Legendary cricket commentators Sir Ian Botham and David Gower chinked their wine glasses to toast ‘an extraordinary 20 years’ as they broadcast their final match at the Oval this afternoon.
While England were celebrating their Ashes test victory, the duo, both themselves former players, reflected on their time leading Sky Sports’ coverage.
Both men have been staples of the cricketing world since their debuts in the 1970s, but were – in their own words – ‘being retired’ after the TV network did not renew their contracts.
Speaking after Australia were bowled out, Gower, 62, said: ‘It’s been extraordinary. What a year it’s been, what a twenty years – dare I say it – it’s been as well.’
Sir Ian Botham (left) and David Gower celebrate with wine in the commentary box
Botham’s open floral shirt contrasted with the white collar and tie sported by Gower, who suggested that his colleague was more relaxed than usual.
The ex-England captain said: ‘There’s an air warm glow, and air of farewell. You can tell that the various different dress codes have changed a little bit over the course of five days.
‘We must have got different memos this morning, but at least we can say to each other ‘cheers’.’
He then laughed when Sir Ian put down his microphone and said: ‘Anyway, I’m off!’.
The 63-year-old all rounder, known by his nickname Beefy, will continue to play an active role in the sport through his chairmanship of Durham Cricket Club, while also running his Botham Wine range.
After the news broke of his forced retirement from Sky, he told the Mirror: ‘It has been great fun and I can’t thank Sky enough for keeping me close to the game I love.
‘I’ll still be watching when I can and I’ll pop up at the odd game, especially in Australia where my wine business takes me.’
‘You’re off to the city, I’m off to the river’: Botham jokes with colleague Gower
The life and crimes of Ian Botham
Although on the cricket pitch he was a deadly bowler, the 63-year-old all-rounder is one of the larger-than-life characters to have ever played the game.
1977 – As a youth player, Botham flew into a rage when he heard ex-Australia captain Ian Chappell mocking England at the bar.
The Englishman clattered his fist into Chappell, sending the Australian flying over a table before chasing him outside.
1984: The cricketer also sparked a near diplomatic war with Pakistan, after describing the country as ‘Botham once described Pakistan as ‘the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month’.
The Asian nation’s authorities were reportedly furious at the remarks.
1986 – Botham was banned from playing for two months after revealing he had taken cannabis two years earlier.
He had previously denied all knowledge of the initial speculation.
1987: He was charged with assault after allegedly shoving a passenger on a flight to Perth during a row.
It has not yet been confirmed who will replace Botham and Gower, but current Sky broadcasters Rob Key and Ian Ward have been touted as front-runners in the race to succeed the veteran duo.
The network’s Isa Guha was rumoured to be offered a bigger role in Sky’s coverage, but has now been poached by the BBC, according to the Sunday Times.
Sky celebrated Gower and Botham’s contributions with a montage of their finest moments; driving speedboats, playing polo and producing comedy gold in the commentary box.
Their voices became synonymous with the sport and the latest unforgettable summer of action.
Gower signed off the broadcast by announcing: ‘He’ll be selling wine, I’ll be outside the Garret with The Big Issue by the end of the night. That’s goodnight.’
But his final Ashes test in the commentary box was not plain sailing, as the broadcaster accidentally swore with his microphone on.
On Saturday while recording live, he muttered: ‘I haven’t got a f****** clue.’
Addressing his retirement, the fourth highest English Test run scorer of all time said: ‘I’ve had a brilliant time with Sky. I’m sorry to be going.
‘I didn’t have the right mentality for coaching and I like talking, I like language. The broadcasting felt right.
England captain David Gower lifts the Ashes urn in 1981 in front of team-mate Ian Botham
The life and crimes of David Gower
‘And I think there’s a lot left in the tank. I want to stay in broadcasting because I think I’m quite good at it and I love it.’
Piers Morgan also paid tribute to the pair, tweeting: ‘Amid the joy of a great summer of England cricket, a moment of real sadness. The final seconds of commentary from two absolute legends of the game. Thanks @BeefyBotham @David215Gower – you guys have been fantastic.’
Befitting their status as iconic former players, Sir Ian is known to be the highest earner on the Sky team with a salary believed to be in excess of £500,000, while Gower is also one of the better rewarded.
The gradual renewing of the broadcaster’s roster is expected to see not just the continued presence of more female voices, but the further elevation of Ian Ward, while Rob Key is another whose star is rising.
English pace bowler Stuart Broad is expected to enjoy a swift transition from the dressing room to the commentary box, although given his form this summer that day may be further away than seemed the case a year ago.