Afternoon everyone and welcome to the second T20 international of this so-called summer. The first was, of course, ruined by the rain. There are two things you need to know right away: (1) the weather forecast is 90-per-cent dry, and (2) the game is going out live on the BBC. Not just the radio – the telly! And not even BBC2 – BBC1!!
It’s 21 years since this last happened to an international cricket match, when the BBC shared coverage of the 1999 World Cup with Sky. The Beeb did not, alas, go out with a bang. England, the hosts, were so hapless that they managed to tumble out of the tournament before the official theme tune was released. There was a classic semi-final, which could not have been closer, but the final, between Australia and Pakistan, was dismally one-sided.
It was a different world in them days. Our biggest worry was whether the turn of the millennium would freak out our computers. Twenty20 hadn’t been invented, and there were still cricket lovers who considered the 50-over game indecently fast-moving. Hell, Jimmy Anderson hadn’t played for England, or even for Lancashire.
So today we’re going to party like it’s 1999. With a bit of luck, the BBC will send a car for Tony Lewis. (Note to anyone finding that name doesn’t ring a bell: he was an elegant Glamorgan batsman who captained England in 1972-73, when Ray Illingworth didn’t fancy going to India and Pakistan, and then became the Sunday Telegraph cricket correspondent as well as the Beeb’s front man.) Interviewed in The Times yesterday, Lewis said that his era had been all about “storytellers”, where today’s broadcasters were “innovators”.
That seemed a subtle acknowledgement that the BBC coverage, well-loved though it was, tended to be fairly staid. Another way of putting it is that in Lewis’s day the commentators were nearly all middle-aged white men (not that I can talk about that), whereas now the BBC’s face of cricket is Isa Guha. Of all the former England cricketers who have moved into the commentary box, she is one of the youngest, at 35, and probably the liveliest.
If there are any young people under your roof, do encourage them to watch – if necessary, by telling them they’ll probably hate it. And let me know what they make of it all. Play is due to start at 2.15pm, for some reason, so I’ll be back just after 1.45 with the toss and the teams.