After England's abysmal tour down under, our chances of winning the World Cup look as likely as Jade Goody releasing a bhangra ragamuffin version of Endless Love with Apache Indians for charity. That said, the moment Brian Lara boots up, you're sent to the deliciously detailed sun-drenched wickets of the West Indies and India, your mood is instantly lifted and the painful memory of the Ashes tour dims slightly. Only slightly, mind you.
It isn't all Red Stripes in the sun, though. Brian Lara 2007 is an accessible but unspectacular cricket sim which feels slightly shallow compared to the more serious EA Cricket 2007. Of course, it's far more approachable. From the comprehensive, but never patronising, tutorials to its simpler batting and bowling controls, it breaks down one the world's most deliberately complicated sports into a fun pick-up-and-play game attuned for multi-player. But while its EA counterpart took the bold step of mapping shot play onto the analogue stick, Brian Lara's old-school technique feels less involving, even if it does give you far superior control over the direction of your shots.
Bowling is solid, with good line and length earning special balls to bamboozle your opponent although pitching to the right areas soon becomes routine. But it's fielding that really winds us up. The catching minigame has hit hardcore level, giving you a miniscule window to time a successful bash of the q button. At least it captures the cat-like reactions required to take wickets at the highest level (and the sheer panic fielders must go through too), we suppose. Returning the ball to the pitch, however, is a constant irritation. Awkwardly tapping p or i to send the ball back to the wicket or bowler's end might be well-intentioned, but is hideously executed. Nailing it is an unlikely relief, and even if you do pull off a quick throw you'll have to endure the pointless, time-wasting stumping animation, usually when the batsman has been in his crease long enough to wave to his Mum in the crowd and readjust his box.
Sure, Hawkeye's here, bowlers deliveries are powered by Wisden stats, it's got real life ball physics and you can play under the floodlights. But the batting is starting to feel dated and fielding makes you want to impale yourself on a sharpened stump. In these crucial areas, Brian Lara needs to raise its game, and fast.
Overall Limited fun. Much like England, there's plenty of room for improvement. Stick with EA Cricket.