Sport on TV: Meltdown as the long, hard road of summer unwinds


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The Independent Online

This has been such a busy few days of sport that they are all starting to melt into one another, and the heatwave is not helping the levels of concentration.

For the Lord’s Test, Sky Sports have introduced a camera in the Long Room for the first time and we can watch the batsmen come and go past a throng of corpulent, puce-faced chaps.

As the hallucination takes hold, the helmeted cricketers turn into the cyclists in the Tour de France, straining their way up Alpe d’Huez as the fans pat them on the bottom and run alongside with clenched fists and contorted faces.

One too many glasses of burgundy over lunch at Lord’s and anything is possible, but at least the members are not wearing ill-fitting superhero outfits like the roadside freaks in France. Memo to the MCC marketing men: why not try a line of lycra outfits, complete with mask and cape, in the club’s traditional rhubarb and custard hues?

It’s a good job Colin Montgomerie is not taking part in the Tour: not only might his aerodynamic outfit be under too much strain, but he would get seriously tetchy with the attentions of the fancy dress supporters. A few Frenchmen might find themselves falling off the side of a mountain. Then we’d see if they could really fly.

It is also fortunate that the Queen didn’t rock up at Muirfield to meet the players at The Open, as she did at Lord’s on Thursday. She might have found herself sitting in the car park as the members of the all-male institution bickered over the rulebook and a few brandies.

Until women were admitted to MCC in 1999, the Queen was the only one apart from the cleaners who was allowed in the pavilion at Lord’s. She didn’t look too bothered to be there. Perhaps it has lost something without the exclusivity.

It can’t have been because the cricket was boring. As the match began in the same kind of febrile, frantic atmosphere as the Trent Bridge Test, the monarch was already shifting in her seat and she was gone long before lunchtime. Perhaps she had other things to do. Even the sight of Shane Watson taking a wicket wasn’t enough to divert her attention.

Steve Waugh looked unbearably smug as he rang the bell for the start of play. How many times have we had to endure that expression down the years? It’s worse than the gargoyles on the walls of the pavilion. For one awful moment it seemed he was about to stride out on to the turf. It was enough to break out into a cold sweat – to go on top of the hot one.

Another of the great Australians, Shane Warne, was back in the Sky Sports commentary box, and Mike Atherton informed us that he is the only player ever to have strolled past a portrait of himself in the Long Room – all the others had retired or died by the time their likeness was hung up.

The players’ pictures that are superimposed on buildings in Sky’s opening credits include one of Warne splashed across the doors of the Durham School boathouse but the image they chose showed the blond cherub at his chubbiest. One can only assume that the painting in the Long Room is rather more flattering or else he might have stuck his bat through it.

At Muirfield one of the players managed to hit the ball straight into the camera lens. “Well that’s a first,” said Peter Alliss, who has been commentating since before cameras were invented, so he would know. “Poor old cameraman, that’s gone right though his Bolex,” he added. It sounded very painful.

The shattered image was about right for us weary, bleary-eyed viewers, who need so many TV screens to keep up with the action that we may have to break into Nasa’s offices at Cape Canaveral to watch it all at once. Now that would be privileged access.