by Chris Holland

An Evening with Boycott and Aggers

The Alhambra

FOR many cricket lovers the best bits of the ball-by-ball commentary radio show Test Match Special is when rain stops play and the pundits reminisce and exchange views and anecdotes.

An Evening with Boycott and Aggers at the Alhambra Theatre on Good Friday resembled a prolonged TMS rain break.

On stage were former leading batsman turned controversial pundit Geoff Boycott – dubbed by some as the ‘Greatest Living Yorkshireman’ - and former fast bowler now BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew. Basically two blokes talking cricket.

But, like so many of those TMS rain breaks, it did not disappoint.

Appearing before a “home” crowd, former Yorkshire and England opening batsman Boycott was his usual forthright and confident self, handling questions from Aggers with the same aplomb with which he once dominated deliveries from the world’s fastest bowlers.

The repartee between the two antagonists – who in reality are good friends - delighted the large Alhambra audience. There was a lovely moment when Agnew revealed a scorecard for a county match between Yorkshire and Leicestershire at Bradford Park Avenue when he had Boycott dismissed for just four. “You only got me out twice,” retorted Geoffrey.

The show is part of a national tour ostensibly to mark the 40th anniversary of Boycott’s hundredth century scored in August 1977 in a Headingley test match against the old enemy Australia.

The conversation was interspersed with film clips from Boycott’s early test career. Proceedings began with Agnew commemorating another 40th Boycott anniversary – when he infamously ran out local hero Derek Randall in an earlier test at Trent Bridge , Nottingham. Chastened, Boycott went on to make a century on his return to test cricket after three years in the international wilderness .

He told Agnew he regarded this as his best innings, scored in adverse circumstances and under pressure to prove his still had what it takes, while the 100th century was his finest moment.

With some mild teasing from Jonathan, Geoffrey revelled in recalling his early days in Yorkshire’s successful 1960s team led by Brian Close and including greats such as Fred Truman and Ray Illingworth .

The conversation spanned Boycott’s controversial reign as Yorkshire captain – which divided cricket fans into strongly antagonistic ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps.

In a surprising revelation Boycott said being captain had ruined his life and acknowledged that, while his technical know-how and ability were fine, his player management skills lagged behind.

As expected, Boycott had strong views on the modern game , welcoming the change of England captain from Alistair Cook to Yorkshire’s Joe Root and expecting the new man to do well, he was scathing about money ruling the game and led by businessmen who knew “now’t about cricket”.

Boycott and Aggers lamented the lack of top cricket on terrestrial TV Channels - and Aggers revealed that TMS - which marks its 60th anniversary this year – is depending on the BBC to win the rights to cover the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia next winter.

Boycott said that when England won the Ashes in 2005 under Yorkshire’s Michael Vaughan, more than five million viewers saw the series, against the current 400,000 watching cricket on satellite TV.

The result is a declining interest in the sport among youngsters whose ability to see leading players depends on their parents’ ability to pay.

Boycott and Aggers sent their appreciative audience home well satisfied and with the relishing prospect of hearing more of their on-air banter over another summer of cricket.