Tonight there's a crucial cricket game on in the international Tri-Series involving Australia (the world champions), New Zealand and England. My team, New Zealand, is playing Australia tonight at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Sadly I don't currently have TV access to the sports channel that televises cricket games here in NZ, so I have to use the Internet to follow the play. Cricinfo.com is the Web source for international cricket lovers - and tonight I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new live 3D service at Cricinfo. This is a perfect illustration of the benefits of 3D on the Web, a theme we've been tracking lately.

Cricinfo's coverage is a 3D animated representation "created from Cricinfo's rich scoring data." It's the next best thing to live tv coverage on the Web, which is no doubt too expensive for Cricinfo to purchase. Using 3D, Web viewers can see a graphical representation of the cricket shots being played live, "shortly after the actual action has taken place". After each ball is bowled, the screen refreshes automatically - just as with the textual ball-by-ball commentary that I usually tune into when I'm sans TV coverage or just busy with work.

What's more, you can choose your camera angle - something you can't do by TV... yet. There are 8 pre-set angles: bowler, batsman, the 2 umpires, and 4 fielding positions. You can zoom in and out, and pan around the stadium with a 360 degree camera.

cricinfo 3D is powered by SportFlashback, a technology represented in the UK by 3D Web Tech company. They also supply the BBC's live football and delivered the (soccer) World Cup Virtual Matchcast and Virtual Replays. This is the first time 3D technology has been used in cricket. To view cricinfo 3D, you need to download Adobe's Shockwave version 10.0 or above.

I have to say, cricinfo 3D is awesome and a great use of 3D on the Web. It takes me back to 2000, when I followed the America's Cup yacht races on the Internet via Virtual Spectator (an ahead-of-its-time kiwi company). What I like about cricinfo 3D is that I get a sense of the cricket shots being played, as well as being able to follow the textual commentary. Also the different camera angles are useful, if only to see what it looks like from the batsman's pov, or the wicket-keeper, or the bowler, etc. Sure it's not as good as seeing the game live on TV, but for those poor bastards who don't have TV coverage (for whatever reason), watching it via 3D is a pretty cool alternative.