Matt Gatward: Warne's witticisms are worthy of dictionary inclusion

View From The Sofa: Australia v Pakistan, Sky Sports
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The Independent Culture

Shane Warne used to love coming over here and baffling us Poms with his latest new delivery. The flipper, the zooter, the slider... all designed to cause utmost confusion. Well, it's good to see he's lost none of his capacity to bamboozle, only he's now inventing words, rather than balls.

The Pakistan players were ready to run on to the Headingley turf on Saturday morning to celebrate their Test victory full of "exuberation" apparently, which isn't a word but should be. The bloke speaks so much sense usually about cricket it would come as no surprise to see the OED expanded to include all Warneisms.

His commentary and analysis on Sky Sports of the surprisingly entertaining series between Pakistan and Australia, played at Lord's and Leeds over the past fortnight, was its usual blend of the insightful and the delightful; witty, yet interesting. As well as introducing us to the nickname of bowler Doug "The Rug" Bollinger, whose fluffy head of hair is because of a toupee, he read the game to perfection, even successfully predicting a wicket at one point.

If only Paul Allott could borrow a couple of Warneisms to liven himself up. Brought in from the county Twenty20 wilderness to help out with the Test series in the absence of Sky's big hitters – Botham, Hussain, Lloyd et al – the big man is so stiff it's as if he bowled a 30-over spell the previous day. The post-match presentation he conducted on Saturday would have been flatter than a Perth batting track had it not been for the words of the two captains, Ricky Ponting, who's been doing these things so long now he could do them in his sleep and still be honest and interesting, and Salman Butt, doing it for the first time, but speaking candidly about how pleased he was but how much his young side still had to learn.

Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, then set a world record for saying "happy" the most times in a two-minute interview, which still wasn't enough to impress Allott, clearly a tough bloke to please. It was 84, since you ask.

Luckily, up in the studio David Gower was awake enough to point it out, although he then let himself down by asking co-commentator Rameez Raja when Pakistan next play. Err, Thursday, David. Check your diary, you're probably working. Or you were before you asked that question. Raja pulled Gower out of that particular hole and spoke eloquently about the problems and plus-points of Pakistan cricket and, one hopes, he will be around the Sky box throughout the England-Pakistan series to enlighten us further.

There was also an emotional interview with the retiring umpire Rudi Koertzen at the conclusion of the Test, which would have brought a tear to the eye if you hadn't seen his slow-death method of dismissal send so many England batsmen back to the hutch down the years. After 18 years in the middle around the world, he said he's off to get to know his wife and kids, which shows what a tough job it is (especially as his kids are 25 and 27). Koertzen also plans to spend some of his retirement on his boat – let's just hope he doesn't find Gower on board.

Speaking of emotion, the real tearjerker of the week was the BBC 2 profile of Brian Clough which followed the airing of the film The Damned United. Interviews with the people who shaped his life and whose lives were shaped by him helped reveal his wonderful maverick qualities and sharp tongue, but also didn't shirk from his sad decline into alcoholism brought on by the pressures of management. If only he'd chosen commentating...

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