Matt Gatward: Ashes show not chunky enough to fit in glory of Gatting

View From The Sofa: The Ashes Highlights/ESPN Classic
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The Independent Online

I've often wondered where the sports presenter Jonathan Gould had disappeared to. Not so frequently that Jonathan – or indeed Mrs Gould – need worry, but he had been lurking about in the back of the brain in that tiny category reserved for "extremely efficient, laid-back and knowledgeable sports presenters".

His residence in that sadly spacious cerebral department, was due largely to his efforts as the host of the Major League baseball, back in the good old days when it was on Channel Five. His easy joshing with his co-presenters, his child-like enthusiasm and his ability to admit that he knew not everything about the game was refreshing.

So, imagine my delight on Thursday night when I tuned into ESPN Classic for a quick shot of Ashes nostalgia with their highlights from series gone by Down Under to get us in the mood for the forthcoming ding dong and there sat Gould, anchoring away.

Unfortunately his role was pretty brief as he merely introduced Richie Benaud, looking resplendent in that famous white jacket of his, who introduced the highlights that were shown back in the day on Australia's Channel 9. The all-too-brief 30-minute slot was the third day's play from the third Test from the 1994/95 series (so another English defeat, of course) from the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Sadly, what with the advert breaks, it boiled down to a sprint through the action that would have left Mike Gatting for dead. And it seemed random to just choose one day's play – albeit a rare good one for England where they skittled the Aussie batting line-up – before Gould, after Richie had said his bit, summed up what happened in the rest of the Test in a perfunctory manner. The following night the highlights package jumped to the fourth day of the fifth Test.

However, it was great to see cricket back in those halcyon days when players could happily be as rotund as Gatting or the handlebar-moustached Australian David Boon without a fitness coach barking orders from the pavilion. It's hard to imagine Gatting buying into a pre-tour fitness camp in Germany, which the current England team endured prior to the trip Down Under. That "bonding session" only resulted in a cracked rib for the bowler James Anderson. At least that fate would have been unlikely to befall Gatting, what with his God-given rolls of rib protector.

If the Nottinghamshire player Samit Patel, deemed talented enough but too chunky to be part of the England set-up, had been watching the highlights from yesterday he could have been forgiven a roll of the eyes (rather than a sausage one) at how his abilities would have once been appreciated by England regardless of his girth.

It was also a treat to see a young Darren Gough steaming in and knocking over Steve Waugh's off-stump without the great batsman offering a shot. Surely a collector's item? A young Angus Fraser was also on that tour, although a young Angus Fraser managed to look like an old, world-weary Angus Fraser even then.

Another pleasure this week has been catching the Sky advert for their Ashes coverage. Shane Warne and the Sky commentary team are on the plane to Australia and Warne is having a nightmare in which a surfing David Lloyd is enjoying England winning the Ashes Down Under. Sounds fanciful doesn't it? Surely, Lloyd can't surf.