Sky Sports has been forced to issue an embarrassing apology after former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss was overheard calling controversial former teammate Kevin Pietersen 'an absolute c***' during a live TV commentary.
Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) July 5, 2014
The cringe-worthy slip-up occurred during a break in play in a match that Pietersen, 34, is playing between the MCC and a Rest Of The World XI to celebrate the Lord's bicententary. Although the remarks weren't heard in the UK, they were streamed to Sky's broadcast partners overseas, including Fox Sports in Australia. Strauss has been a regular in the Sky commentary box since his retirement in 2012.
The comments, which likely relate to a bitter public falling out between the two former stars in 2012, brought an immediate call from staunch Pietersen supporter Piers Morgan for Strauss to be sacked.
If KP called Strauss a 'c**t' on air, cricket media would destroy him. But they're all 'feeling sorry' for 'poor Straussy'. #Hypocrites
Grovelling apology to KP on air from Andrew Zzzzzzztrauss just now. But the snooty halo's gone forever now, sunshine.
Personally, I'd fire Andrew Zzzzzztrauss for offences against the tedious commentary act, let alone calling @KP24 a "c**t"live on air.
Following a Sky mea culpa, a red-faced Strauss, 37, was then wheeled out to issue a grovelling personal apology for his language.
"I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen," Strauss said. "I am mortified and profusely sorry." Co-commentator, Michael Atherton, himself a former England captain, then added: "I think that's covered it; let's move on."
Pietersen was finally sacked by the England team earlier this year after a series of destabilising controversies that also claimed the scalp of coach Peter Moores, who has since been rehired.
One of the final straws for team management was revelations that Pietersen sent a series of highly critical text messages to South African players about then-captain Strauss in 2012.
The texts, which were brushed off by South African players as "banter", brought a terse response from Strauss, in words that could come back to haunt him following his commentary controversy. Strauss said he was a "big believer in not airing dirty laundry in public" and that he had "always got on very well" with Pietersen". Adding: I’ve tried to be honest with him, and he’s been honest with me. That’s why this has all been a bit of a surprise".
Pietersen, a regular on Twitter with over 1.8m followers, is yet to respond to Strauss' comments.
India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar right, waves with Strauss, left, from the Royal Box on centre court at Wimbledon last week