Sport on TV: After a good stuffing, all I want for Christmas is a fit Freddie

The Test series in Sri Lanka has been like a throwback to the old days. Batsmen grinding out runs, slow over-rates, England playing badly. You wake up with a sense of dread at what has happened overnight, and your Christmas stocking is filled with dropped catches and ridiculous run-outs. That's if Santa hasn't got tangled up in the satellite dish on your chimney.

There are always a few rough knights at this time of year, none more than Sir Ian Botham. These days he even makes Bob Willis seem jolly. Once such an exciting player, he has become a dreadful snorein the early hours. Hisheydays of success and excess have become one long, grumpy hangover Beefy is the new turkey.

With their satellites of monopoly twinkling among the stars, Sky put out a shadow commentary team, and the absence of Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain has not helped to lift the spirits. Insight has been lacking, which is curious given how many players crop up in the studio even before their career has ended. With Sanath Jayasuriya, like Botham a thrilling player, it was as if Sky forced him to retire after the First Test so they could grab him.

Tiny, softly spoken, mangling his syntax, he is the Yoda of commentators, in contrast to when he was wielding his light sabre Botham is his Chewbacca. Privy to Sri Lanka's gameplan for beating England, Jayasuriya seemed like an interesting acquisition, but he has failed to inspire.

The home studio has been graced by Mark Ramprakash and Andrew Strauss. The latter was dropped for this tour due to lack of form, while the former was touted as his replacement and is still very much a candidate for a recall. But they have both shied away from trenchant criticism, no doubt hoping to regain favour with the England management.

Under Duncan Fletcher's tenure, consistency of selection was the key to success. That was bad news for the outsiders. Bringing back Ramps, though, really would be the ghost of Christmas past.

Andrew Flintoff was on 'Friday Night With Jonathan Ross', reflecting his status as the one true star that English cricket possesses, beyond Ramprakash's sequined suits on the dancefloor. "I'm not a hell-raiser, I'm just unfortunate I keep getting caught," said Freddie. It could have been the old Botham talking, the man whose big stockings Flintoff finally filled.

Flintoff had to explain to Wossie that the last time England won the Ashes before 2005 was Botham's Ashes in 1981. "Obviously you've done your research then," he taunted. Actually it was 1987, Freddie, but never mind. We don't want you back for your brains.

He is taking the winter off in Lancashire, wrapped up in cotton wool in a bid to recover from his career-threatening ankle injury. At least he has avoided the festivities indulged in by the other denizens of Old Trafford. Or maybe, like Sri Lanka, he didn't get caught.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future