THE WEST Indies side that will step out against England at Headingley today has already taken some ribbing, but it was at a stadium two miles up the Otley Road yesterday that the real comedians were to be found.
The BBC’s Test Match Special, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, fielded two teams of jokers, retired cricketers and assorted pundits for a Twenty20 match on a Leeds University pitch at Weetwood that looked more village green than international stadium.
Geoffrey Boycott, 40 years to the month since scoring his 100th century in another Headingley Test, was one of the coaches, along with commentator Jonathan Agnew.
Boycott, these days a controversial summariser on the BBC radio warhorse, had said 24 hours earlier that “this West Indies lot” was the worst Test match team he had seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating.
Never one to mince his words, he appeared unrepentant as he strode onto what he described as a pockmarked pitch, beneath his customary straw Panama hat. Instead, he offered some sage advise to his captain, Michael Vaughan. “When the sun’s out and the pitch is dry, bat first in Yorkshire,” he counselled.
Phil Tufnell, the opposing captain, was also not a stranger to the Yorkshire climate. “You always come to Leeds and you always look up,” he said.
The comedians taking to the crease included Andy Parsons, Dom Joly and Miles Jupp. They were joined by Made In Chelsea’s Jamie Laing, athlete Yohan Blake and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
The teams also included England cricket veterans Graeme Swann, Simon Hughes, Ebony Rainford Brent and Charlotte Edwards and the BBC commentators Simon Mann and Alison Mitchell.
THE Controller of BBC Radio 5 live and 5 live Sports Extra, Jonathan Wall said it was a very special event and it would prove to be a success.
Speaking before the match, he said: “This is cricket’s big party day of the summer.
“Can the opinionated voices behind the mic handle the pressure at the crease?
“It promises to be a lot of fun as we say happy birthday to the much loved radio institution that is Test Match Special.”