It is the live commentary team that makes it such compulsive listening, the team of raconteurs from BBC Radio’s Test Match Special comprises some of the funniest men on radio, true national treasures – and now they are on tour. Ralph Dellor hosted the show, with TMS commentators and cricketing legends joining him. The line-up is not the same for every show, but apparently Jonathan Agnew and Mike Gatting are regulars.
Dellor came on stage first and warmed us up with tales from his own experiences as a journalist, commentator and coach. Next he introduced Jonathan “Aggers” Agnew, former fast bowler for Leicestershire and England and the BBC’s main cricketing correspondent. His “leg over” commentary about Ian Botham, which caused the late Brian Johnston to break down in tears of laughter on air, was voted “The greatest piece of sporting commentary ever” in a BBC poll. They played it again on the show last night – it was still as funny.
The second guest was Mike Gatting, former England captain, prolific batsman and the man unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of Shane Warne’s “ball of the century” in the 1993 ashes series. Perhaps even more unfortunately, he was also the man who faced fast bowler Malcolm Marshall in a game against the West Indies in 1984. The ball, travelling at around 90mph, shattered Gatting’s nose – shards of bone were embedded in the leather.
Last but not least they were joined by Neil Foster, former fast bowler for England and Essex and now a qualified physiotherapist, an interest he developed during a career plagued by injury. Foster had some great stories to tell, particularly about his reluctance to bat. Foster told us that he had not been happy with his batting technique so he asked his then captain Ian Botham for advice. Botham watched him bat for a while, then said that he had spotted the problem, there was “some crap on the end of the bat”, when Foster checked the bottom of the bat for damage, Botham dryly added: “Wrong end”.
It probably loses something in the re-telling, you probably had to be there to appreciate it, and I am glad that I was.