Every summer, Andy Nott spends his Saturdays on a verdant cricket field with his local team from Calne, a picturesque town in southwest England. But instead of batting and fielding balls, Nott is live-scoring his team’s seven-hour matches, often from inside a scorebox that looks like a garden shed. The job, though largely hidden, is a key role in the game, requiring intense focus and meticulous record-keeping.
To score a match, Nott brings colored pens, a paper scorebook, binoculars, water, a fan or heater, and a laptop connected to NV Play, an innovative, cloud-based cricket scoring and analytics solution launched last year. Built by NV Interactive, a digital agency in New Zealand, the platform has enabled more than 2,000 U.K. recreational teams like Calne Cricket Club to produce professional-grade livestreams that make the sport more engaging to follow. Calne doesn’t yet have the budget for video, but its live scores are deeply appreciated by fans.
“We’ve heard from people lying on a beach somewhere in Spain keeping abreast of a game by looking at the internet and seeing what’s happening,” says Nott, who learned to score cricket 15 years ago on paper, a method he still uses while scoring digitally. “The technology and live scoring make the game more appealing to a wider audience.”
For NV Interactive, building NV Play was a way to democratize technology in a favorite sport of product director Matt Smith, chairman Geoff Cranko and brothers Matt Pickering, managing director, and Gus Pickering, technical director. Previously, the company had developed elite cricket solutions for 15 years, beginning with a scoring platform in 2005 for ESPNcricinfo, a global cricket news site, still in use today.
NV then went on to build digital tools for first-class and national teams in the U.K. and New Zealand, also still in use today. For NV Play, the company integrated the same advanced capabilities into a single platform that can scale from serving small, recreational teams to the highest levels of professional cricket. Built on Microsoft Azure, the flexible solution features live scoring, live video, video highlights, ball-by-ball statistics, high-performance analytics and predictive insights – all to help teams grow and shape the future of cricket.
“Historically, cricket has been scored on pen and paper,” says Smith, who grew up playing the sport. “Depending on the level of the game, the scores might end up on a spreadsheet that you share around or on a website, if you’re lucky.
“We’re making all the things typically available only to massive cricket clubs with high-performance budgets available to all levels of the game, from grassroots through to the elite.”
Even for famous, professional clubs like Middlesex Cricket in London, NV Play has enabled new ways to serve fans and new opportunities for growth. The platform helps the club deliver high-quality video livestreams and video highlights of key moments, which delight fans who can’t attend the club’s four-day matches. The features also serve Middlesex’s many global fans from Australia to India to South Africa.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback from people who enjoy having an open window on their laptop and being able to duck in and out of a game and get a real feel for what’s going on, without being here in the stadium,” says Rob Lynch, chief operating officer of Middlesex Cricket, which plays at London’s iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground venue.
The platform helped Middlesex livestream video of its professional women’s matches for the first time this year. It has also increased engagement on the club’s website, leading to new monetization opportunities.
“We work hard to keep our website a living, breathing organism and not something that goes dormant and out of date quickly,” Lynch says. “By incorporating NV Play, we’ve seen a significant increase in traffic to our site.”
Building the solution with Azure DevOps, NV Interactive worked with the England and Wales Cricket Board to deliver the solution in the U.K., where it’s branded as Play-Cricket Scorer Pro. An NV Play partnership with New Zealand Cricket soon followed. To date, the platform has scored more than 30,000 matches involving 90,000 players and captured more than 24 terabytes of video.
It has coded metadata for 18 million balls bowled, including details on batter, bowler, type of hit, runs scored, weather and pitch conditions. In any given week, NV Play is livestreaming scores and video of more than 750 simultaneous matches to an audience of over 2 million people. The scalability of Azure is crucial for handling the enormous usage spikes.
“The majority of the games start at the same time and end at the same time on Saturdays, so we get a massive influx of matches and fans expecting real-time livestreams of video, stats and scores,” says Gus Pickering. “Azure allows us to keep our costs in control, whilst delivering at a global scale.”
The large database feeds NV Play’s analytics and coaching tools. It also feeds a feature that predicts scores and probable results during a match. Leveraging machine-learning algorithms in Microsoft artificial intelligence, the predictions break down barriers by helping people understand the complexities of cricket and making the games more fun to follow. Teams and media broadcasters often display the insights for a livestream audience.
“When you’re watching a game, the first question is always, ‘Who’s winning?’” says Matt Pickering, who grew up watching cricket. “The problem with cricket, particularly for people who don’t understand the game well, is you don’t always know who’s winning. We’re simplifying the game and making it more accessible for people are aren’t familiar with the sport.”
Though still a fledgling business, NV Play is already proving its worth in transforming the technical landscape of cricket worldwide. In one telling endorsement, this year’s Cricket World Cup finalists – England and New Zealand in a historic nail-biter – were both early adopters of NV Play’s high-performance features.
“From our perspective, we’re very much a global business and a global platform,” says Cranko. “That’s where Azure comes in. We can confidently go anywhere in the world, turn on the platform and deliver a great experience, making us perfectly positioned to reimagine how recreational cricket is delivered, wherever it’s played.”
Top photo: Middlesex Cricket first XI men’s team. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex Cricket)