Matt Butler: Now Strauss is making history in the commentary box
View From The Sofa: England v New Zealand, Sky Sports 3
History was made on Friday, with the first televised crap at Lord's. Sorry, history was made on Friday, with the first televised "crap" at Lord's. And it was uttered by none other than a former England captain.
Yes, Andrew Strauss, on his first day at Sky, had the temerity to say, "It is a crap day at Lord's" as the grey clouds hung overhead and England's bowlers threw pies at the New Zealand batsmen. He was not talking about his former team-mates, rather the atmosphere at the ground, due in part to the frigid, first-day-of-county-season weather and also because the No 2 Test side in the world were being given a going-over by some tiny ex-colony from the other side of the world. And just as Strauss (right) said, the atmosphere was indubitably crap.
Before we go on, full disclosure time: your correspondent is from said tiny ex-colony on the other side of the world. So please refrain from writing in.
The fact Strauss said the word "crap" may have taken a few fans aback; after all, this was the same mild-mannered Andrew Strauss who used to fill entire press conferences with candy-floss platitudes – not quite as anodyne as Alastair Cook, but still. But here he was, at the beginning of an Ashes summer, no less, calling a spade a spade. Or, as the case was, crap weather crap.
It was refreshing to hear – but as the Test wore on, he showed that he had not been signed up by Sky to be a blunt talker. Heck, with Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham they have enough of them already. He gave real insight: the kind that you can only gain if, less than a year ago, you were sharing the field with the people you are commentating on.
And his opening afternoon dissection of Stuart Broad and his field placement was a highlight of a solid debut. The nature of cricket, with its extended breaks between action, makes it difficult for commentators not to slump into a stream of consciousness in order to fill dead airspace. And Strauss, who is the latest in a long line of former England captains to feature on Sky's cricket coverage (Cook and even Joe Root may look up at the 1950s space-age design media centre and think "that's my retirement taken care of"), did brilliantly to keep things interesting, with both his content and style. He is livelier than David Gower, less bludgeoning than Botham and as engagingly chatty as David Lloyd.
One shudders to think how football summarisers such as Niall Quinn or Andy Townsend, who need mere nanoseconds to come up with inanities during matches, would fare in the changeovers between overs, let alone the half-hour given over to analysis at lunchtime.
In case the line-up of England captains invited accusations of bias from Sky, they also had Ian Smith, the former New Zealand wicketkeeper on board – and he had also been handed the privilege of ringing the traditional warning bell before yesterday's play. And you should have seen his face at lunchtime after Broad's quickfire five-fer for just 22 runs.
Gower, sitting with Lloyd and Botham, said with a hint of a smile: "Spare a thought for Ian..." "Never, ever, ever let me ring the bell again," Smith said despondently, before giving every newspaper their headline for today: "New Zealand have been Broadsided, there's no doubt about it." But Smith, who is a regular commentator in New Zealand, went on to give some measured analysis on Broad. It made a crap day (for the expats) a little better.
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