Part of the problem with the Ashes being played in the UK is that most of the action (yes, cricket does feature action) takes place while the majority of the population is working. Those Sky ads that show people watching on their PCs while at work clearly don't paint a true picture of what employees can really get up to, so most of us are left to watch highlights or perhaps keep updated via a live score feed. Feeling our pain, Codemasters has released Ashes Cricket 2009, the official game of this summer's series, so we can play in every Test match ourselves if watching at weekends isn't enough.
Ashes 2009 is split into three disciplines: battling, bowling, and fielding. Most people will gravitate towards batting as it's the most instantly satisfying, so we'll deal with how well it's been recreated first. When stood at the crease with a ball bearing down at you you've got a few shot options at your disposal. At the most basic level you press a button to either attack, defend or loft the ball - well that's the theory anyway. A successful shot is all about good timing, with an on-screen meter showing you if you swung your bat too early, too late or just perfect.
As we said, this is batting at its most basic. To really bat well you'll need to learn when you move across the wicket and how to play off your front or back foot. In general any delivery pitched short (and therefore likely to climb quite high before it reaches you) should be played off the back foot. To do this you hold down Left Trigger (on Xbox 360, although the PS3 version uses a similar mechanic) and then play your shot as normal. Doing this also helps the accuracy of your shots, with the aiming window (mapped to the left analogue stick) becoming smaller.
Conversely, if a ball is pitched up quite full (and therefore isn't going to come onto the batsmen too high), it's best for you to play off the front foot. Your final option is to charge down the wicket, which isn't really advisable against fast bowlers, but can be effective against slow spin bowling - be careful though, as a swing and miss will give the wicket keeper an easy stumping opportunity.
The various shot types are all on offer and taught to you in the dull, but essential for novices training mode. Aim legside on the back foot and you'll play a hook or pull depending on the ball's height, while a straight shot off a high ball will play a classy looking back foot drive. Playing on the front foot allows you to perform the classic forward defence and the straight drive, while also letting you glance the ball off your legs.
Good bowling is essential if you're going to stop your opponent scoring runs easily, but in Ashes 2009 it's definitely the hardest of the three disciplines. It's not tough to bowl the ball, with a button corresponding to a delivering type (swing, cut, spin, etc) being pressed once to begin with and again to set the delivery quality (via an on-screen meter), but consistently bowling high quality deliveries is very tricky. It's essential you do though, as building up your confidence opens up more devastating bowling options that will really test the batsman.