Matt Butler: Wall-to-wall Ashes to Ashes too much of a good thing

View from the sofa: Sky Sports Ashes

Hyperbole is possibly the worst thing that can happen to sport ever. No, really, there are very few sporting events which live up to the overblown descriptions foisted upon them. The biggest this, the most important that, there seems to be one every week.

There are a few events that live up to the hype. Few would argue against the Badwater Ultramarathon, which starts next Monday, being called the world’s toughest foot race, as it is 135 miles long, along featureless roads through California’s Death Valley, where temperatures surpass 40  degrees, then up a mountain. But the superlatives ladled on to other events – such as this year’s Ashes series – grate.

Whatever Sky Sports’ willingness to drum up this series as crucial for national pride and possibly more important than life itself, there is no getting away from the fact that the Australian team is far from a vintage side. And you need two good teams to make a classic contest. Even so, they have devoted a whole channel to the upcoming series. Not a series of preview programmes or a few reminiscences detailing classic series in the past; a whole darn channel.

Strictly speaking, Sky Sports Ashes is not a new channel, it is merely Sky Sports 2 with the rugby league, golf and other sports sidelined in favour of wall-to-wall cricket. The channel was relaunched last Sunday, and the centrepiece of its  first day’s coverage was England’s Ashes warm-up match against Essex.

It was a good start, as it gave the familiar team, including Andrew Strauss and Nasser Hussain, a chance to chew the fat over such topics as who deserves to be in line to face the Aussies and what sort of grass England would most probably like to bat or bowl on. Incidentally, a note to Hussain: the less we hear over the summer of the clumsy rhyming slang “raging bunsen” (we presume it means turner) when describing types of pitches, the better.

But just as England v Essex lost its first-class status during the week, Sky Ashes looked as if it was already running out of steam by Thursday. The glut of cricket fixtures during the summer, whether they are internationals, tour matches or county championships, means the channel is not short of material to fill most days.

But how many county-level Twenty20 matches can one viewer take? On Thursday we had a rerun of Glamorgan v Warwickshire from the previous day, followed by a live showing of Middlesex v Essex at Lord’s. The former match could only be generously described as sparcely populated, while the latter looked only slightly better patronised. It was a similar formula the rest of the week; a Twenty20 match, interspersed with 90-minute highlights of England’s best Ashes matches. Of course, once the Ashes start in a couple of days’ time there will be ample material to fill airtime, while the Tests are on, at least. Sky even has enough pundits to keep us entertained during rain delays. Shane Warne, who has signed up for the series, could fill an afternoon on his own, waxing lyrical on anything from poker to boozy card games on wet days at Hampshire.

But what about now? More pyjama cricket? Yet more misty-eyed features on that miracle final-wicket stand by those blokes, um, whatisname and thingy in the third Test of the 1982-83 series?

Sky Sports 2 used to be interesting because it wasn’t one-dimensional; it featured sports other than football, such as golf, fishing, basketball and even professional wrestling. But now all we have is cricket. And too much of it. Roll on the autumn.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam