embrace the pie with them, for cricket revels in variety.

Name “Roll” Mug
Mark Cosgrove
(South Australia)
Captain+Batsman
Often seen on the telly in domestic competitions. Lives for drinks breaks. Weighs more than the entire Zimbabwe team.
Jesse Ryder
(Central Districts)
Batsman+Dobber
Once had a growth spurt so fast that he broke a window and cut his hand.
Yuvraj Singh
(Punjab)
Occasional Batsman
Can gain weight even faster than me. Can lose weight via the power of his mind. That is why he is fat. Can be often be spotted wallowing the outfield.
Robery Key
(Kent)
Red-nosed Batsman
Eats plenty of chillies to keep his nose cherry red. Once ate an entire U-11 cricket team during a tea break.
Ian Blackwell
(Durham, ex-Somerset)
Batsman+spinner
Fled to the north once he discovered their penchant for deeep fat frying.
Samit Patel
(Nottinghamshire)
Batsman+spinner
Prefers eating curry to fitness training. This is hard to imagine.
Shahzaib Hasan
(Karachi Zebras)
Batsman
He enjoyed healthy returns in his début first-class season, scoring 607 runs in 10 matches. Subsequently he enjoyed unhealthy returns to his favourite restaurant. After which both he, and his form, spluttered.
Daniel Smith
(New South Wales)
‘Keeper
Guardian of the fridge. Can be trusted to look after the food of others, providing he isn’t hungry.
Grant Lambert
(New South Wales)
Fast Bowler
Eats 3 pies every time he takes a wicket. If he bowls a pie, he forfeits tea+cakes.
Ramesh Powar
(India Blue)
Spine Blower
Occasionally used as a pitch roller. Wears terrific, but inedible, sunglasses all day.
Shoaib Akhtar
(Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan)
Fast Wart Thrower
Famously hid genital warts by coverring them a thick layer of fat.
Twitter Fail-Whale
(Internet)
12th mammal
Escaped from Japan. Provides extra blubber for the team. Giant mouth.
Duncan Fletcher
(Rhodesia)
Coach+Couch Combo
Fitness fanatic. More chins than brain cells.
Dwayne Leverock
(Bermuda)
Chef
The most important member of the team. After retiring from the playing the game he ate his entire country which got them excluded by the ICC. In despair, he turned to cooking.
Arjuna Ranatunga
(Sinhalese Sports Club)
Badministrator
A leviathan among giants. Often seen walking to work – never running. Eats a baby elephant every day at 10:15am.

Additional fat seeking help provided by BettiWettiWoo,Omair Zahid, Crownish, and Anoukh. I think I was sub-consiously inspired by this from CWBfeed. Many thanks to you all, and indeed to anyone who managed to scroll down this far.

Commodore Vic 20 Top 10 – Sort Of

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My rules … I must have played the game a lot.
This is really a favourites list, these aren’t the necessarily the “best” games.

OK. Having started this, I’m now going to change it.
It will now be several Vic 20 Top 5’s. Why?
Two reasons: it isn’t quite fair to compare a 19.5kb game to a 3.5kb game, and ten games wasn’t enough 🙂

Top 5 Vic 20 Cartridge Games

01Donkey Kong
This was one of the last Vic 20 games that I purchased and I hadn’t previously played a game by Atarisoft on the Vic, so it was a something of a shock to discover possibly the best “sprite” handling in any Vic game. The game plays quickly and feels smooth and “arcadey”. There is almost none of the usual colour-clash on show. There are 6 (I think) different level layouts and even the sounds add to the arcade-like feel. A really really impressive effort — hard, fair, unforgiving, and playable. If you have a Vic, track this huge purple box down.

 

02Radar Rat Race
The game starts with 3 enemy rats, 10 bits of cheese, several static cats, a maze, and a radar. The radar shows the location of the cheese and the enemy rats, but not the static cats or the maze itself. Your objective is to eat the cheese and avoid death. Subsequent levels add new mazes and extra rats. There are even “speed run” levels where you have a small amount of time to eat the cheese without moving enemies … not as easy as it may sound. You only defence is a “sparkle fart” which disorientates any chasing rats that fly into it. Lots of fun, and even the girls enjoyed it, but it was too hard for them to complete a level.

