SWANNY’S WORLD OF SPORT: Thank goodness the tedious sledging will soon be over

Sledging legend Ajaz Akhtar.
Sledging legend Ajaz Akhtar.
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How relieved I was when David Haye slipped over and hurt his arm.

We will all now be spared the pre-fight verbal garbage before his forthcoming bout with Tony Bellew.

Nathan Lyon should be targeted by England.

Nathan Lyon should be targeted by England.

In my experience the worse the standard of the fight, the more desperate and ferocious the insults and the threats are beforehand, and Haye/Bellew certainly fitted that description first time around. Sadly we are witnessing something similar with an Ashes series that starts in the early hours of tomorrow morning (November 23).

Two pretty ropey sides will square off for two months before Australia regain the Ashes before losing them again when they next come over here.

And, possibly to deflect from an inevitably low quality contest, the build-up has been nauseatingly cringeworthy, led naturally by Australian players, none of whom would go well on University Challenge, or even Tipping Point.

I don’t mind a bit of sledging before, during and after cricket, but only if it’s witty or intelligent. Fielding in cricket can be tedious so amusing oneself by engaging in banter with mates and opponents is understandable.

David Haye spouts pre-fight garbage.

David Haye spouts pre-fight garbage.

I was lucky enough to play a lot of cricket with Ajaz Akhtar, a top-class player and a mighty winder-up of opponents. Pulling a fiver out of his pocket and asking David Willey to play for Peterborough when he was rumoured to be getting paid to play in Rutland League cricket for Rushton was a touch of genius. I think Willey found it funny.

Now sledging from local players occasionally involves the ‘c’ (not cricket) word. Swearing or personal abuse is not uncommon at Test level either and it’s not pretty, or even effective.

Australia’s innocuous off spinner Nathan Lyon was at it before the latest Ashes series effectively claiming certain England’s players were cowards the last time they toured Down Under. A laughable claim when that particular England side were guilty mainly of being useless and badly led.

As for pugnacious Aussie opener David Warner’s boast that Ben Stokes has let his country down, a more blatant case of a man lacking self awareness would be hard to find outside of the Peterborough City Council chamber.

David Willey was sledged beautifully by Ajaz Akhtar.

David Willey was sledged beautifully by Ajaz Akhtar.

Warner was right about Stokes, but as the man who once tried to punch little Joe Root in a bar it wasn’t really his place to say.

For the most part England’s main men have kept a pretty low profile which is a sensible tactic when a three-Test hammering (at best) is likely to be coming their way.

Actually it must be hard to sledge an Australian cricketer. Subtle digs won’t work because the likes of Steve Smith wouldn’t understand them.

The only way to keep them quiet is to get their batsmen out quickly and to flay their bowlers to the boundary. They should start by targeting Lyon. In a four-man bowling attack the slow bowler will be required to keep things tight. England should hammer Lyon and try and get him to retire.