August 25, 2009

Ashes 2009

A tricky Twitter triangle

Will Luke

Jonathan Agnew is not yet a national institution of the same level as his old friend, Brian Johnston, but he’s certainly making steady progress and remains one of the most recognisable voices on British radio. As Test Match Special’s frontman, he (doubtless helped by the tireless Shilpa Patel) manages to secure some high-profile guests for the lunch and tea intervals, and last week managed to invite Lily Allen to be interviewed on the Saturday of the final Ashes Test.

The interview, though, has sparked fierce debate on Twitter - which both Agnew and Allen both use fervently – after it was suggested by the Observer Sports Monthly’s Will Buckley that Agnew had “positioned himself firmly on the pervy side of things”.

Buckley’s innuendo-laden piece was more tongue-in-cheek than an all-out attack on Aggers, but Agnew used his new-found love of Twitter to vent his anger, whipping up his herd into a meringue of support.

“I gave Will Buckley 24 hrs to aplogise for calling me a pervert, and he has declined. If you feel moved by this....[sic]” tapped @aggerscricket. “His boss is brian.oliver@observer.co.uk... well, as you can imagine, I have taken being called a pervert quite badly. Don't want him sacked...just an apology.” The tweets were chirping from Agnew’s phone with fervent vengeance.

Supporting her new friend, Allen has waded in. “I rerally think this Will Buckley guy should apologise to @aggerscricket, he was nothing but kind and gentlemanly to me during our interview [sic],” she vented. “i dont know 1 person that agrees with The Observer on this one. Maybe this is Buckleys attempt at creating a name for himself as the demise.”

At the time of writing, Agnew has 21,473 followers – some way short of Lily’s 1.2m – and his objection to Buckley prompted a regular stream of support from tweeters, at a rate of nearly one per minute. Not enough to prompt a retraction or apology from Buckley, but by 3.15pm Agnew neared to a result. “Apparently a statement from Buckley will be appearing soon in the comments under his ‘article’,” he said, wrapping the final word in angry, accusatory quotation marks.

Buckley's piece raises a grimace more than a smile, and Agnew has just cause for his anger. But the manner of his venting via Twitter is a sign of the times. John Prescott, the former deputy Prime Minister, is an unlikely regularly user himself, a comical happening in itself considering his famous bastardisation of the English language. Prescott today "tortured" the Conservative leader David Cameron on Twitter, slamming him for keeping Lord McColl, the shadow health minister, on the front bench, despite his chairing of a private healthcare company.

And as for the pervert accusation? Baseless and cruel, especially if Shane Warne can be laughed along with during his free-spirited requests on Sky - “Wave, Lily! Wave!” he roared. And she did, too.

Twitter has caused a chirping riot all summer. Philip Hughes, or rather his manager, announced he was not playing the Edgbaston Test under his account, @PH408. He has been silent ever since. Graeme Swann has been the king of cricket tweeting all summer, though. “wow. never felt quite so phenomenaly brilliant as i do tonight!!!” he wrote after England’s Ashes win.

An entertaining interviewee, as candid and honest as Dominic Cork yet he preserves his humility while still remaining witty. “our scoop today is a mild one, ali cook couldn't do a puzzle that said ages four to six on the box!” he tweeted of Alastair Cook’s dodgy technique. Puzzle technique, of course.

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Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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