Skin flick outstrips the science of confusion

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The Independent Online
AT LAST it can be told. The secret of successful striking, according to Ian Wright, is: "Aim for the goal, and if it you hit it hard enough and well enough, hopefully it will go in the goal." Wright's insight was the most straightforward moment of Peak Performance (ITV), a slow-motion documentary about the skills of four Arsenal players which featured many rippling close-ups of muscular torsos and much pseudo- science, but very little in the way of interesting information.

There was the odd nugget. On heading: "Get the timing wrong," the narrator, Zoe Wanamaker, said, "and the ball, travelling at 30mph, would feel like a brick." This explained a) why players always grimace when they are going up for a header, and b) why Paul Merson's face looks the way it does.

The silky passing skills of Merse puzzled the boffins. "Scientists can't agree," Wanamaker revealed. "Some say that it is a conscious task that he performs particularly efficiently, others that it is something learned, but instinctively performed with minimal brain activity." Make your own minds up.

The makers of this series, Oxford Scientific Films, have shown a keenly developed sense of commercial reality: the stars always have their kit off before the first advertisement break. In this case David Platt lost no time in losing his shirt, in order to demonstrate first that he has great pecs, and second that they wobble when he chests down the ball.

Ian Wright, who has a record of this kind of behaviour, was keen to join in the strip show, so keen that he took off his shirt to demonstrate how he kicks the ball. Desperate to justify such gratuitous semi-nudity, Wanamaker was reduced to observing: "Lean torso muscles keep Wright balanced as his leg swings through like a pendulum." Give over, Zoe. You meant: "Phwoooar."

Arsenal's players put themselves about to rather better effect on The Match Live (ITV), removing Newcastle from the Coca-Cola Cup. David Ginola removed himself from the game having walloped Lee Dixon, and Bruce Rioch and Terry McDermott exchanged frank opinions while sensitive lip-readers all over the country reached for the smelling salts. Meanwhile, Gary Newbon pursued David Ginola down the tunnel. "He was saying," Newbon reported, " 'they just won't let me play football'." Clever man, Ginola: his English is perfect no matter how annoyed he becomes.

Bob Wilson got carried away and went all tabloid with his closing remarks: "Two sensational goals for Ian Wright - we brought you that story. And we brought you the story of Terry Venables."

What absurd triumphalism. What they brought us was a game of football, and a man who had been interviewed on Sky approximately four and a half hours earlier. What they didn't bring us was very much from Kevin Keegan, who said little to Gary Newbon in any language.

Celebrity access was more easily achieved at the final of the World Masters cricket tournament (Sky), which boasted not only a stumpcam but a Mikemike, allowing England's tubby captain, Gatting, to be interviewed in mid-over.

He had a sorry tale to tell. England's veterans managed 163 for seven off their 40 overs, and Desmond Haynes brought up 100 for no wicket in reply with a six over long-on. Um, Mike? "Another good knock for Dessie," Gatting genially observed from the gully. "He's making it look very easy." In the commentary box, the molasses-and-rum tones of Michael Holding concurred: "He's seeing the ball like a breadfruit."

Eventually Mike's men got rid of the veteran opening pair. Gatting himself caught Haynes, observing as he threw the ball up in celebration: "Eight more and we'll be well in there."

It never looked likely to turn out that way, and Carlisle Best and Viv Richards knocked off the final runs with awesome disdain. Indeed, the only threat to their dominance was Richards' intense displeasure whenever he was relieved of the strike. Retirement seems not to agree with the great man, and he was in constant danger of being given out "dislodged bails with ego".

The game was a sad mismatch, with the likes of Haynes, Greenidge, Richards and Joel Garner taking on an England side that contained such "masters" as Ian Gould, Paul Terry, Peter Hartley, Kim Barnett, Jon Childs and Tony Pigott (nine Tests between them).

In an attempt to even things up, captain Garner had selected Sylvester Clarke, who these days has an embonpoint to match that of his namesake Kenneth. But Sylvester wrecked the plan by wrecking Graham Gooch's stumps in the fourth over of the England innings: he may be fat, but he's still fast.

The Mikemike worked well enough in a beer match like this, but let us hope that Sky don't get carried away and try to apply the same principle to real sport. If Rioch and McDermott had been miked up on Wednesday night, David Ginola would not be the only one contemplating some time off.

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