Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the box: Freddie Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen out on the bash in Oz

By Billy Weir

Meanwhile, down in Australia, a shortened version of a popular sport is going from strength to strength. Hang on…

Not tennis, cricket this time as the Aussie version of the Twenty20 cash cow, the Big Bash League, is providing thrills and spills and unwanted Englishman being transported in their droves to the colonies.

Two of the biggest villains are Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen and both were in action this weekend, the former all but retired for five years but with more chance of playing for England again than KP.

Sky are again out there, or rather back in the studio, as they successfully found the man who used to present the conveniently lost Cricket AM, Matt Lloyd, in a cupboard somewhere and have him up early along with former Aussie bowler Jason Gillespie.

"I applaud Andrew Flintoff, you don't want to be sitting in the pub with your mates in 10 years wondering 'what if'," mused Gillespie, while after a less than auspicious campaign, Brisbane Heat were thinking 'what if we hadn't spent all that money on a man who hasn't hit a ball in five years?'

But form is temporary, class more lasting, as Freddie found a bit of form and we got to hear it all as he was on player mic which made for some interesting moments, including a very rude word when he played and missed that had commentators Andrew Gilchrist and Sir Viv Richards giggling like schoolboys.

Freddie didn't give a XXXX, and in fairness it wasn't that four-letter word he used, but he did well, scoring 46 and back in the studio that appears to feature the set of Cheggers Plays Pop with the presenters huddled around a giant stingray, they were delighted.

They were just as happy the day before when KP also donned the mic for Star's derby clash against the Melbourne Renegades, where the things started off with a beer. He who crickets in Australia…

It turns out this was Michael Beer who opened the bowling and an epic game ensued, but the highlight was KP's comments about Freddie.

"I wouldn't mind facing Freddie at the moment, he's bowling backwards, I'd bat without pads and using a toothpick," he said.

These may be options in an attempt to make the game more exciting, but while it's good, roustabout fun, there is a major worry for cricket... where are the big characters to follow in their footsteps? Nope, I'm stumped too.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: A wonderful reception for snooker player Ali Carter at the Masters event at Alexandra Palace as he was given a standing ovation after his fight against cancer recently. It had him on the verge of tears and I wasn’t far behind him, a lovely moment from the fans.

The bad: Another abject display from Manchester United on Sunday made worse on Sky Sports News by having Francis Benali in the studio commenting on the game. You have to wonder how far they had to go down the list of former Southampton players before his name came up.

The ugly: And talking of Sky Sports News, rather different dates for presenters Kate Abdo and Natalie Sawyer on Monday, with the former sent to present the Ballon d’Or awards in Zurich and the latter sent to Coventry. Natalie may have been ignored for the big gig, but she got to spend the evening with Peter Beagrie, while Kate had to settle for a Portuguese show-off and a wee lad dressed like Willy Wonka.

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