Analysis: The Ashes commentary teams

As the Ashes nears its dramatic conclusion, Richard Gillis brings you the lowdown on the commentators in bat
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Atherton is one of six England captains on the list, and the most accomplished broadcaster; certainly more entertaining than his batting ever was. His easy authority takes the sting out of Richie Benaud's impending retirement. Unsurprisingly, he's been snapped up by Sky as the Test cricket rights go off-terrestrial next season. An excellent recent documentary on Ernest Hemingway for BBC Radio 4 suggests a career beyond cricket.

Richie Benaud, Channel 4

The best commentator working today; economical, wise and impartial. At a time when TV sport is so dominated by the egos of ex-players, it's a pity he's just announced his retirement, and that so few heed the lessons of Benaud's career. He views his role as supporting the play rather than imposing his views upon it. Has a reputation as one of Australia's best-ever captains, never losing a series in charge.

Ian Botham, Sky

The greatest all-round cricketer England has ever produced, despite the recent Flintoff-mania, remains the game's most famous personality. He courted controversy as a player and has carried this approach into the commentary box. He takes the anti-authority line on every issue, and is at his best when provoking an argument, most recently a running feud with Nasser Hussain. However, his analysis rarely adds to the viewing experience.

David Gower, Sky

The resident anchor of Sky's excellent coverage over the last decade. However, as Channel 4's days of test coverage come to an end it will be intriguing to see whether his employers prefer the laconic Gower over the housewife's favourite, Mark Nicholas. With Gower's sly sarcasm, Botham's ego and the cynicism of Willis, the Sky box offers an insight into life as a young player trying to break into the England team in the 1980s - not what you'd call welcoming.

Geoff Boycott, Channel 4

Is enjoying a renaissance following a hiatus caused by his private life and a battle against cancer. Despite his hectoring tone, Boycott is enjoyable company and seems less defensive than previously, revealing a personality beyond the caricature. Unapologetically biased, a feature of this summer's coverage has been the sound of Boycott cheering. No one has a more complete knowledge of batting technique, learnt whilst compiling 8,114 runs at an average of 47.73.

Tony Greig, Channel 4

Drafted in for this series after "My drugs hell" headlines ended Dermot Reeve's stint. Greig's abrasive approach seems at odds with the more inclusive Channel 4 house style. Has an irritating habit of pre-empting the umpire's decision, often wrongly. South African born, Greig was one of England's youngest captains in 1975 before becoming Kerry Packer's chief recruiting sergeant for World Series Cricket in the late Seventies.

Michael Holding, Sky

Holding is the closest Sky get to matching Benaud's gravitas. His low-key, spare delivery style suits the tempo of Test cricket perfectly and his high-quality analysis genuinely adds to the picture during moments of high drama. He is a good foil for the egos of Botham, Willis and Allott but sometimes seems to lose interest when covering county cricket. Listening to Holding commentate from a windswept Northampton is one of the saddest sounds on television.

Nasser Hussain, Sky

As England captain, Hussain laid the foundation for Michael Vaughan's success. Given his thoughtful and open manner with the media while in charge, it is little surprise that he has taken so well to the job of commentary. He explains briefly what would take some of his colleagues the best part of an afternoon. He's similar in approach to Atherton, and it will be interesting to see if they can work in tandem next summer. Prone to over-excitement.

Simon Hughes, Channel 4

"The Analyst" has done much to define the Channel 4 approach of educating without being patronising. Following a long playing career in county cricket, he wrote one of the best books on life as a professional sportsman, A Lot of Hard Yakka, which won him the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and helped position him as an entertaining interpreter of the game. His use of on-screen graphics has moved the game forward.

Mark Nicholas, Channel 4

Nicholas won a Royal Television Society award for his role as anchor of Channel 4's Bafta-winning coverage since 1999. A likeable screen presence, just the right side of smarmy, his genuine enthusiasm is infectious, and he has a strong grasp of the game's history. His reporting from the seats in the crowd can appear like a minor royal moving among his people. One of few men under the age of 70 to use the word "crikey" without a hint of irony.

David Lloyd, Sky

There is a whiff of old-time music hall about "Bumble" Lloyd, acting in part as comic relief to counter the miserablism of Bob Willis in the Sky box. The buffoonish persona makes it easy to underestimate his knowledge of the game. A unique cricketing career began as part of the successful Lancashire team of the 1960s and 1970s, moving through an umpiring stint and coaching England to their last one-day trophy, in Sharjah in 1997.

Bob Willis, Sky

Overexposure to Willis can bring you to question why you liked cricket in the first place.

Cynical and negative, prone to dismissing whole careers with a sentence ("he can't possibly get picked again"), Willis's relentless moaning may have been appropriate during the dark days of the Nineties, but now sounds distinctly out of touch. His half-moon spectacles give the impression of an impatient head teacher overseeing disappointing results.

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