It took a while to find a way to drown out the drivel emanating from surely the worst ever TV broadcast of an opening day of an Ashes series but it was possible.
It was just a matter of syncing the BBC radio commentary with the BT Sport pictures.
This preventative measure was necessary, as those who had forked out £25 a month to watch the Ashes quickly discovered. As if things were not grim enough when Rory Burns was bowled by a leg-stump half-volley, we were still being treated to Shane Warne’s unremitting mirth on the subject three overs later.
England fans watching the disastrous day one of the first Ashes Test against Australia also had to endure the gleeful taunts of Australian commentary as they watched on from home
England opener Rory Burns was bowled by Mitchell Starc with the very first ball of the day
Shane Warne was overjoyed as his Australia side turned the screw over England
‘You’re on your way. See you later. Where’s he going?’ was Warne’s initial ‘insight’. He was still merrymaking on the subject in the moments before England lost their second wicket.
‘Can you believe that? First rock! Lost his leg stump!’ The participants in Warney’s school of mirth were ‘Gilly’ and ‘Junior’ — Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh to the uninitiated, though the absence of any captioning to say so pretty much summed up eight slack hours of unremitting Aussie banter, minimal technical insight and a score displayed in the Australian format of wickets fallen before runs scored.
Also in the commentary team was the execrable Kerry ‘Skull’ O’Keeffe, though the bantz didn’t quite descend to the chat from him which caused Warne such hilarity in a Fox studio a year ago. It began: ‘I noticed this woman sitting in my lounge room…’ Enough said.
From an English perspective, there were occasional moments of gratuitous satisfaction. Warne being cut off in full flow, as he was about to give voice to the pleasure of seeing Ollie Pope wincing when hit.
‘I love the facial of Ollie Pope. He wanted to show…’ And then a gambling ad appeared.
But this was meagre compensation, in a broadcast which revealed the impoverishment of BT Sport’s approach to the Ashes which they get to screen having bought the rights from host broadcaster Fox Sports.
BT have sent no commentators to Australia, so the only release from the Australian barrage was Isa Guha, who wasn’t granted a place among the banter-merchants until half an hour before lunch. ‘I’m feeling outnumbered,’ she said, diplomatically.
The introduction of Isa Guha on commentary before lunch was a very welcome change
Michael Vaughan, who has been cancelled out of all this, would certainly have given a bit back to Warney, Junior and Co, though BT Sport did have some hitters back in their London studio, had they chosen to deploy them.
Steve Harmison was as compelling as he has proven to be in talkSPORT’s excellent cricket broadcast team. Sir Alastair Cook offered granular insight into the intense journey down the hill to the Gabba on the England team bus on match morning.
But there was no thought to make them — or those like Moeen Ali, Matt Prior, Mark Butcher and Heather Knight, who were being promoted by BT Sport’s PR agency on Monday — an integral part of the commentary.
The voiceovers from London during play were fleeting and, even during the lunch interval, the programme director prioritised replaying the horrors that had unfolded. It was 20 minutes into that interval before Harmison and Cook got much of a word in.
Presenter Matt Smith had his own struggle to be heard. A technical fault at the top of the programme meant his introduction was drowned out by a prolonged beep. And then there was the camera fault which meant that Joe Root’s interview before the toss could only be captured by a camera embedded in a stump.
The need to switch to the BBC’s TMS feed — which with the BBC Sounds pause button takes five minutes to sync — eventually became overwhelming. A world of nuance and thought resided there, in the form of Ian Chappell, Steve Finn and Simon Mann.
Former England captain Alastair Cook was based in BT Sport’s studio offering analysis
A technical fault meant that viewers could only watch the toss though a stump camera
But it will be a very long winter without Sky Sports, the standard-bearers of excellence who have brought new depths of meaning to cricket with a multitude of gadgets, data sets and graphics, not to mention two of the outstanding sports broadcasters of our time, Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton.
Instead, we can expect more of the same from grinning Glenn McGrath, who clutched a BT Sport microphone and declared, with the wisdom of Solomon, on the subject of Rory Burns’ dismissal: ‘To pick up a wicket straight away is perfect.’
And Brett Lee, who popped up just before lunch. ‘I’m all over the Poms,’ he declared. And then left.