For the last six weeks we’ve been scrutinising the form of the English and Australian players. In newspapers and blogs, no stone has been left unturned as we endlessly analyse how the two sides have shaped up. But what about the performance of an equally important squad of participants – the ex -players and pundits who keep us company through those lonely small hours of the night. We thought it high time we considered how the commentators are shaping up in this, the most crucial series of all.
David Gower 7/10 Solid and dependable as always, and his hair colour seems to be finally settling down after last summer’s flirtation with mauve. Characteristically, tends to use a number of words, or you could say units of language, which is not unadjacent to several, and perhaps takes a route around the houses which is circular in shape, rather than just getting to the bloody point. Can also appear a little less than awe-inspired when the big moments occur. While commentating on Peter Siddle’s Gabba hat-trick, he sounded, as Wisden’s Ed Craig put it, as if he was picking up his dry-cleaning. Admittedly, he staged a recovery of kinds when calling the final wicket at Melbourne: “Australia are beaten…well beaten…beaten into the earth!!”
Mike Atherton 10/10 How flabby would Sky be without him? With every series, Athers reinforces his credentials as the definitive cricket commentator of our times. Authoritative, elegant, concise, and illuminating. And bear in mind he wasn’t a bad player in his day either – how unfair of Atherton to be very talented at two completely different things.
Sir Ian Botham 2/10 As Alan Tyers observed in the Telegraph, if Andrew Strauss placed a fielder everywhere Sir Ian wanted one, England would require 47 players. When expostulating his wisdom, it’s interesting how rarely he refers to his own captaincy record (played 12, won 0). Gingoistic, and forever grumbling at his incomprehension at what’s going on out there, Botham has become the new Fred Trueman.
Mikey Holding 5/10 While still offering the occasional nugget of genuine insight, ‘Whispering Death’ still retains his fatal flaw of stating the bleeding obvious. “That one will go all the way. No chance of stopping that one. That will be four. Another boundary.” And so on…
Shane Warne 9/10 Uniquely perceptive, concise, magnanimous to England, and downright funny. A memorable bon mot concerned the notion of Justin Langer driving the Australian team coach. Warney chipped in to say JL would need a telephone book to sit on, so he could see out of the windscreen. Our only complaint is that, due to his Channel 9 commitments, Warne is not on air with Sky nearly enough.
David Lloyd 7/7 Usually seen as the joker in Sky’s pack, it’s easy to overlook Bumble’s genuine insight into the mechanics of the game, and the dynamics of a match situation. Is the only front-line commentator with experience of international coaching – and, uniquely, umpiring.
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Jonathan Agnew 10/10 Enough said. Brilliant as always. One of the most naturally gifted communicators on radio anywhere, Aggers combines warmth and wit with a mellow authority, plus proper journalistic sensibilities.
Simon Hughes 6/10 Interesting one this, especially as he’s been given the mantle of commentator, not summariser – responsible for ‘calling’ the action. So far Hughes has not sounded quite at home in the job, and still operates in TV mode – clipped, dry and staccato, rather than using words to paint pictures. Neither is he yet fully attuned to the nuances and ambience of TMS. He is a very intelligent and astute broadcaster, however, and will probably acclimatise to the role – if given time. At any rate, he’s better than Henry Blofeld.
Michael Vaughan 9/10 Watch out Athers – there’s another ex-England captain coming up on the rails behind you! Vaughan is a born commentator – wry, elegant, articulate, and able to speak from significant personal experience. How long can TMS keep hold of him before Sky Sports get out their chequebook?
Jim Maxwell 5/10 One Ashes series too many for the Ocker stalwart? His gravitas is undeniable, but Maxwell seems to have lost his joie de vivre. In fact, to be frank, he’s been as dull as billabong water. Still, after his condescension towards us over the last five series down under, it’s gratifying to hear him reiterate his new catchphrase: “Australia are under the pump”.