Sport on TV: Don't poke fun at the Aussies even when the chips are down

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The Independent Online

It's not often that you get the chance to say "Australia collapsed like a house of cards". Sadly, in spite of the way they folded in the first innings at Lord's, they are proving as invincible and incorrigible as ever at the poker table.

The green baize was looking more than a little baggy in The Poker Ashes (Sky Sports 1, Wednesday and Thursday), and Australia's hustler-in-chief over the past two decades, Shane Warne, enjoyed it so much that his fat red face was royally flushed.

The great leg spinner, who always held all the aces, has just arrived from a World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas. He is captaining the Aussies and presided over humbling defeats in the first two "Tests" of the Poker Ashes. In the first match another legendary bowler, the speedster Jeff Thomson, blew the Poms away. England's captain, Darren Gough, sat out the second match, leaving England with a line-up of Matthew Hoggard, Min Patel and Gladstone Small, hardly the most formidable of attacks to get stuck into an Aussie order boasting Dean Jones and Damien Martyn – and boasting in a big way.

There were two qualifiers from the internet: Australia had Adam Kloens, who was sporting an absurd mullet that looked like the head of a duck-billed platypus; England had Steve Falzon, who claimed he once took eight wickets for six runs as a schoolboy. At least he would bolster the attack. But he was among the big boys here and was soon sent packing, Dean Jones sledging him with the parting shot, "You're not playing a computer now."

Sadly, most of the banter between the players was inaudible, muffled like a stump microphone, but the commentator Grub Smith got stuck into Jones, calling him "bonkers" with "lemming blood" in his veins, and then: "I suspect Dean Jones ran a few people out in his time." There were a lot of cricket analogies, including perhaps the most tortuous one ever attempted on television: Hoggard, the only England player left at the table, was "like a nightwatchman getting a load of verbals from four slips on a bumpy pitch in fading light with the fast bowler steaming in". Phew.

Cricketers and poker go well together because, unlike most sports, when it rains cricketers spend an inordinate amount of time sitting around in dressing-rooms. The obvious diversion is a game of cards. And of course it also permits the gratuitous wearing of sunglasses, a favourite habit of the modern cricketer.

Back at Lord's, Russell Crowe was in the commentary box, bemoaning Australia's showing. He asked Warne: "How do you feel about what I perceive as a lack of ruthlessness?" He called for "the clamp on the throat" to be applied. It must be time for Ponting and Co to take up the sword and put on the sandals.

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