Sport on TV: Aggers gets Ashes fever live on the radio while Sky couldn't give a toss

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The Independent Online

Media studies undergraduates will have gained much from examining the different ways Sky TV and BBC radio covered "The Over From Hell" in the early hours of Thursday.

After Steve Harmison's opening ball had gone several parsecs wide, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain in the Sky commentary box remained unruffled.

"And not the delivery that England supporters wanted to see," Atherton murmured with all the urgency of a graveyard-shift DJ. "A huge wide straight into the hands of slip." Hussain was his equal in the nonchalance department. "Here's a little bit of embarrassment for Harmison." A little bit of embarrassment?

On the telly, of course, we could see the full horror for ourselves, so there was no need to dramatise an already dramatic moment. But it's undoubtedly true that you got more for your money on Test Match Special (BBC5 Live Sports X and Radio 4 long wave).

Their main man, Jonathan Agnew, was utterly horrified, and for a few heady sentences evoked a full-on Jonathan Pearce (before he calmed down and joined the BBC, that is).

"What a horrible shock!" he cried, as howls of derisive laughter rolled around the commentary box. "I can't believe I've seen it! That is just about the worst delivery I have ever seen in Test cricket!"

Geoffrey Boycott, who was providing the BBC's coverage with his customary blend of bluster and good sense, knew exactly who to blame.

"What's happening with the England backroom staff?" he demanded. "Why is Harmison still bowling rubbish?"

Even before the first ball, Sky had got their knickers in a twist over the toss. It was purportedly transmitted live - though that pretence was punctured by David Gower's revelation beforehand that Australia had won it.

It transpired that Mark Nicholas, working for the Aussie TV station Channel 9, was in shot, and because he also fronts Five's coverage over here it was considered necessary to edit him out. Pathetic, really. Except it seems to me that it almost certainly had nothing to do with rival channels. I mean, we are talking Mark Nicholas here. Wouldn't you edit him out of your shot if it was humanly possible?

If John Motson were commentating in Brisbane, he'd have found an omen for England's failings in the plight of a former Ashes batsman, Mark Ramprakash, in Strictly Come Dancing (Saturday, BBC1). He'd danced the opposition off the floor in previous weeks, but Ramps' rumba was ruinous and he came second last. Matt Dawson, remarkably, was top with a waltz described by judge Len Goodman as the best dance of the series. As for Peter Schmeichel, justice was finally done as the viewers finally voted the big plank of wood off the programme.

Now why can't we vote Ricky Ponting off the Test match?

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