There are two sets of commentators covering the Ashes tests from Australia. In the Green and Gold corner is the Channel Nine team comprising a mix of former Australian players, an Englishman, and one who can't quite work out where he's from and who he supports; Tony Greig. In the Red, White & Blue corner is the UK Sky commentary team featuring some of England's finest players. There's little love lost between them.
After the Adelaide test in December we blogged about thwe scrap between Ian Botham (Sky) and Ian Chappell (Nine). That blew over fairly quickly, but full scale hostilities have broken out this morning. The Sydney Morning Herald sets the scene:
AUSTRALIA'S most fearsome foe, Alastair Cook, last night turned friend for an instant, leaping to the defence of Phillip Hughes after the opener was branded a cheat by former England all-rounder Ian Botham and the British press.
The accusations were launched after Hughes claimed a catch to dismiss Cook that, with the benefit of replays, was shown not to have carried to him at short leg. Botham was furious and promptly unloaded on the 22-year-old Australian opener. ''Terrible. Cheating. How much do you want it to bounce into your hands?'' Botham growled, commentating on Sky Sports. ''He [Hughes] knows he hasn't caught it. There's no appeal. Someone else says something and then he goes up.''
Botham has got this one completely wrong, in our ever-humble opinion. Hughes did not initially appeal. Nor, tellingly, did Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin who, along with Cook himself has the best view of the "catch". It was referred (correctly) to the third umpire (Tony Hill of New Zealand) who ruled (correctly) that it was not a catch.
So on cue, the Channel Nine commentators have ripped in to Botham this morning. In particular, they have wondered out loud why he didn't make the same claims against English batsmen Ian Bell. Bell was given out caught behind yesterday, eventually asked for a review, and the decision was subsequently overturned by onfield umpire Aleem Dar after consultation with Hill. Dar's initial instinct was spot on, and Snicko, which is not available in the review process, showed a definite knick. Botham's silence on Bell has been deafening!
Ian Chappell has not been at the microphone yet today. We are working from home this afternoon, and we'll keep an ear on the action. Chappell is not known for holding back with his views, and the commentary wars might just escalate - watch this space!
In ther meantime, England is still batting on, and the lead over the Aussies is now 243. Despite Tubby Taylor's best efforts to talk the Australians up, only one team can win this match now.