Sport on the Internet

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS a traditional start last week for the final season of the County Championship as we know it. The weather hogged the headlines. Web pictures, on CompuServe's subscription sports channel, of Lord's under the weather and Durham's Riverside blanketed by snow provided a good enough reason for fair-weather cricket fans to stay at home and follow proceedings on the Internet as they pondered the likelihood of their team ending up in the wrong half of next year's two-league system.

Lord's has been busy beefing up their Web site in the run-up to this season, aiming to make it the definitive online destination for cricket followers. On the whole it stood up well to the rigours of going live. It was certainly the place to be if you were without radio or TV access and wanted to find out, the day before the season started, who the new Championship sponsors were.

For breaking cricket news at all levels, the site is excellent. It has teamed up with the Press Association and covers the England team as well as minor counties games and women's cricket. There is much statistical information and material about individual counties - on site and via external links to official and unofficial team pages.

Detailed scoreboards are updated in real time. They come in two versions: full scoreboards or aesthetically pleasing abbreviated ones to position on your desktop while working in other applications. Which is all well and good when games are on.

When nothing is happening on the ground, Lord's have some extra features to capture the surfer's imagination and keep them on site for longer. A Webcam broadcasting live pictures for instance. Even if there is no play you can gaze into the Stygian gloom as if you were there.

In theory at least. In practice the camera is being relocated from its pre-season perch on the Pavilion to the NatWest Media Centre, but it did not make it in time for the start of the season. Viewers hoping for scenes of a white-out merely got a black screen and an apology.

The virtual reality tour, however was working. Using QuickTime plug-ins (a download link is provided for browsers lacking the technology) you are free to rummage in the Long Room, examining portraits and artefacts or popping out on to the balcony for a view of the whole ground.

Using your mouse you can turn your virtual head to take in the panorama of Lord's taken on a far sunnier day than greeted Middlesex and Kent.

Multimedia crops up often on the site, with RealAudio features about the World Cup and archives of great cricketing moments. Later in the season experiments with live audio and video broadcasts of some international matches are planned, so it is well worth checking back periodically for updates.

The promise of live streaming is something the Web has not yet realised, largely because of disputes about rights. Lord's looks to have that problem licked.

Site Addresses

Lord's: The Home Of Cricket

http://www.lords.org/

CompuServe

http://www.compuserve.co.uk/channels/

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