Boys of summer light up deep midwinter


I know what you’re thinking. The Christmas break is an unfeasibly long nine weeks away, and there’s not a major sporting event in sight. Those much-maligned TV bosses, whose willingness to drive professional sportsmen ever harder has made them the saviours of many an Oxbridge degree, appear finally to have forsaken their closest ally, the idle student.

What sporting nourishment will sustain us through the dark hours, once all the glamour of library inductions, bike registration and matriculating has gone?
Clearly, there will be football. The reflections of Steve Bruce, that ombudsman for refereeing standards, will punctuate Oxford life as we mark off each Ford Super Sunday.

But what of other sports? What will Sky Sports News do with the ten minutes per hour which cannot be filled by spurious transfer gossip or the analytical might of Gerry Francis?

Usually, a natural move would be to turn to egg-chasing, in the form of the Autumn Internationals. But if it’s excitement you’re after, the evidence of recent top-flight rugby would suggest that you’d be better off eating your own nostrils. The Commonwealth Games, a sort of Johnstone’s Paint Trophy for the Imperial age(but without the paint), will probably be about as relevant as a space-hopper race down Broad Street. Perhaps best instead to look forward to the sporting highlight of the Christmas vacation, the Ashes.

Those of you who only pull out the floppy hat, thermos flask and novelty ‘four’ signs each time the Australians come a-calling won’t be surprised that a spot-fixing scandal has finally hit the sport. After all, we all saw Steve Harmison’s first ball in the 2006-7 Ashes.
Anyway, this summer’s overriding lesson was that bookmakers’ opinions are important, and Australia will probably be slight favourites for the upcoming series, given their home advantage and lack of South African loose cannons.

In addition, those scheming, wily Australians will fancy their chances of getting under the skin of Stuart “rent-an-argument” Broad and his cosmopolitan team-mates.

Cricket is revelling in its new-found bad boy image. While purists might have recoiled at the confrontational side to the final few games against Pakistan, I suspect the rest of us quite enjoyed seeing some handbags to liven up another unimaginably long ODI series.
Never mind scantily-clad dancers and spa tubs as means of making cricket sexier – the tried and tested formula of a few lazy allegations and a whiff of corruption suddenly gave impetus to a series that had been stagnating. Indeed, so dramatic was the subsequent rise in public interest that other sports on the fringes of the national consciousness (snooker, for example) have frantically sought to follow suit.

So if you should look at television schedules this term and despair when confronted with darts, speedway or “Legends” five-a-side, fear not. KP’s getting the hair dye ready, Ricky Ponting has renewed his subscription to Wrigley’s, and Geoffrey Boycott is searching his garden shed for a new axe to grind.

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