Sky Sports cricket pundit Bob Willis shows former pros in the media how to ask the difficult question

in Daily Telegraph

The television highlight of the last few days was Bob Willis coming in off the long run about England’s (alleged) (mainly by Bob) ball-tampering.

Normally confined to the controlled environment of the post-play review show, Bob had got loose from his usual handler Charles Colvile and was running amok in the live coverage. In the parlance of the modern England cricketer, he put his hand up, took his opportunity and executed his skill sets.

The early signs that Bob might be in good rhythm came with a withering assessment of David Warner’s unlovely taste in post-match refreshment. “I have never had a Jägerbomb,” said Bob, in much the same disgusted tone as he might say: “I have never dressed up as Marie Antoinette for erotic gratification.” In an attempt to explain the punchy Sydney southpaw’s choice of beverage, he added: “Maybe Australian beer is even worse than it used to be.” A strong start, but much like Warner after 23 lagers, Bob was just warming to his work.

Rain during South Africa versus West Indies gave Bob time to go through the gears, to the visible concern of Ian Ward, who wore the expression of a man who knows he has a tiger by the tail. A measured discussion of England’s apparent mastery of the dark arts of reverse swing between Ward and Paul Allott was commandeered by Bob, who by now had that look in his eye he once reserved for opening batsmen and record dealers trying to overcharge for a rare import copy of Empire Burlesque.

“What a load of waffle that was,” said Bob to his respected colleagues. “Let’s not beat about the bush: Aleem Dar’s on England’s case. He knows one individual is scratching the ball for England – whom I am not going to name, by the way – and that’s why the ball was changed.” Interestingly, it wasn’t just the players getting some chin music.

According to Bob, umpires are afraid to grasp the tampering nettle, preferring to deflect the issue by changing the ball under the non-incendiary precept that it has gone out of shape. Says Bob: “They take out the wrong-sized ring so the ball won’t go through it because they don’t want to get involved in controversy.”

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