 

03Gorf
One of the few “arcade conversions” on the Vic and, like Donkey Kong, you can’t expect too much more from the Vic 20. 4 levels, each involving your flying a ship and shooting upwards. It’s like Space Invaders with a few funny levels. Even a boss – Flag Ship – on levels 4, 8, 12 etc. For its time an advanced shoot ‘em up and a game at least partly responsible for my love of the genre. And it is “frog” spelled backwards. And, in the arcade version, if you listened carefully, the speech was poor enough to announce loudly “insert groin”. Coins work better, I assure you.

 

04Omega Race
A mildly curious shooter where your score is in the centre of the screen and all the action happens around it. Other than that twist, this is basically Asteroids. Where it scores heavily though, is in terms of playability and replay-ability. It’s one of those games where you die and you know it was your fault, and that makes you want to play it again. In fact, I played this more times in succession than I did any other Vic game mentioned in this blog. The graphics deserve a mention too, while simple in terms of colour and content, they move very smoothly which is essential of a game that relies on precise play. Worth the £3.99 I paid even now … would make a genuinely fun HD upgrade. Where are Bally Midway now?!

 

05Cosmic Cruncher vs Sargon Chess 2
The first four cartridge games that I have mentioned are a clear cut above these two and the rest of my cart collection. Choosing the 5th game was tricky so I copped out and chose two.
Cosmic Cruncher is a playable enough pac-man clone with a few levels and no obvious flaws. Its rival is Sargon Chess 2. This is quite special really, a fully AI chess program in such a tiny amount of memory that beat me. I’m not great at chess, but I can often beat the easiest level or two. So worthy of a mention in terms of impressiveness. In fact sod it, don’t even look at Cosmic Cruncher, get Sargon Chess 2 instead.

 

Top 5 Vic 20 Expanded RAM Games


06The Perils of Willy (16k) – Software Projects
This is Manic Miner with 33 levels. By that, I mean that you must complete one level to progress to the next – in Jet Set Willy, you could go where you wished (skills permitting). For the humble Vic 20 the graphics are OK, picture a chunked up, fatter, version of the Spectrum. None of the levels featured in the actual Manic Miner; I guess with the resolution being so much lower it simply could be done with any degree of accuracy. And accuracy is the operative word with any of the Miner Willy games – pixel perfect jumping has to be mastered. This is a flawless version of a timeless class, as good as ever it could have been. But rusty nail hard … I never did manage to get further than the first dozen or so levels – and that took some doing!


07Wunda Walter (16k) – Interceptor Micros
Parallax scrolling. Crazy fast game, fairly tough to grasp, but rewarding and fun. The premise is simple, you control a fat balloon-type creature named in the title, and you hold the fire button to rise, and release it to fall. You may move left and right while the screen automatically scrolls horizontally. There are pellets to collect, on the ground, but while the main aim is survival you don’t progress until you’ve collected enough pellets. There are four “zones” and then the game wraps, standard fare for a game of this era.
08Jet-Pac (8k) – Ultimate Play the Game
While the Vic 20 may have a horribly low resolution, its CPU can whip along rapidly enough which is needed in this game as the software sprites rip about. There is colour-clash that the Speccy version is jealous of, but when the game plays this well it is easily forgiven. Another quality game from the past that still plays well today. Though the 16k Spectrum bad boy featured 8 different levels, the lowly 11.5K version only had 4. I have no idea why they didn’t opt for all 8 levels and make it a 16K game. Time pressure maybe, who knows? Anyway, it’s a pity as it’s the only slight downer of an otherwise fine conversion. Go Vic20!!!

 

09A.C.E. – Air Combat Emulator (16k)
‘WARNING: Due to the realism of ACE some players may experience air-sickness.’
Really?! That’s what it says on the back of the box! Unbelievable – well, maybe not, but certainly daft. This gets a special mention in part because the task taken on board is so stupidly difficult. Build a (bare bones) flight sim into a machine with less memory than a modern toaster. And less graphical prowess than a fridge. OK, so viewing the enemy planes won’t scare you and the explosions don’t fill the screen with pain. But hey, you can pitch & roll, and fire at stuff that you hardly ever see. I guess in some respects it is more realistic than some modern easy games! To get anywhere near what they did with this game is stunning. I salute them and you should too. Be impressed not by the games, but by how good the games are given the constraints of the hardware.
10Matrix (8k) – Llamasoft
Oh, Geoff Minter. This is Gridrunner’s big brother. The unexpanded game (mentioned below) returns but with more variety, crazy bonus levels, and camels. The extra 8K gave Geoff the chance to turn a simple classic into a bigger and better game. Everything still feels tight and correct, there’s just more to do. A perfect sequel, not too much changes, but clear improvements are there. Come on!

