Sledging not everyone's cup of tea despite some memorable one-liners

SLEDGING has little to do with the wintry weather as far as the battle for the Ashes is concerned.

It is, as former Australian captain Steve Waugh once said, about the 'mental disintegration' of an opponent.

Some, like Yorkshire's Geoffrey Boycott, feel it should have no part in the game but the former England opener appears in a minority in that view.

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Humour is the key to the best barbs on the cricket pitch so, perhaps England's Kevin Pietersen should have taken some more of Waugh's advice when he mystifyingly asked Australia's Mitchell Johnson for his phone number after being dismissed by the match-winning Aussie during the third Test in Perth.

"If you're no good at it, just keep your mouth shut," was Waugh's succinct advice to Stuart MacGill during one Ashes encounter.

The origins of sledging are disputed but some claim it all began in the Sixties when a New South Wales player, whose wife had allegedly been having an affair with a team-mate, came out to bat and was greeted by the opposition singing Percy Sledge's hit 'When a Man Loves a Woman.' But if you give it, you have to be able to take the riposte, too, as highlighted throughout Gershon Portnoi's Why are you so fat? – the talkSport book of cricket's best ever sledges (Pocket Books Sport, 9.99).

Pietersen should have had a copy placed in his Christmas stocking if he ever wants to get in the top 10, which appear at the back of the book.

The No 1 concerns the title of the publication and was asked by Australia's Glenn McGrath of Zimbabwe's portly Eddo Brandes. The well-honed reply was: "Because every time I make love to your wife she gives me a biscuit!"

The favourite sledge of Yorkshire's Darren Gough, apparently, concerns two of the greatest Ashes characters to have ever played, Rodney Marsh and Ian Botham.

Australian wicketkeeper Marsh "So how's your wife and my kids?"

Botham: "The wife's fine but the kids are retarded."

Mark Waugh, on seeing England's James Ormond come out to bat, posed the question: "Mate, what are you doing out here, there's no way you're good enough to play for England."

"Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my family" was Ormond's response.

Among several amusing anecdotes surrounding Yorkshire all-time great Fred Trueman there is one about him touring the outback with England and being told by a a particularly confident and swaggering opponent that it "takes three days to drive a car round my farm."

Trueman's dry response was: "Aye, I used to have a car like that."

Finally, with expletives deleted, archetypal Aussie Merv Hughes was silenced after telling an out-of-touch Robin Smith: "You can't *&$**!* bat!"

The next ball went for four and Smith replied: "Hey Merv! We make a fine pair. I can't *&$**!* bat and you can't *&$**!* ball!"

This book of unique cricket banter could well be a must for English cricket fans, not that spirits need uplifting after having retained a grip on the urn this winter.