Play-Cricket Scorer, version 1.0.0: the First Test

With the season only a matter of a few weeks away, the ECB have released their own electronic scoring app, Play-Cricket Scorer, available for iOS and Android.

My impression of the Android app (version 1.0.0) is that it is usable, and due to its integration with Play-Cricket, will be worth persisting with: the time saved by removing the need to manually upload match scorecards (a standard league requirement) will likely be enough in itself to justify adoption.

However, as with any new piece of software, there are inevitable rough edges. Here are the most glaring problems with it that need to be fixed without delay, before the season starts, if at all possible.

1. Disregard for Android guidelines

The first and worst problem is not a cricket-related issue at all; perhaps that’s a good sign. It does, however, have a major impact on usability.

The issue is that the Android version of Play-Cricket Scorer has a non-Android look-and-feel. It looks suspiciously like the an app for Apple iOS that has been forced onto the Android system.

One example is the labelled “Back” button. Android apps use an “Up” button, and it only shows an icon, not text. Another mistake is the right-facing carats on menu items. Both are hallmarks of iOS design and are clearly rejected in the Android guidelines.

This may seem like irrelevant pedantry, but there are real consequences. Users accustomed to the Android way of doing things will be caught out in subtle ways. The most obvious example is when it comes to alerts. Play-Cricket Scorer’s alerts, for instance when ending an over prematurely, or confirming a wicket, are laid out with the affirmative action (the action that indicates approval of whatever is being queried) on the left rather than the right.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Android guidelines specify: “Affirmative actions are placed on the right side and continue the process. […] Dismissive actions are placed directly to the left of affirmative actions.”

The result is that Android users will be prone to hitting “Yes” when they mean “No”, and vice versa.

There’s also the entirely misguided use of the Floating Action Button as a ubiquitous Help button (not their intended use), but I’ll pass over that since, firstly, it’s clearly springs from good intentions, and, secondly, it can be turned off in Settings. However, I will observe that if the necessity to include a help button on every screen was felt, that in itself is a warning sign that the design isn’t up to scratch. It’s also not at all sensible to make such help dependent, as it is, on an Internet connection: scorers with tablets, sitting in the middle of the countryside, often won’t have any data connection.

While we’re on the subject of design, the typography also would benefit from tweaking: choosing the Android standard Roboto would have helped to make Android users feel more at home.

The Android Material guidelines are there for a reason. A brand new app such as Play-Scorer has no excuse for not following them from the outset. Starting off by treating Android users as second-class citizens is a great way to decrease their satisfaction.

2. Limited export facility

It seems that uploading to the Play-Cricket website or exporting to PDF is the only way to get a match scorecard out of Play-Cricket Scorer. The latter is highly limited: it’s little more than a brief summary of batting totals and bowling figures.

There should be a way to export a full ball-by-ball run-down of the match, both in an attractive readable form (formatted as a traditional scoresheet, for example) and in a pure data form (XML or similar).

3. Certain dismissals incorrectly incur deliveries

“Timed out” and “Obstructing the field” dismissals may take place without a delivery being bowled, but Play-Cricket Scorer assumes that a ball has been bowled.

4. Penalty runs are not handled gracefully

The only way to add these is by manually editing the scorecard, with no provision for recording when these were applied, or even in which innings. As such, it does not seem to properly handle the admittedly rare event of a win by penalty runs under Law 21.7.

Conclusion

The Play-Cricket Scorer app is promising, but urgently needs attention before the start of the season.

Trigger training

In the course of researching my article for The Cricketer (March 2017)* on the state of recreational umpiring, one thing that became apparent was the variance in training courses, both in cost and duration. Some ACOs opt for running courses in the evenings over a 6–8 week period. Others go for a high-intensity format, with training limited to two days, often over consecutive weekends.

Cost is potential stumbling block: some can be £80 per person. Again, it’s worth doing a bit of research, as there are often rebates available. For example, the Herefordshire ACO charges £80 for an Umpire Level 1 course, but the local Marches League will reimburse £40 if the newly qualified umpire goes on to stand in ten league games, and a further £40 if he or she stands in three county junior games—making it free of charge. Alternatively, it’s worth looking at neighbouring ACOs: the South East Wales ACO, by comparison, charges £30 per person.

The ECB provide a course finder on the ECB website. After selecting the type of course you’re looking for and clicking “View Events”, it’s best to press “Search” without selecting county, town, or country: there aren’t that many results anyway, and keeping the options open means you may find nearby courses better suited to your circumstances.

This lack of standardisation might initially be somewhat irritating, but on reflection it’s useful, providing a degree of flexibility for potential candidates. It’s to be hoped that the increased integration of the ACO with the ECB, voted in during January 2017, doesn’t completely remove such variability in the name of efficiency. Overhauling the course finder, however, would be a worthwhile task for the ECB’s IT team: searching by postcode would seem a clear improvement that could be implemented.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s much that clubs can do to help. It should be pretty obvious that if there are x teams, a minimum of x umpires are needed. A question, then, for each club: are they providing as many umpires as they field XIs? If not, offering to subsidise training for some of their club members would be a welcome gesture of support for the officials.

*Single issues of the The Cricketer are currently £4.50 online or £4.95 in-store. Alternatively, you can save a few quid by opting for a subscription, which by my calculations makes one issue in six effectively free. You may also be able to get a bottle of wine, a calendar and a diary thrown in, if their “hat-trick” offer is still going.

Jennings’ Innings

The England debut of K. K. Jennings was a good opportunity to revisit, for ESPNcricinfo, the cricketing adventures of his namesake J. C. T. Jennings. In that piece space and time prevented exhaustively detailing all instances of cricket in the Jennings series; however, here is an opportunity to attempt to compile such a list.

  • Jennings Goes To School
    • Jennings daydreams about Lord’s while the headmaster discusses hibernation: “Jennings, what does a bat do in the winter?” “It—er—it splits if you don’t oil it, sir.”
  • Jennings’ Little Hut
    • Darbishire goes in at No. 11 and saves the game.
    • Strikes from both Jennings and Mr. Wilkins destroy the headmaster’s cucumber-frames.
  • According to Jennings
    • Jennings and Darbishire make an unauthorised excursion to Sussex vs MCC, hitchhiking with England amateur R. J. Findlater.
  • Just Like Jennings
    • General school-wide obsession with cricket.
  • Jennings in Particular
    • The boys hold a contest between a World Cricket XI and a team from Outer Space.
  • Unsure of title—can anyone help?
    • Darbishire, assigned to score, daubs takeaway advertising inside the scorers’ box; when he is instructed to clean it up, he misses scoring Jennings’ fifty.
  • Jennings Abounding (thanks to Quentin Rubens of the Linbury Court website for highlighting)
    • French student Henri is befuddled by Darbishire’s hapless efforts to explain cricket in French.

Please do comment or email if you can remember any further details—I’m sure there must be several I’ve missed.