An Introduction to Ultra Cricket (Ken Sproat)

[ This is an article from the Play-By-Electronic-Mail Fanzine, v95n1, which was published on January 10, 1995. ]

Ultra Cricket is a cricket competition written by Tim Astley. In the game, each human player is the manager of a cricket team participating in a one day and test match competition.

For those who have very little knowledge of the real-life game, cricket is a bat-and-ball game somewhat like baseball played in a number of current and former British Commonwealth countries. A cricket match is played between 2 teams of 11 players, made up of a number of batsmen, bowlers, and a single wicketkeeper. Teams take turns batting (attempting to score runs) and bowling (attempting to get the batting team out and reduce the number of runs they score). A bowler is like a baseball pitcher: he bowls (pitches) the ball at the batsman in an attempt to get the batsman out, while the batsman attempts to score runs from that same ball. The bowler is helped by the other 10 men on the bowler's team, called fieldsmen, who are scattered around the cricket field in an attempt prevent runs and help the bowler get the batsman out. The best fieldsman is designated the wicketkeeper, and stands behind the batsman like a catcher. While all players must bat, only designated bowlers need to bowl. A player who can bat and bowl well is called an "allrounder".

Cricket is the major summer (non-soccer season) sport in England, Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, the West Indies (a combination of Caribbean countries) and Zimbabwe. It is also played, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the world.

Ultra Cricket, however, has a much wider appeal and is played by managers from most of the countries listed above as well as Europeans, Canadians, and a significant number of managers from the United States.

There are two types of games played internationally: a test match, where both teams each bat for 2 innings, lasts for up to 5 days. A one-day international match, where each team has one innings of limited time, is resolved in one day.

Currently there are six divisions of 12 teams playing Ultra Cricket, but Tim expects this to increase to 7 or 8 divisions next season. The turnaround for each turn is normally 7 days, with each team playing 1 test match and 2 one-day international matches every turn. While the same squad of players is used for test and one day games, they are treated as different competitions. My team, the "Spring Creek Piranhas", is in the top 4 of Division 1 for test matches but finds itself in the bottom half of Division 3 in ODI's.

I have played 4 different sports simulation games, and I find that Ultra Cricket is easily the most enjoyable. Each player in a squad is described in a number of ways. They have a skill level for each of five characteristics:

Batting Skill:	    The ability to not get out
Aggression:	    The ability/willingness to score runs
Bowling:	    The ability to bowl and get batsmen out
Economy:	    The ability to restrict/slow the scoring
		    of batsmen.
Fielding:	    The ability to prevent runs from being
		    scored, and produce more catches and

In addition, each bowler is one of 5 bowling types - Fast, Fast Medium, Medium Pace, Off Spin and Leg Spin. When bowling the ball at a batsmen, the ball normally is bounced off a grassed "cricket pitch" before getting to the batsman. A spin bowler is a slower bowler who causes the ball to deviate left or right from the "grassed pitch" by placing a spin on the ball as he bowls. Off spinners and leg spinners spin the ball in different directions.)

Each batsmen also has a profile which indicates how he plays against each type of bowling. If a player loves playing against spin bowling, then his effective skill will be enhanced when facing spin bowling, but the same batsman may have a weakness against fast bowlers, and therefore his effective skill is reduced when facing fast bowling.

In Ultra Cricket there is no advantage to a team playing on its home ground, although (in real life) a team should understand the characteristics of its ground better than their opponents and therefore take advantage of it. Each ground favours certain types of bowling and hinders other types. When selecting a team, a manager needs to take into account a number of factors:

What's form? As in most sports, players don't always play at their actual skill level. A player who is playing to his skill level or above is said to be "In Form", whereas a player playing below his skill level is said to be "Out of Form". When a Ultra Cricket player takes the field, a form factor is added or subtracted from his skill level based on his recent performances.

As you can see, managing a team is not just a matter of putting the best players on the field. A manager needs to take into all the factors mentioned above.

Ultra Cricket has an advanced skill/ageing type system. Players improve their skill level by gaining experience. Experience can be gained in actual games or by training players. A complex formula is then used to calculate the skill level based on experience, an underlying skill level and the player's age. Training has a greater effect on the skill of a younger, lower-skilled player than on an ageing or highly-skilled player. The underlying skill of players declines every week, which slowly degrades their actual skill or ability to increase skill week by week, especially near the end of their career.

For newer managers, the orders for Ultra Cricket are quite simple, but as a greater understanding of the game is gained, a manager can influence a number of other factors like:

At the start of each season teams are assigned to their new divisions with players ages' being incremented. Each team is allocated a number of draft points, with the lower teams generally gaining more than the higher teams. These draft points are used to design new recruits and their characteristics. Managers may also spend cash, gained from the previous season, on training points and purchasing older, higher skilled players. Teams in higher divisions generally gain more cash through the season than those in lower divisions.

If I have a criticism of UC, it is that there isn't a trading facility within the game. I'd also like to see Club Management system (e.g. Building better/higher capacity grounds, attracting sponsorship etc..) but I don't think that Tim will include these factors this century.

The Ultra Cricket email server

When submitting moves, the Ultra Cricket email server checks your moves for errors and does a quick analysis of your orders and mails them back within the hour. This makes getting the syntax right significantly easier, giving you peace of mind that the orders have got there and don't contain any silly errors.

Turn Results

As each turn is resolved, each manager receives a ball by ball (almost) commentary of each of their games, all the scores and details for the games played in their division, a summary of all games, the current standings for each division and a roster listing all their players skills, form, injuries, etc. Each turn Michael Sargeant compiles statistics about every player who has dared to tread the hallowed turf.


I really had to think about this as sometimes I'll be walking along the beach or be in a meeting at work and a new Ultra Cricket strategy will pop into my mind. Your earlier turns will take longer than your later turns. Tim tells me that most managers spend about one hour per week on Ultra Cricket. I have friends who only spend 30 minutes per week on it. Myself, I spend about 2 hours at the start of the season, this steadily decreases to less than an hour towards the end of the season. However, occasionally I'll spend a little more time, like after a run of losses or when my captain and best player broke his leg and was out for the rest of the season (I was suicidal that day). The electronic ones and zeroes have little understanding of the sleepless nights. I'm sure an analog computer would have more compassion. Marital bliss goes something like this:

  "How far did you walk the dogs tonight?".
  "He broke his leg."
  "I told you not to take the dogs near the cliffs."
  "What am I going to do?"
  "Take him to the vet of course."
  "What does the Vet know about Ultra cricket, I think I'll have
    to recall Frank Meerbach."
  "Frank?, he's not a vet, he's one of you dickie mates"
  "He's also my former captain in the twilight of his career."

And so it goes.....

Hopefully next issue I'll put together some strategies from a variety of managers. For more information on Ultra Cricket, contact Tim Astley at <>.

Ken Sproat <>

(Edited by Greg Lindahl) (