Commentators allured to Twenty20 madness

Last week in Australia was one which may in hindsight be seen as a
historical turning point. Monday night brought the first home Twenty20
international won comfortably by Australia in front of a record crowd for
the Gabba of 38,894 patrons who left slightly deafer than when they came in
thanks to an atmosphere more reminiscent of a disco than a cricket ground.

But this was not the historical event: everyone has known for some time the
potentialities of Twenty20 cricket and their implications, not so much for
Test cricket as for one-day cricket, whose humdrum nature is shown in even
more stark relief. The truly fascinating development was the role of the
Channel Nine commentary team, who abandoned all pretence of being
disinterested critics of the spectacle before them, and turned into carnival
barkers: ‘Hurry hurry hurry, step right up and see the AMAAAAZING cricket
match!’ During South Africa’s insipid and incompetent reply to the
Australian total, viewers were told repeatedly that what they were watching
was the most exciting innovation since penicillin. One expects this from
Tony Greig, of course, who has been selling ghastly gew-gaws for years. But
here were Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Mark Nicholas and Michael Slater, almost
tumescent with excitement, essentially doing the same: selling us a
one-sided one-dayer as though it was the Tied Test. No wonder Rich and
Chappelli had the night off; George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother was a
model of parliamentary dignity compared with Slater’s desperate attempts to
endear himself to his temporary bosses. This reinvention of cricket
commentary as infomercial raised some provocative questions. Is the
commentator there to call the game, or to sell it? Is his duty primarily to
the viewer, to his employer or – strange anachronistic notion, this – to the
game of cricket? The commentators here are on a slippery slope, but they
look determined to slalom down it.

It was almost a relief to watch the comparative dignity of the opening VB
Series game on Friday evening, another damp squib thanks to the serene
inertia of Sri Lanka’s Martin Van Dotball, but with a soundtrack neither so
hysterical nor hyperbolic. It was possible to savour instead the
restoration of heart-warming traditions like the sound of Murali being
no-balled by one of those famously knowledgeable and hospitable Melbourne
crowds – something, of course, to which the commentators were far too polite
to refer. But ho! What have we here, with Nicholas and Healy at the
microphone? Mr Smooth and Mr Shrewd wearing false moustaches as part of a
beer promotion involving a talking Boonie doll! Pure ruddy gold. Kerry
Packer might have gone to his reward, but his spirit is alive and well. If
you can bear to sit through the eye-glazingly dull games, there’s some
veeeeerrry interesting stuff going down in Aussie cricket at the moment.

Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, 1st day

So, England have all the work to do – on a pitch which, by all accounts, is a dusty mud track. That said, England are a tough side these days; the first Test defeat ought to have given them a much-needed kick up the derriere, but Pakistan are on a high. Chat away!

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 5th day

Right, so England need 174 to win. They’ve played outstandingly professional cricket for five days – don’t forget, this is in the subcontinent; it’s not easy playing there, and they’ve looked fairly slick. It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings…chat away!

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 3rd day

Right, so this ought to be the day when England extend their lead beyond the attainable. England start the day in a dominant position, with both Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff ready and waiting – not forgetting Marcus Trescothick who has a really golden opportunity to make a(nother) mountain of runs. Can Pakistan restore some pride?

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 2nd day

Same as yesterday. Can England (continue to) assert their authority on the game, or will Inzy play a blinder?

Chat away. (Cricinfo live scorecard link)

Yet Another Ashes Book (YAAB): Is It Cowardly to Pray for Rain?

Is It Cowardly to Pray for Rain?: The Online Ashes Chronicle of a Nation\'s Office-Bound Nervousness

Yet Another Ashes Book (YAAB) – Is It Cowardly to Pray for Rain?. Published by The Guardian, its subtitle reads: “The Online Ashes Chronicle of a Nation’s Office-Bound Nervousness.”

Ah, nerves: tickles down to fine-leg, dropped-catches (hello Geraint, good evening KP), McGrath the bunny, Kasper the ghost with an airy flick over his shoulder and “JONES! BOWDEN!” Oh, sorry – where was I?

Yes, this book looks quite fun and is only about £6. The Guardian did over-by-over commentary all summer, most of which I missed to be honest – and the best bits have been summarised in this book. A reviewer at Amazon provides the best synopsis:

I don’t know what I’d have done without Guardian Unlimited this summer. Their over by over coverage of the game pioneered a format that all the papers seem to be nicking now, but the original remains by far the best. Office workers all over the land, shackled to their desks and far from the nearest tv screen, relied on their updates to see them through the day. Some of them nearly got fired for it. And more than just bringing the wickets and the sledging as it happened, the commentary is a work of genius in itself. Other sites might have told you it was overcast but no sign of rain, but where else would you read that skies were “John Major grey and about as threatening as meeting the former PM in a dark alley?” (Sean Ingle).

Hilarious even months after the events it describes.

Sounds good, eh?

Aye up, and “Shot, boy”

Two abiding memories of this summer’s Ashes, for me, are from Geoff Boycott. “Shot, boy, shot,” to Andrew Flintoff’s straight-drive. And “Out. Out. No-ball, No-ball! Oooh, bad luck you Aussies!” when Glenn McGrath (yes – him) non-bowled Michael Vaughan.

So it’s excellent news to hear the miserable git par excellence has joined the BBC’s commentary team on Test Match Special, for England’s tour of Pakistan. Hurrah. Go for it, Boycs!

Nicho nicks off Nine

The news that Mark Nicholas’ contract with Channel Nine hasn’t been renewed struck me as more than a little bizarre. I can’t believe there isn’t something more to this, and the always-insightful chaps at ABC have been mulling it over. Seems, on the whole, the Aussies are fans of the smooth-talking Nicho (“Wowza!” “Helllooooooooooo!” “GOODness ME” were some of his catchphrases this summer, usually when Pietersen was at the crease.). More at ABC’s sportsdesk.

England v Australia, The Oval, Day Three

It’s going to be an on-off kind of day, rain always threatening. I’m off to work; comment away!

Benaud the choice of thousands

As you will no doubt know, The Wisden Cricketer and Cricinfo have been running a poll to gauge fan’s opinions as to their favourite commentator. Unsurprisingly, Richie Benaud won. Read the article, then send us in your thoughts to (if you want)