Grid locked into Cyril's electric decisions

Sport on TV
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The Independent Online
THE CHIEF purpose of sports sponsorship deals is to identify the image of the product with the performance of the sponsored team or individual. So it was appropriate, in a week when thousands of homes were deprived of electricity for days on end, to see the South African umpire Cyril Mitchley bearing the logo "National Grid". It's nice to see one national joke sponsoring another.

Another purpose of sports sponsorship is to get fans to buy more of your product. It is difficult to see how the National Grid hope to achieve this. Do they expect cricket lovers to respond to particularly impressive adjudications by consuming more electricity? "What a magnificent no-ball call by umpire Bucknor! I feel like blow-drying my hair, or pushing some carrots through the Moulinex. What the hell, why don't I do both?"

Perhaps the National Grid has discovered that many cricket fans react to the fall of a wicket by switching on the kettle for a cup of tea, and are hoping that their support will encourage the umpires to raise the finger more often. That would certainly help to explain one or two of umpire Mitchley's decisions last week.

Someone should certainly have a word with Cyril about his method of signalling four runs, which seems to indicate a spell earlier in his career spent in the Wehrmacht: perhaps he has confused the National Grid with National Socialism. Whatever the reason, it's not a pretty sight.

A black mark, too, to the director of Sky's coverage of the Test match at Port Elizabeth, for over-frequent ogling of bikini-clad spectators. More Byewatch, please, less Baywatch.

After all, we don't need gratuitous sex in our cricket coverage. We got more than we needed in the Christmas special edition of They Think It's All Over . . . (BBC1), a more-than-usually smutty serving of the quiz best described as A Question of Sport without the trousers.

Gary Lineker's team had won the first series, but in a shocking development the host, Nick Hancock, revealed that Lineker and Rory McGrath had cheated by making tiny holes in the blindfolds they wore for the Feel The Guest round.

Really, Gary is going to have to go easy with this new Mr Nasty image. Stealing crisps, cheating on television . . . whatever next? Breaking and entering? Extortion? Becoming the chairman of a privatised utility?

Gary's misdemeanour was punished by the They Think It's All Over disciplinary committee, who handed the series instead to David Gower. Finishing a series as the winning captain was a novel experience for David, and he looked suitably perplexed.

All this skulduggery had a distressing effect on the normally urbane Hancock, who got himself into a terrible mess trying to pronounce the straightforward phrase "winning the Wimbledon women's title". "Wimming the Wim . . . wimming the Wim," he took a deep breath, "wimming the Wim, oh hell . . .". What was supposed to be a witty aside was quickly turning into an entire episode of Hancock's Half Hour.

Undeterred, he ploughed on with a gag about Nigel Benn who, he said, "had achieved every sports pan's dream" no, that's not right, try again, "every sports fan's dream", great, keep going Nick, "by hitting Nigel Benn - no, not Nigel Benn, oh." Hancock's head was in his arms, and he was wishing that it was all over.

In order to prevent any repetition of Lineker's wickedness when the time came to Feel The Guest, he and McGrath had their blindfolds confiscated and replaced with motorcycle helmets with taped-up visors.

On reflection no doubt they were grateful for the switch, for their task was to grope Gareth "Coochie" Chilcott, late stalwart of the Bath and England rugby teams. In case Coochie should be too easy to identify (bald as a coot, big moustache, body like an armoured personnel carrier), he had been kitted out with false breasts, a tall, electric-blue wig and a colossal fluffy evening gown. "There is nothing like a dame", the song goes, and Coochie certainly wasn't. "What do you think we've got?" McGrath inquired as they felt around. Lineker was perplexed. "A sheep?" he suggested. Not one you'd fancy shearing.

Allan Lamb was the programme's chief smut provider, revealing a preoccupation with Paula Yates's new chest, and there was a clip of a streaker at a crown green bowling event which merited inclusion on rarity value alone. However, the most distasteful item on the programme was a duet, recorded in 1975, sung by Jimmy Hill and the late Graham Hill.

Wearing a repulsive blue pullover, Jimmy crooned: "All the girls love me, they think I'm attractive, because I'm very active", thus proving that although Terry Venables may not be the only former nightclub artist with ambitions to run English football, he is the only one who can sing.

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