Ipswich: Blofeld and Baxter ready to bowl over Corn Exchange audiences
THEY go together like the sound of leather on willow.
Titans of cricket commentary Henry Blofeld and Peter Baxter are looking to bowl Ipswich Corn Exchange audiences over with their memories of the Test Match Special commentary boxes on October 30.
Expect new anecdotes about some of the legendary players from the last 40 years and some about their own exploits; including making the Queen sad.
I consider confessing I know very little about cricket when Peter, the brain behind BBC’s Test Match Special for 34 years, answers the phone. All I do know is if I have the bat I have to try to hit the ball; if I don’t it’s my job to throw or catch it. Either way running’s involved, hence my lack of keenness.
“You probably do know that commentary boxes are famous for receiving cakes from listeners,” he says after a quick origin of cricket broadcasting 101, including how the BBC originally said ball-by-ball commentary couldn’t be done for radio because the game was too slow.
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“Because of the pace of the game it’s actually the ideal sport for radio,” he says. I’m saying nothing.
You’ve got the time for reflection, then this moment of violent action as the bowler bowls, then more talk about what happened and then he’s in again… the ball-by-ball commentator is the camera. He’s got to have the words, the knowledge, the timing, the voice to carry it off and if you just get that right…”
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But back to cake, which I do know about.
“Well in 2001 the Queen no less made us a cake. She delivered this thing, sort of handing it to me in the committee rooms at Lords on a silver salver. A beautiful rich Dundee laced with brandy, one sniff and you were utterly p****d.
“She said ‘they tell me people give you cake’ and [professional cricketer turned broadcaster Jonathan] Agnew said ‘was it personally made Ma’am’. She said not personally, but specially made in the palace kitchens.
“It was raining at the time which was why we were in the committee room, not on the grass, and she asked Henry how we managed to cope with days like this when there’s nothing happening.
“Henry said ‘well it’s a funny thing Ma’am, a lot of people say we’re rather better when there’s no play than we are when we’re describing play’; he thought this might make her crack a smile. Far from it she looked very gloomy and said to him ‘oh how frightfully sad’,” laughs Peter.
Born out of a pub lunch, anecdotes like this have seen their show continue to gather pace with each tour bigger than the last. With so many memories to pick from they never do the same show twice.
“We almost decide our first line in the wings before we go on and it sort of goes from there,” laughs Peter.
“Usually at half time, we sit there over a cup of tea and say ‘actually we didn’t do that one, we still haven’t done that one. We’ll save that one for the end’ and all the rest of it. Quite often we get to the end and say ‘we never did whatever’. We’ve always got something up our sleeve.”