Cricket a gentleman's game? Don't make me laugh. This third Ashes Test was an orgy of bitching and abuse. Mitchell Johnson said Jimmy Anderson smelt; Anderson called Johnson a big silly; Peter Siddle sneered at Matt Prior's beard and Prior stuck out his tongue at the entire Australia team. It was pretty nasty stuff, all told.
Needless to say, the Sky commentary team revelled in it. David Lloyd audibly bristles with excitement every time there's a bit of "chirp" (that's cricket language for being rude) and he and Shane Warne enjoyed a long discussion about sledging late on the third day as the home side closed in on victory. Warnie, of course, is a past master at one of cricket's darkest arts and he gave Lloyd the lowdown on just how to get under a rival's skin.
"You've got to pick the right person," he said. "We used to have a go at [Sachin] Tendulkar but when he got his 10th century in a row against us we realised it wasn't working. But there are some people it works against, eh Nas?"
Nasser Hussain, who we can only presume was sitting in the back of the box, did not respond. But Warne was not finished. "Allan Border taught me something important," he said. "If you are playing badly, pick a fight with someone. I would look at someone and say, 'Who are you looking at?' That worked."
Kevin Pietersen, Warne reckoned, was not the sort of fellow that it paid to sledge because it would only inspire him. Fortunately for the Aussies, they didn't need to. Seconds after picking a new bat, Pietersen edged to slip and England's hopes of an unlikely win shrank.
Warne, buoyed by England's unravelling innings, chose this moment to sledge a whole country. "It has been particularly cold in the UK," he said. "Nice to be out here in the sunshine, eh Bumble?" Lloyd admirably refused to join in. "You've got to look at the positives of that: no spiders, no crocodiles, no snakes."
The way England were playing there might as well have been snakes in the pitch. The only respite for the poor viewer came with the regular advert breaks which, it being Christmas, included an inordinate number of impressively bizarre perfume ads among the promotional efforts for lager and moronic Sky panel shows.
You'd imagine Ian Botham was a decent sledger in his time, but he appears to take the view that Hussain is far too easy a target. When the former Essex man said that he had seen Botham on TV the previous evening, Sir Beef asked him why he hadn't gone out for dinner with his wife and kids. "To save on expenses," boasted Hussain.
If Hussain is a little tight, then the Aussies were far from stingy with their affections. The congratulatory bum slap is a regular occurrence in cricket these days, but Siddle took it a little further when he appeared to fondle Ben Hilfenhaus's privates after the latter pulled off a nifty bit of fielding. Seconds later, Ricky Ponting was caught picking his nose on screen. "He'll be a relieved man," observed Botham.
By the end the Aussies knew they had it in the bag. Johnson signed a spectator's arm ("He's never going to have a wash again, that lad," said Bumble) and then Paul Collingwood provided potty-mouthed lip-readers with the shot of the Test after getting himself out. "What a day!" enthused Lloyd. The night watchman Anderson, abused all the way back to the pavilion by the hosts, probably didn't agree. Roll on Melbourne.Reuse content