Honourable/Dishonourable Mentions:

11DEATH RACE (8k) vs Kong (16k)
Death race, possibly, has you gasping at the screen shot. But don’t worry, those houses don’t whizz smoothly by, or even move. That said, this game is fun and a great effort. There is a genuine feeling of speed and there are precious few attempts at a racing game of any kind on the Vic. Well played them folks at Atlantis! Now Kong, by contrast, is a game type that has many clones on the Vic. And this is one of the few that uses 16K. And it plays like a spiteful warthog. How they could make it so bad when companies like Atarisoft show such quality with their cart?!

 

Top 5 Vic 20 Unexpanded Games 

12From memory, these are the contenders, the games that I expect to come out on top.
The tides of time will surely have changed things, won’t they?!



13
Rockman – Mastertronic
Not to be confused with Megaman (or Rockman) on the NES. While this is a rip off, it rips off Boulderdash and does it rather well. The game instantly gets kudos for the impressive full-screen mode, and the large number of levels (twenty, I think). You need to get the diamonds, but rocks fall once there is space under them. You can push rocks onto monsters to kill them, which is a lot harder than it sounds – the whole game plays very quickly. A tremendous challenge to clear even a few levels, and a truly astonishing game to fit in 3583 bytes!
14Gridrunner – Llamasoft
Geoff Minter. Fast stuff. There’s a grid. There are things on it. And there’s plenty of shooting. It’s great. Really fast, really simple – just the way great old games should be. Move about, dodge, shoot all the enemies. It’s pure blasting fun. And there are only so many times I will repeat myself. A cracking title.

RIP – Mastertronic
Like Rockman, same programmers I’d guess, it uses a lovely full screen mode. Also, it features about 20 levels. RIP is much easier to play though. Run round the levels, nap the diamond on each map, shoot the monsters. The diamond appears randomly, so on occasion it is impossible to reach — not to worry, exit the level and re-enter it. Fast and fun. Another great title from Mastertronic.
15Cave Fighter – Bubble Bus
From memory, this game is massive. I think it’s a multi-load! Will replay before I write more!  Whoa … my memory sure cocked up here! This game IS a multi-load, but boy it is flawed! The graphics are OK, the movement of sprites is smooth, but the game is broken by THE WORST collision detection I have seen in 30 years of gaming. The 2nd screen, above, shows a bubble near the hero — and it kills me — at that range. And, seriously, every monster is that bad. I clearly remember once getting quite far, but unless you are able to able to steer clear of each monster by a good inch, you’re snookered. A potentially great game ruined 😦
16Crazy Cavey
Yet another Donkey Kong clone. You know, ladders and a few collectables. OK, there are no barrels, but hey, it looks like there should be. Now that’s out of the way, the game is really great. Full-screen is used, but only for time and score, and all animation is smooth and it feels very much a polished, well produced title. Collect the keys, jump the gaps, dodge the beasts, beware of glue (it sticks you for a scary second or two) and exit at the door. 4 levels, and a we have another winner from Mastertronic.
17Mega Vault
The best Vic-20 loading screen ever made is shown above. Seriously – there aren’t many to choose from. This is a two-screen game where you have to get a key, and return to the start. But these are complex levels with a lot going on, and the size of the game can be forgiven. What there is, is very well put together and the whole game feels right. It’s the kind of design that could have made the world’s greatest LCD game. Very much recommended.

