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Jonathan Agnew delights audiences at Devizes Festival
CRICKET commentator Jonathan Agnew told an audience at Devizes town hall last Thursday that people often say to him: "You sound just like you do on the radio."
Although it elicited a gust of laughter from the packed house in the Assembly Room, it is nevertheless true.
Mr Agnew, or Aggers as he was dubbed by his predecessor as leader of the Test Match Special team on Radio 4 Brian Johnston, does have one of the most distinctive voices on radio.
His relaxed tones are very easy on the ear and are not there by accident.
He told the Devizes Festival audience that radio commentary is an art and commentators have to find a balance between keeping listeners happy and imparting the excitement of what is going on on the pitch.
Mr Agnew is undoubtedly best known for one of most memorable "corpses" on radio, when, during a Test match in 1991, Mr Johnston was laughing so much he found it almost impossible to continue.
He was reacting to Mr Agnew's observation that in getting out by hitting his own wicket, Ian Botham had been unable to "get his leg over".
Mr Agnew said: "Brian was very angry with himself. He thought it was totally unprofessional. But when he heard it again the following day he was sold on it and played it wherever he went."
Mr Agnew claimed he was slightly nervous on Thursday night as among the audience was his old TMS colleague, statistician Bill Frindall and his wife Debbie - Bearders and The Handmaiden as Mr Johnston would have it.
He need not have worried as Bearders was on his best behaviour, only speaking when consulted by Mr Agnew.
Mr Agnew admitted that he had once been named Thinking Woman's Crumpet of the Year by a national newspaper. He was on Cloud Nine for days, seeing a whole new career opening up in front of him, until he saw the list and it dawned on him that some BBC apparatchik had made out the list in alphabetical order.
The many cricket aficionados in the audience enjoyed Mr Agnew's reminiscences about the great names of cricket he has worked with, both on the pitch and in the commentary box.
Names like Fred Trueman, Geoffrey Boycott, Peter Willey, Viv Richards and David Gower tripped off the tongue.
One of his favourite radio gaffs occurred when he was reporting a warm-up match in St Kitts when the most threatening member of the team opposing England was a bowler called John "The Dentist" Maynard.
He was called The Dentist because of his habit of knocking batsmen's teeth out.
Unfortunately, during one very brief and frenzied update on Radio Five Live, Mr Agnew referred to him as "John the Baptist".
He told the audience that now was a very exciting time to be involved in cricket. He said: "Things are changing all the time. Not necessarily for the best. There is a school of thought that says everything brash, new and exciting has got to be good.
"I am not so sure. Twenty20 is a good game but nothing will replace the excitement of a Test match."
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