I’ve listened to so much Test Match Special now that I think I can taste it. It tastes like raspberry jam, cakes, grass and warm beer, and often a hint of metal on the tongue when things are going badly for England. Your tastes may differ.
The ICC Cricket World Cup Final (5 Live Sports Extra, Sunday), clinched by England on boundaries scored after a tied super over, was, it is already generally agreed, probably the most exciting cricket match of all time.
And even though this match was, unlike the rest of the tournament, available on free-to-air TV after Sky reached a deal with Channel 4, the greatest cricket match ever deserved the best commentary. That means radio. For sheer excitement, Jonathan Agnew proved nothing can match Test Match Special.
Aggers and the team provided possibly the best hour of sports radio broadcasting there has ever been, after a long and nervy day. For the penultimate ball of the super over, Aggers couldn’t stop himself from bellowing “Don’t throw it, don’t throw it!” to Jofra Archer.
And then at the final ball, as Martin Guptill was run out, Agnew’s voice rasped with emotion as they waited for official confirmation. “Wait now, listen,” said Agnew. The crowd roared. “That tells you that England have won the World Cup! The fireworks going off the grandstand… it’ll be confirmed on the screen… Out!” Cheering, fireworks, drums.
Aggers headed down to the pitch. He hugged a weeping Chris Woakes. “Look at this, thousands of people on their feet,” said Agnew. “What a day, not just for English cricket, but for anyone…” During the presentation, Agnew was so delirious he didn’t recognise the Duke of York, referring to him as “that fella”.
The great thing about radio is that you can listen while you’re pacing up and down trying not to be sick. And when subscription-only sports broadcasting is shrinking our access to so much sport, the importance of free radio coverage is huge.
Yes, the final itself was available to watch for free, but if it hadn’t been for the excellent TMS coverage of the rest of the matches, most people in Britain would have missed out almost entirely on the tournament. Which, for a World Cup actually hosted by England and Wales, would have been appalling.
Happily, the BBC have made the final hour of TMS available as a podcast so you can listen to it as many times as you like. Every day for the next hundred years, anyone?
Before the match, if you can conceive of such a time, BBC journalist Rajan Datar had presented a thought-provoking documentary reflecting on Norman Tebbit’s controversial Cricket Test, proposed in 1990. Testing the Tebbit Test (Radio 4, Wednesday) took a nuanced view of Tebbit’s comments on divided loyalties in Britain, and his opinion that for immigrants and their families to be truly British, they should support the England cricket team.
Lord Tebbit took part in the programme and stood by the test, but Datar’s interviews with several other cricket fans suggested that there are many factors other than patriotism that go into why we support the teams we do: nostalgia, affection for our parents, and the fact that we’re all capable of holding more than one identity in our hearts. Lord Tebbit suggested that the test was really one way of phrasing another question, which is, which country would you support if there were a war? But as Datar pointed out, sport isn’t war, no matter how passionately we feel about it.
Nostalgia, I admit, plays a large part in my enduring affection for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue (Radio 4, Monday), but it’s currently experiencing a buoyant return to form. It hasn’t ever been the same since Willie Rushton died, let alone Humphrey Lyttelton. With them the innuendo was really glorious. (I’m fond of a memorable round of limericks from Rushton’s era, beginning “While out on the Cam in a punt, I saw Reverend Spooner in front...”)
Anyway, newbie guests don’t always immediately get the atmosphere, which is generally a moreish cocktail of jaded, silly and bawdy, but Rachel Parris has already sparkled in her two appearances so far. She gave a stirring performance of It’s Raining Men to the tune of I Vow to Thee My Country last week, and this week in a game where teams had to come up with phrases equally suitable for use in either the car or the bedroom, she contributed “Sorry it’s a mess – the kids have absolutely ruined it...”
Harry Hill, meanwhile, got his trombone out for a unique rendition of the Baker Street sax solo in Pick Up Song. After a few rather flat series, I’m falling in love with I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue all over again.