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Page last updated at 06:59 GMT, Wednesday, 30 May 2007 07:59 UK

TMS: A glorious history

Test Match Special is one of Britain's national treasures.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
Jonathan Agnew has been part of the TMS team for the past 17 years
Fans of the programme send in cakes to the team and its broadcasting wavelength has been the centre of hot debate by politicians in the House of Commons.

Regular listeners or not, the adoring public care deeply about it.

The birth of this sporting phenomenon occurred in 1957 - history was created as the BBC became the first broadcaster to cover every ball of a Test match.

The slogan for the programme in the Radio Times was, "Don't miss a ball, we broadcast them all".

After 30 settled years on Radio 3, a dark cloud of uncertainty hung over the programme's future as the 1990s approached.

However, Radio 4 stepped in as its saviour. In 1994 the broadcasting team settled in to its new home on its now familiar position on 198 LW.

The commentators have always been an integral part of making Test Match Special a unique experience.

The style was set in the 1930s by Howard Marshall and his mantle was taken on after the Second World War by Rex Alston, John Arlott and EW Swanton.

The star commentators of the 1960s were the academically-minded Alan Gibson and the meticulous Robert Hudson.


Brian Johnston transferred his skills from television to radio in 1970 and was the catalyst for an upsurge in the popularity of the programme, his jocular style brilliantly complementing the descriptive Arlott.

Over the years, TMS has regularly welcomed guest broadcasters from overseas.

Alan McGilvray from Australia was a familiar voice for nearly 40 years, before he was succeeded by the ebullient Neville Oliver.

Barbadian Tony Cozier has already been entertaining British listeners for 39 years.

When Marshall described great feats like Len Hutton's innings of 364 in 1938, he did so without the support of an expert summariser - something which would be almost unbelievable to today's generation of commentators.

After the war the former Sussex and England captain, Arthur Gilligan, was among the first to provide that extra depth of comment.

He was succeeded by two other former England captains, Norman Yardley and Freddie Brown.

Then came the most enduring of partnerships, Fred and Trevor - Messrs Trueman and Bailey, who were in harness for 26 years.

Peter Baxter and Henry Blofeld present a cake to the Queen (2001)
Peter Baxter and Henry Blofeld present a cake to the Queen

In the early 1970s, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Henry Blofeld were introduced to the team and are still there today.

Fresh blood was added in 1990 with the appointment of a new BBC cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew, who, straight out of playing first-class cricket, proved himself a natural.

In 1998 in Trinidad, Test Match Special employed its first female commentator, Barbadian Donna Symmonds.

And in 2000 it gave two other commentators their first home Tests - Jon Champion and Simon Mann.

It is a programme proud of its past, but absolutely committed to its future.

see also
Jonathan Agnew
30 Oct 06 |  Test Match Special
Christopher Martin-Jenkins
02 Nov 06 |  Test Match Special
Henry Blofeld
02 Nov 06 |  Test Match Special
Simon Mann
02 Nov 06 |  Test Match Special
Arlo White
30 Oct 06 |  Test Match Special
Mike Selvey
03 May 03 |  Cricket
Vic Marks
03 May 03 |  Presenter profiles
John Arlott
02 Jun 03 |  Legends
Brian Johnston
02 Jun 03 |  Legends
Don Mosey
02 Jun 03 |  Legends
Rex Alston
02 Jun 03 |  Legends

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