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The voice of cricket with a first class delivery

Shakespeare was right. Summer’s lease has all too short a date. Even what will always be known as the “long, hot” summer of 2018 had all too evidently come to an end as Jonathan Agnew breezed into Leamington on a chilly, drizzly Saturday evening.

Here, at least, was the voice of summer. Test Match Special is a very special programme to those of us who cherish cricket at the highest level, and Aggers is the life and soul of TMS. He was the natural successor to the late Brian Johnston and, yes, the evening kicked off with a recording of Jonners’ collapse into wheezing giggles over Ian Botham’s lack of a leg-over.

“Stop it, Aggers.”

Thankfully, he didn’t. Commanding the Spa Centre stage with the much-practised presence of a man of 6ft 4, we were treated to one anecdote after another, delivered with wit, timing, that irrepressible sense of mischief and seemingly effortless style.

There were stories about his playing days. About David Gower’s languorous county captaincy. About being (and staying) at the other end while Gower took on Malcolm Marshall. About Agnew’s all too brief Test career and the anti-climax of returning to county cricket.

Most revealing, perhaps, was his chancy move into journalism via Radio Leicester and the long-forgotten Today newspaper. Agnew’s skill is to make commentary sound easy. But it’s not. Timing is everything, and he learnt much about that from Richie Benaud, a great Test captain who went on to become an even better commentator.

Benaud’s face, like that of many another cricketing legend, came up on screen in short extracts. Geoffrey Boycott featured as the butt of several Agnew asides, needless to say. On being told that Aggers was about to interview Alice Cooper during one tea interval, Boycs apparently turned round, shook hands with his wife and said: “Nice to meet you, looove.”

The quality of the film extracts was variable. Not that it mattered. What matters with Aggers is the voice. And at least we had the winter tour of Sri Lanka to look forward to.

Or had we?

Apparently not. The venal people who now run cricket have apparently sold the commentary rights to Talk Sport.

Those of us who love TMS can only hope that Aggers and his team are in their rightful place when rough winds subside and the darling buds of May appear in 2019.


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