Cricket: Channel 4 reveals the sensational Snickometer

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The Independent Online
CHANNEL 4 launched their coverage of Test cricket yesterday with a secret weapon - the Snickometer, writes Chris Maume. But those who fear further human downgrading will be delighted to know that this latest gizmo is far from infallible.

The former Hampshire and England A captain Mark Nicholas will head a team which includes Wasim Akram and Richie Benaud, ending 60 years of BBC coverage. C4 have the rights for four years.

Benaud, who has commentated on over 400 Test matches, believes there are similarities between Channel 4's attempts to spice up coverage and the innovations that Australian station Channel 9 introduced in the 1970s.

"Channel 9 revolutionised the coverage of cricket and with what I know about Channel 4, I'm sure there will be a sort of revolution as well and it will be for the better," he said.

The main innovation is the Snickometer, an invention by an electronics and information technology consultant, Alan Plaskett, which attempts to end controversies over whether a batsman has been caught behind by measuring sound at the crease. Using a stump-microphone, a signal is sent via a computer to an oscilloscope and the viewer will see the soundwaves down the side of the screen.

But C4's Controller of Sport, Mark Sharman, conceded it is not yet foolproof: "If the ball goes between bat and pad at the same moment then it's difficult to decide," he said. "In almost every case we've looked at it's a combination of the eye and what you see on the oscilloscope that makes the difference."

Beware one other small, rather familiar problem: there will be clashes on Saturday afternoons with C4's racing coverage. Sharman promised, however, that coverage will switch back during crucial passages. Nothing new there then...