Broadcaster Terry Wogan once said ‘Radio has a way of getting into people’s heads’. There is no better example as BBC’s Test Match Special; which has been broadcasting the highs and lows of the England cricket team for over 65 years. The chatter and banter heard by a nation often surpassed the cricket being played on the pitch. It became a cult following. Some at home, turning down the TV coverage, while upping the volume on BBC’s Radio 5’s TMS. This post explores the personalities, past and present, that make up the Cricket Broadcasters for Test Match Special (Live).
Cricket Broadcasting Personalities
The current crop of Test Match Special cricket broadcasters, former England cricketer’s Jonathan Agnew and Phil Tufnell are taking the spirit of the commentary box on tour visiting a number of theatres in a live show. Agnew first joined the team in 1991 as a junior learning his trade from the likes of Brian Johnson, Henry Blofeld, Bill Frindall and Christopher Martin-Jenkins who he succeeded as BBC Cricket Correspondent in the same year.
He speaks fondly of all these cricket broadcasting characters as well as those before him such as John Arlott, Fred Trueman, with stories a plenty. Including, summariser Geoff Boycott whose had serious heart surgery. But Jonathan assured his audience ‘after much searching the surgeons found it.’ Going on to describe the famous wind up of Boycott in the commentary box, but also emphasised his liking of the man. An opinion some cricketer’s who played with Boycott may challenge.
Stand-up with Cricket Broadcaster Phil Tufnell
The show moved at good pace, discussing seriously the current issues in English cricket alongside the humorous. Rehearsed anecdotes easily tripping off the tongue with a large screen displaying photos and clips at the appropriate time. Spin bowler, Tufnell with an England batting average of 4.5, jumps up to show us his batting technique against an aggressive Australian bowler Merv Hughes. A physical routine which would have gone down well in the Music Hall’s.
Afternoon cake, anyone?
The arrival of Brian Johnson in 1972, after being dropped from TV commentary helped put BBC TMS firmly on the map. Many believe he was better suited to the radio, gaining national prominence not only for his broadcasting but public-school antics.
During one match complaining on air, he had missed his cake at tea time. After that, was inundated with cakes from listeners. Agnew revealed Brian kept all the chocolate ones. Leaving us the sponges and lemon drizzle. The tradition is kept alive today receiving a beautiful cake from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and another from Her Majesty the Queen.
Cricket Broadcaster Agnew’s ‘leg-over’
On one occasion, after reading out the England scorecard alongside Agnew. Johnson stormed out of the commentary box believing he’d been unprofessional. However, when he later heard it back, realised the opposite. The ‘leg over’ clip is still played today. As Jonathan pointed out ‘some 33 years later.’ Which he believed Johnson would enjoy. Peter Baxter (TMS Producer) and Henry Blofeld in their TMS touring show ‘Rogues on the Road’ recalled the incident in more detail.
Cricket Broadcasters as Guest Speakers
Comicus Ltd supplies a number of cricket broadcasters as guest speakers for after dinner engagements including: David Gower, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Geoff Miller, Allan Lamb, Alastair Cook, Alex Stewart, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Agnew and Phil Tufnell.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.