Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Test Match Game

Back in the late 70's and early 80's, computer games were about as technical as Atari tennis, perhaps getting as advanced as watching doubles; two sticks on each side whacking a ball back at each other whilst the noise was a form of torture to those from previous generations. This lot may have lived through Hitler's Blitz, rationing, and some even through the financial crash of the thirties, but put the sound of an Atari on, and they surrendered to anything that you wanted.Then along came a game that made everyone happy....Test Match.

The Authentic All-Action Cricket Game
Until this, the best cricket game that I had as a child was Owzthat. This was basically a dice game, albeit with two heavy silver cylinder rollers similar to the same weight of jewellery that Sylvester Clarke or Wayne Daniel was wearing around his neck at the time. Forget lead petrol, choppers, skateboards or disc jockeys, these things did more damage to kids of this era than anything else I can recall, as one was hurled in a fit of pique when you had got your mate out, only for it to be a no ball.

The way this game worked is that you rolled cylinder number one, and this gave you either 1,2,3,4,6 or Owzthat. You then had to roll cylinder two which had Bowled, Caught, Run Out, LBW, Not Out or No Ball. You needed a scoring sheet, and this game was the source of many a wasted afternoon in an era when we had only three television channels, and one of them showed Open University programmes for most of the day. Owzthat kept you occupied as your parents, or grandparents watched the delights of Pebble Mill or Crown Court.

The cylinders of Owzthat...lethal!

Then along came Test Match. A proper game, with action and needing skill to play. Made by Peter Pan games (Peter Parfitt would have struggled to get a big score in Test Match), this was the ultimate, the Don Bradman of cricketing games, the daddy. Mine had a photo of Ian Botham playing a hook shot on the box, although I believe that earlier versions had Freddie Trueman on there. Later versions showed Beefy with David Gower, with Botham resplendent with his Duncan Fearnley Attack bat that he was promoting at the time. You know, the one that cost £19.99 that he slayed the Aussies with! Yeah right...In the other corner were a group of kids, with bowl headed haircuts, coiffeured by lazy barbers of the time or to save 50p, by their mum.

As for the game itself, the bowler had the silver ball in a cup and if you flicked his left arm the ball left the cup and went down a long chute towards the batsman. Experienced aficionados of the game worked out that if you jiggled the bowler about the ball would then slalom down towards the batsman, with inswing, outswing, leg spin, off spin and top spin all in the same delivery. Deadly Derek Underwood on a wet one couldn't even do this, and this was long before cricketers had learned to scratch one side of the ball up for reverse swing.

The Test Matcher even built stands with lego!

As for the batsman, he was held together by an elastic band and you would have to pull his bat up with a bit of string. The bat would than come down and strike the ball, albeit by a batsman who moved his feet as much as an out of touch David Gower. Fours were scored by hitting the ball to the edge and sixes, impossible to hit when a ball rolls along the deck as Trevor Chappell taught us during this era, were scored by two small corners at deep mid wicket and deep extra cover. Often these were more by accident with a thick outside or inside edge as the shag pile of many a seventies carpet would have the bias of a crown green bowl, and what was a silky off drive became a six. Rings were in place for dot balls, singles, twos and threes.

Catches were by a group of fielders who caught the ball in an area between their legs. No I am not talking where Bumble copped one off Jeff Thomson in 1975, but in a plastic area between the feet. If the fielder fell over, as they often did, then we would deem that a dropped catch. Listen, these were our rules, in our game ok!

Lack of foot movement? No problem

Test Match could also be a painful experience. Kneeling on a fielder was beyond the threshold, whilst the odd swipe of the cat's claw as the silver ball came down would often interfere with play. No need for George Davis style protests when feline interjections would regularly occur in this arena. Playing on a carpet would favour the bowlers, whilst on a formica MFI table the batsman was in the ascendancy.

We all loved Test Match. If you are between 35 and 55 you will have nodded your head in agreement numerous times as you read this and will understand completely what I am talking about.

The rest of you...you have seriously missed out.


  1. I got bought Test Match as a kid but found it impossible to play anywhere apart form my friend's Dad's garage because we had a rectangular dining room table that wasn't wide enough.

    There was another card-based game with spinning arrows that was fantastic - what was the name of that one? Can't remember and it's really bugging me! It's in my parent's loft. Mike "Mike Read, Mike Read, 275 & 285" Read endorsed it.

  2. Brilliant. I haven't got a clue about the card game I'm afraid, but glad the Test Match piece brought back some good memories.

  3. It was a green flat board with plastic figures - one bowler, nine fielders, one wicket keeper. Two batsman (strike and non-strike) with a wheel on the base to show batsman's number 1-11 (which you changed depending on who was in bat/on strike). the board was divided into sections where you could place fielders. There were two arrows on the board that you spun round, one to indicate the type of delivery (good length, yorker, etc) and the other used to determine out/not out if the ball landed in a section with a fielder in it.

    When the ball was bowled then the batsman had to decide what shot to play - e.g cover drive, straight drive, avoid action, forward defensive - and then picked a card that would tell you which section the ball ended up in depending on the shot played. There was extra rules that restricted field settings as well I think. It was a great game.

  4. You MUST find out the name and let me know!

  5. I bloody loved this game and remember the day that tragedy struck when, in attempting to improve the outfield by ironing the octagonal playing mat to remove the creases, my mum inadvertently burnt a large hole at deep midwicket!

    A replacement was acquired and order was restored! Sadly, shortly after this incident, Graham Gooch cricket was released on the Atari and Test Match was forever confined to the attic.

  6. Sacrilege! Hope it brought back some decent memories...

  7. Found it - it was called Wicketz - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wicketz-most-authentic-cricket-board/dp/B00M0SS386 - it was brilliant.

  8. Loved "Test Match" with a passion. I found a modern equivalent to "Owzthat" based on conventional dice one Christmas and gave it to my son. Played once and discarded in favour of the latest Mario kart on Wii sadly (and TBH the Wii was more fun).