They called it the ball of the century. Wrist snapping as the ball tore from the young leg-spinner's hand, it swerved improbably through the air. Twisting away to Mike Gatting's leg-side, the bemused England veteran instinctively thrust out his left lag and jabbed the bat against it to create what should have been an impervious shield between man and wicket. But as the ball pitched up from the rough it spun back implausibly, miraculously, wide of man, bat and pad,thundering into off stump. Pandemonium.
It was the first Test of the 1993 Ashes series at Old Trafford. And the first ball bowled against England by a cocky 23 year-old with look-at-me hair and pie-in-me paunch. Shane Warne had arrived.
Fast forward 12 years. They called it the greatest ever series. Warne, by then the finest spinner the world had ever known, had privately decided this would be his Test swansong: to reclaim the famous Urn on English soil, conjuring victory through an almost superhuman force of will and talent, capping off a glittering career of personal achievement and ruthless international dominance.
But on the final day of the final Test at the Oval, one man above all others refused to play to the script. And having been clumsily dropped, with savage irony, by Warne himself at slip on 15, Kevin Pietersen produced one of the great innings, a knock of breathtaking audacity, defiance, skill and aggression against unbelievable pressure, to drive England on to an unforgettable victory.
For cricket lovers, there's nothing like a Test match. And on the international stage, there's nothing quite like the Ashes. Making a cricket game is one thing; creating one that captures the unique emotions of this rivalry is quite another. That's the starting point for Ashes Cricket 2009, the latest cricket game from Codemasters, whose last effort in 2007 featured Brian Lara's mug on the box.
But last time we checked, Lara wasn't a bowler hat-wearing lager lout or a kangaroo-riding Neighbours extra, so his services have been dispensed with, Codies has snapped up the official nPower Ashes licence, and Pietersen and Warne have been called to the promotional crease.
Superstars that they are, both players achieved arguably their greatest feats against each other. Speaking at the Oval the day before pulling out of the current series with a knackered ankle (not my fault, guv), KP tells me of "the hatred the English team faces in Australia"; Warne, meanwhile, recounts with understandable relish the 5-0 humiliation administered to England when they returned to Oz in 06/07. He got his swansong in the end.
We'll be bringing you our exclusive interviews with KP and Warney on the game, the Ashes and each other next week via the magic of Eurogamer TV. But in the meantime, I've been spending some time in the nets with the game.
On PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, Ashes 2009 is developed by Aussie outfit Transmission Games. Superficially, it's clearly familiar if you played the last Lara title. This ain't no wheel reinvention; the differences are in the detail.
Boot up the game and the first thing to do is choose your nationality - out of 12 cricketing nations - which themes game menus accordingly. The game offers up all major forms of cricket - test, one day and 20 overs - but the Ashes is the only fully licensed competition to feature.
An extensive training mode, Legends Coaching, is the essential first port of call. Split fairly obviously between batting, bowling and fielding, at basic and advanced levels, Warney and Ian 'Beefy' Botham lend their voices and expertise here not only to talk through the controls but also offer an explanation of different batting and bowling styles, how they work, and when they should be employed.
For batting, Defence, Attack and Loft shots are mapped to X, A and B respectively on 360. You can also elect to play off the front or back foot via LB or LT. Running between wickets is manually triggered with Y and can be queued with multiple presses. A diagram in the bottom corner shows the position of the batsmen while the main camera focuses on the ball.
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