A long night of silly points and instant replays

Sleepless in Settle or Insomniac in Ipswich? Hugh Bateson joins a nation tuning in for a nocturnal thriller
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The television cameras gave England away before the start. The pitch, tactics, odds - even the pyschology - had been exhaustively examined by the pundits and the tension was high in England's living rooms and bedrooms.

Not in the dressing room, however. Sky's cameras cut to the England balcony just before the brave lads went out to battle, and an inspiring sight it was not.

Mike Gatting was having a casual natter with the newly-arrived Neil Fairbrother when Michael Atherton wandered by. Gatting got up, a few other players appeared, Shaun Udal clapped his hands, a couple of startled members in the less-than-heaving Sydney pavilion looked up from their newspapers, gave some desultory applause, and England meandered on to the field. Not quite the entrance to terrify the Australians, or to pin the night viewer to his seat rather than his bed .

England's approach during this tour has not always met with rapturous approval, and it was not long before some familiar drums were being banged. But, and this was something of a shock, Sky was the more restrained of the two all-night coverages on offer.Where Test Match Special on Radio 5 offered Christopher Martin-Jenkins simply bemoaning England's timid tactic of Phil Tufnell bowling over the wicket all the time, Bob Willis on Sky had a more revolutionary explanation. "England are using Tufnell to strangle the Australians while attacking with the seamers from the other end," he monotoned. "It's all very well having a plan, but you must be able to change it when it doesn't work," Ian Chappell muttered as Michael Slater and Mark Taylor went merrily on.

In fact, it would have worked but for John Crawley's unfortunate miss of a skier. Instant and endlessly recyclable replay food, of course, with poor Crawley's technique dissected from all angles, probing for his mistake, which was really quite simple - he didn't get his hands on the ball at all. The other morning victim of the cameras was the umpire, Darrell Hair, who was guilty of declining the use of technology on a run-out decision, and was promptly hung, drawn and quartered by that which he had spurned.

The only hint of the glories ahead came from David Gower, who pointed out in his John Majorish way that wickets could fall quite quickly sometimes. And then it was off to lunch, or rather an old Max Boyce interview on the radio or a ludicrous fisherman calling himself the Piking Pirate racing around Loch Lomond in a little boat with a skull and cross-bones on Sky.

The rain which followed was a frustration for the players and televisers, but it was far worse for the sleepless over here. If the endless re-runs didn't make the duvet an overwhelming attraction, the subsequent pokings of David Boon very nearly did.

But, then, along with the dawn, came gorgeous, irresistible Gussie to drag us from one dreamland into another. On the television, Charles Colville dug out the Axel Rose impression he reprises at the fall of each wicket for more or less every ball, while on the radio Geoffrey Boycott even stopped saying "I" for a while.

Too good to last - but quite, quite wonderful while it did.

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