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The Wisden Cricketer - February 2007

Keeping the Ashes burning

The Ashes memories just keep on coming as two more DVDs arrive for your viewing pleasure

Edward Craig

January 28, 2007

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Another Christmas, another Ashes series and yet another Phil Tufnell DVD. Here, Phil, with an old twist to an old theme, trades on his loveable rogue image to string together another series of cricket clips, linked with toe-curling one-liners and limp explanation from the ex-king of the jungle.

This seems little different to Tufnell's efforts last year, except he wanders round quirky locations at Lord's and The Oval as opposed to quirky locations at Arundel and the Rose Bowl (increase in budgets, no doubt) introducing clips of Ashes Geezers (Botham), Gaffes (England in 1989) and Greats (Keith Miller).

In theory, this could make for an interesting retrospective, and some of the clips are magnificent - Harold Larwood's bowling action, Gooch batting at The Oval in 1985 - but you could watch this footage through goggles filled with ink and still enjoy them. Cutting them together with an irritating soundtrack and an irritating script only diminishes their value.

That said, Tufnell is one of the better things about the DVD. You know what he's going to do, how he's going to do it, you can see the jokes coming and, although it can be painful, he does it pretty well - he's natural and energetic but needs a better writer. Throw in some horrendous editing and an awful "chat" with TMS commentator Henry Blofeld (he's on radio for a reason), you'll do well to reach the end.

Simon Lister reviews Botham and Border's Ashes Clashes Sunset and Vine £19.99

This is not an easy time for English people to view an Ashes DVD. The past seems very similar to the present. Australian victories, like a Steve Harmison over, just go on and on.

Our famous guides, Ian Botham and Allan Border, do their best, but Shakespearean narrators they ain't. In between Tests they face each other across the table and dissect. "And Australia went on their merry way," says AB several times. Beefy nods and scratches the side of his nose in preparation for remembering another ad-lib.

But what they describe is magnificent - lots and lots of great cricket. They begin on Illingworth's 70-71 tour and the clips just keep rolling. John Snow getting menaced by the world's oldest hooligan. Lillee and Thomson; Tony Greig hitting, then signalling, a four. Colin Cowdrey, aged 42, with no need for a chest protector, getting one on the elbow.

There are little moments of beauty too. Those Gower cover drives. How could a man stand so still when the ball was about to be delivered? And on disc two, enjoy the wicketkeeping of Ian Healy below, the best Australia has had. Speaking of brilliant Australians, there's nothing like a Benaud bon mot. Bill Lawry, on the other hand, with 30 years in the comm box on his CV, may never know whether a swipe to the boundary will become a four or a six.

If you're English, the fast forward button may be useful on disc two. A decade-and-a-half of Australian skill and English ineptitude. If only we'd known in 1989, when disc one shows Kim Barnett getting slogged to all parts by Merv Hughes, that - 2005 excepted - Australia would just keep going on their merry way.

Dan Roesler reviews Amazing Adelaide Cricket Australia

This is Australian sporting nirvana. Amazing Adelaide records the critical second Test of the 2006-07 Ashes at the Adelaide Oval, in which the hosts were 15-1 to win on the final morning... and went on to win. Each of the five days' play, plus the post-match celebrations, have been put into one 115-minute highlight reel. The DVD, hosted by Michael Slater and Richie Benaud, is a compilation taken from Channel 9's excellent coverage over the Australian summer.

Features are few; there is no 5.1 stereo available for proper effect. There is only the one menu to navigate, though, and the image is represented well on any HD television or projector. A great gift and not to mention lesson. England should be sat down and made to watch the highlights again and again to learn just why it's important to play the full five days out - and play them with total concentration.

The first two articles were first published in the February issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
Click here for further details.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer

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