Robin Scott-Elliot: Beer's sunk and the Ashes are won. The lion sleeps tonight

The Ashes/Premier League/FA Cup, Sky Sports/ITV
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Bill Lawry once ruined my Boxing Day may not be quite in the same misery memoir league as Angela's Ashes, the harrowing tale of our girls' doomed attempts to capture their urn I'm told, but trust me, it was not easy as as a youngster having to put up with strident cries of 'Gottim' in his gnarled Aussie accent as yet another English fop, as they were known down there, tiptoed back to the pavilion accompanied by that bloody duck.

It is one of the reasons that the events of last week deserved to be savoured up here, and nobody did it better than David Gower. "Uuuummm," he purred as the commentators handed back to the studio. "That was gorgeous." Alongside him even Sirian looked happy while David Lloyd was gurning with glee. Sky's Ashes studio is furnished with a table that is ever so slightly too small for three men to sit around it comfortably, especially when Sirian's in situ. He is a big man and personality and the (relative) old-timers sat there resembling three horny-handed regulars in a small country pub who have been told drinks are on the house.

Lloyd enjoyed himself throughout his final moments at the mic as England closed in on victory, the antics/ irritations (delete according to curmudgeonliness) of the Barmy Army delighting him. A man in an England shirt with nearly as many chins as Alastair Cook has runs reduced him to giggles with his falsetto solo version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

The honour of describing the moment of victory went to Nasser Hussain and Shane Warne, although Warne did predict the final wicket for ball after ball (usually through making a reference to last man Michael Beer and the amount of drinking that was looming), which meant that when it did happen it came as a surprise.

Any regular Sky viewer will have cottoned on to this being their 20th year of showing sport, which is a lot of Super Sundays and Woeful Wednesdays. They have not quite got round to the latter branding but there is more inclination (and everything's relative when it comes to Sky) to acknowledge that a dire game is just that, certainly among their gnarled football old-timers, Tyler and Gray, the Steptoe and Steptoe of the commentary box.

As Roberto Mancini revealed himself to be a disciple of Craig Levein's forward-lite football, Tyler and Gray couldn't hide their irritation with City's attitude at Arsenal. City were "submissive" grumbled Gray, while Tyler pointed out that several of this season's bigger games in the Premier League have lacked entertainment value. A Sky apparatchik might have whispered something in Tyler's ear as he then pronounced, "I think we're under orders from on high not to mention previous nil-nils" and it was not long before he was promoting a big Cup weekend, with Dundee taking on Motherwell.

The FA Cup belongs to ITV and ESPN, but 20 years of Sky has made live football on television commonplace and that is one of the reasons so many empty seats were visible over the weekend. It also means that when rare domestic games are shown live on terrestrial channels there is a Sky-like desire to build them into something they aren't.

The television gods (Godcom, chaired by Hermes, god of athletics with a wider portfolio that includes animal husbandry and travel) were on ITV's side with Saturday's goings on at Anfield, but the coverage of Arsenal and Leeds was full of overflowing cups and the like. Peter Drury, who commentates as if his words should be carved in stone, was trying to disguise his desperation for an upset. He nearly got one but for Arsenal's late penalty and he at least avoided the "stonewall" trap (ouch) – Chris Kamara on Soccer Saturday was the latest to use the most meaningless word in football. Stop it.

Comments