It's a mighty cricketing struggle between two of the mightiest powers in the game - for the winner there's the sweet pine-scented smell of victory, kudos and bragging rights and the chance to wildly spray champagne from the winner's balcony; for the loser it's the sour taste of bitter defeat, a sense of shame, a consolation can of Tizer and the knowledge that they've succumbed to the oldest enemy.
No not the Ashes - though of course that's the other premier cricketing contest this summer, no we're talking about the clash of gaming's cricketing titans as EA's mighty Cricket series comes under the strongest of challenges from Codemasters' Brian Lara International Cricket, which is making a welcome return to the summer game.
We've already quizzed Codemaster's chief game designer Justin Forrest on the latest incarnation of Brian Lara and today it's EA's Andrew Wilson producer of Cricket 2005 who's stepping up to the crease.
We lobbed him a few teasing deliveries and watched him play a solid forward defensive. Here's what our probing line and length examination discovered.
What major innovations are you bringing to the series this year?
This is a long list. Cricket 2005 has had a major technology overhaul this year. This has meant huge improvements both visually and in game-play. Throw in some new intuitive controls that give the gamer more control and a host of new tournaments, teams and players, and Cricket 2005 is by far the best cricket game ever.
Have you made any major changes to the game engine this time around?
As discussed above, we have used what is commonly known as the FIFA engine. In reality, the engine that we use across many of our EA SPORTS titles. As part of this, we get to use their animation tools and a series of other core components that EA have invested millions and millions of dollars in over the years. Give this to an experienced team and the results speak for themselves.
In the regular game what kind of modes and challenges will players get to play? You've introduced a new Twenty20 mode this year - how different a game does that offer?
Across a huge array of tournaments, seasons and tours, the user will have to implement different playing styles in order to be successful. I often refer to cricket as a big chess match on an oval. This means that you have to apply a different strategy according to your situation. If you simply try to play the same way in every tournament, you are going to find yourself chasing some big totals.
How will batting work? How have you replicated the subtleties of the different strokes and timing?
While we have not gone about completely changing the batting controls as focus groups told us that this was not the desire of the end user. What we have done, (and capturing over 1000 new animations has helped here), is given different batsman different abilities that are very apparent on the pitch. Add to that the notion of batsman confidence, measured by a meter in the top left corner of the screen, and you have all the subtleties of real life cricket.
How will bowling work? How have you produced the nuances of seam, swing and spin - will you be able to bowl special balls like bouncers, yorkers, wrong 'uns and even doosras?
Bowling is an area that we have given a lot of focus. We have implemented a new bowling HUD that makes bowling both fun and intuitive. In addition to this, we have added varying special deliveries for each bowler in the game. If a bowler can keep the run rate down through consistent line and length, they will 'open up' special deliveries, (represented in the HUD so that you know when they are available), that will bamboozle even the finest batsman. However, give the batsman a chance to strike back and they disappear until the next consistent spell of bowling.