DoDo Lair
Oh man, I remember ACHING for this game back in the day. The box cover was so damn cool and it was by Software Projects (the Manic Miner / Jet Set Willy people) so my desire was burning strong. Oddly, I couldn’t remember anything about the game. So, with curiosity, I loaded it up. Oh dear. I wondered if it had worked. It is as mess. Imagine a game written by Geoff Minter’s drunk uncle, that was then butchered as a squadron of cats trampled over his keyboard as he worked. He didn’t care though, the game appeared to almost work. Scrolling from left to right, you have to randomly shoot before almost randomly dying. Yey. Not. Screen-shots not included as I was hurting too much. Or something.
18Snake Pit
Hey, it’s Pac-Man. Without a maze. Yes. Er … what? Ok .. you’re the smiley face and you must eat all the eggs without getting eaten by the snakes. But the snakes are trapped, they can’t eat the eggs. Oh, except the red one. That one will eat eggs, eat you, and free other snakes. When you do managed to clear the eggs, the fun starts. You get to eat the snakes … from the tail end. This bit is really great. Proper fun and dangerous, like any well honed bonus stage. Also, this game has the C64 version on the other side! A cool bonus, if only more games today offered multi-platform-versions. A cool game, not flawed in any way, just not great.
19Shamus And Pharaoh’s Curse
These two games are a little odd. They come in big boxes, feature a wild turbo load, claim to run on the unexpanded Vic-20, but only worked when I plugged extra memory in. Weird indeed.

Shamus
A bit of a Robotron clone, shoot the monsters, grab the items and proceed through the levels. What strike you right away is the polish here, the sprites move smoothly, don’t clash horribly, collide accurately and everything works well. Good game design, solid and very clever code is on display. A great achievement.

Pharaoh’s Curse
The platform game to make you realise just how bad Cave Fighter is. Again, great sprite work in evidence here, superb collision and movement. Lots of levels, good layout – but unforgiving at times. Very polished, and if you prefer jumping to shooting, you might like it more than Shamus, but I doubt it.

The Top Five

1. Shamus
2. Rockman
3. Gridrunner
4. Mega Vault
5. Crazy Cavey

So there you go ..
You’ve read my STUPIDLY long Vic 20 nostalgia trip that took almost as long to write as some of the games did to load!

Please chat, insult, and engage.

 

 

DRAB – Difference from a Run-A-Ball

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Run-a-Ball Difference was the original name, but the acronym (RABD) isn’t very mouth-friendly. DRAB sits better, in one’s gob, and adds a touch of irony.

WHAT IS IT THEN?

In T20 cricket, and other limited overs contests, run-rates and required run-rates can be a little deceptive. In 50 over cricket, in particular, the required run-rate appears to react very sluggishly to developments in the game. In T20 cricket, the same is true at the start of the innings, so the progress (or otherwise) of your team can be difficult to ascertain.

DRAB IN ACTION … http://www.birdfolk.co.uk/cricmob

IN SHORT – the more this number climbs, the better your team is doing. If it drops, or becomes negative, progress is being checked.

DETAILS
I propose a simple statistical alternative: the “run-a-ball difference”. In all limited overs cricket the idea of scoring at a run-a-ball has long been something of a benchmark – while 120 represents a poor score in T20, 300 has long been the sign of a good score in ODIs. Observing the difference between a team’s current score and the score that they would have had they scored at a run-a-ball is a useful way to judge your team’s progress.

For example, when setting a score, your team has 60 from the first 8 overs – a run-rate of 7.5 per over. This equates to +12 using the “run-a-ball difference”. 8 overs at a run-a-ball is 48 runs so, with 60 runs, the team are 12 ahead of that. Say they score 20 off the next 2 overs, reaching 80 from 10, a run-rate of 8 .. that doesn’t sound like a terribly big increase, but in terms of the run-a-ball difference, they have from from +12 to +20, perhaps illustrating the improvement in a more tangible fashion.

One may apply run-a-ball difference slightly differently when a team is chasing a score: for example your opponents have made 175. At the beginning of the chase, the run-a-ball difference is 55 … a run-a-ball provides 120 and your team needs to find an “extra” 55 runs. A few overs go by and your team is 60 from 8 with 115 runs still required from 72 balls – a run-rate of 7.5 and a required run-rate of 9.6. Looking alone at either the 7.5 or the 9.6, it can be hard to know how your team is doing, but run-a-ball difference is now 43 (115 runs required minus 72 balls left). The fact that 43 is a fair chunk less than the initial 55, helps me understand that progress is being made.

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 letter 😉
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 injuries 😦

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 – especially 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!