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Last Updated:  Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 10:37 GMT

Inside Test Match Special
By Dan Warren
BBC Sport Online

Henry Blofeld
Blofeld in action in the TMS booth
We are barely 30 minutes into play on the final day of the first Test against Sri Lanka, and already the Test Match Special team are in fits of laughter.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins - CMJ to regular listeners - has just spent a minute or two urging fans to attend a celebrity charity match in Hampshire which, unfortunately, took place six days previously.

Such a blunder is meat and drink to the TMS commentators and pundits, and CMJ endures minutes of merciless ribbing before things return to normal.

Or as normal as they ever are during TMS.

The irreverent, occasionally wonderfully irrelevant, banter of each show entices even non-cricket fans to their radios.

And, during a privileged tour behind the scenes, it quickly became clear that once the microphones are turned off there is no difference whatsoever!

"In many ways it's much more fun to talk on radio because we aren't restricted by the pictures on screen," says Vic Marks, former England all-rounder turned summariser.

"We can go off on any flights of fancy."

Some say the talk gets too schoolboyish, and trivial and others probably get tired if it gets too technical
Vic Marks
Despite Henry Blofeld's recent, unprompted ribbing over his dress sense, Marks is full of praise for his co-commentators.

"All the commentators know their cricket. Even Henry knows that when the cricket is really good, when the match is in the balance, he just talks about the cricket," he says.

"There are none of his digressions about pigeons, buses, and no stupid jokes about what people are wearing.

"It's important to keep the balance. Some say the talk gets too schoolboyish, and trivial and others probably get tired if it gets too technical.

"But we all love doing it, that's the good thing about it. It never feels like a chore."

The aim of TMS is to sound simply like a bunch of cricket enthusiasts talking about the game, and the informal approach extends beyond the commentators.

I don't think there's the same homely, humourous content on television
Henry Blofeld
The whole approach of the show stands out in these times when sports coverage is full of hi-tech graphics and zappy sound effects.

And the plummy tones of Blowers instantly evoke the idyll of summer evenings, village greens and ample pints of frothing ale.

Perhaps that is why some think of TMS as a relic from time gone by - although consistently impressive listening figures confirm its popularity.

Blofeld says the unique pace of cricket will ensure it remains on the airwaves for many years to come.

"I think a lot of the public regard it as a radio game," he said.

"I don't think there's the same homely, humourous content on television.

"We have an awful lot of female listeners, something like 50%, and many aren't really interested in the technicalities of cricket.

"They love the comfortable voice when they're walking around doing the housework, and they like the odd joke, the odd chocolate cake."

Ah, the cakes. It was a huge disappointment not to be offered a slice or two during my time in the box.

But the 30-year-old tradition of sending sweet bakes to the show sums up the unique place TMS has in the hearts of generations of cricket fans throughout the country.

Long may it continue!





Links to more Test Match Special stories


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
Vic Marks
"We all love doing it, that's the main thing"



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