Test Match Special is one of the great broadcasting institutions of the UK. It’s as British as queueing, checking the weather and, well, cricket. It’s so brilliant that even if you don’t like cricket, it’s worth a listen, as the genial commentators regularly wander off-topic to discuss more pressing issues such as cakes, formations of birds flying overhead and all manner of issues of the day, in between occasionally describing the action, or lack of it.
But one thing you don’t expect from TMS is a world-class prank.
However, that’s what listeners got on Monday morning during the final day’s play of England’s match against South Africa, when Jonathan Agnew played the perfect wind-up on co-commentator, and former England batting legend, Sir Geoffrey Boycott.
Before listening, for non-cricket fans, some context: proud Yorkshireman Sir Geoffrey is one of the few people in the game to score a hundred first-class centuries (100 runs or more in an innings), and famously achieved the feat with a ton during a Test Match on his home ground of Headingley back in 1977, which sparked joyous scenes amongst his fans.
During commentary, Jonathan Agnew casually mentioned that they were expecting a press release from the International Cricket Council about the recent financial issues of the Australian team. However, the following ‘press release’ was read out, leading to a prank that was drawn out over fully 10 minutes without anyone giving anything away. You can listen to the full glorious episode here, or watch two minutes of edited highlights below:
Agnew pretended that he had received a missive from the ICC which had declared that a series between England and the Rest of the World – in which Boycott had scored a century – had now been struck off the first-class record books. After a few minutes, he and Samson then ‘realised’ that this would mean that Boycott’s hundredth hundred would now, in fact, be his ninety-ninth. With the fourtieth anniversary of the feat coming up on 11th August, Agnew then started to prod Boycott that it wouldn’t be worth celebrating, saying he should cancel the event planned to commemorate it. Cue Boycott slowly stewing with anger, calling the ICC ‘idiots’ and the situation ‘a mess’, before Aggers finally revealed that it was ‘a complete wind-up’ – Boycott somehow resisting the urge to swear live on air.
The exchange has since gone viral, with Boycott’s increasing irritation that his milestone has been taken away from him, and the ability of Agnew and statistician Andrew Samson to play a perfectly straight bat, creating absolute gold.
Agnew later tweeted out the ‘press release’:
And Sir Geoffrey, once he had calmed down, took it in good spirits: