Gabfest special

Boycott et al were far from stumped for things to say during the rained-off cricket

Rain stopped play all day at the Oval during Test Match Special (Saturday, Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, continuous), giving Boycott a platform to whinge unbridled. "I started my career in a Yorkshire team that was expected to win, not just hoping to win. And if you got out playing silly shots you'd have Brian Close waiting for you at the top of the stairs to give you a bunch of fives - and he was a big man, let me tell you . . ." Really, I've never heard him jollier.

Meanwhile, Aggers lived in hope. "On this satellite photograph it looks like there's a gap between this rain and the next lot. It's hard to estimate when it might happen, but it is there."

As Boycott went off-shift, the TV chef Ainsley Harriott took his seat in the commentary box. "I started here years ago in a shed on sandwiches," Harriott said. "All the way to head chef in charge of bacon baps. And of course the beef baps with pickled carrots."

"They still talk about them now," said Aggers. "But the thing is - how can one improve on a bacon roll? My wife gets quite cross and says, 'You're making the tea tonight' and so I slip out to M&S, but I really don't know what I'm doing. And if I get it wrong, there's such trouble at home. But, you know - things catch fire."

"Oh, cricket really is a superb game!" thrilled Ainsley, after a moment. "The ups and downs, the twists and turns. And then along comes KP giving pats on the botties of all his players." "He is very touchy-feely," said Aggers, frowningly. "If it's going to get us wickets, Ag," reasoned Ainsley, "then I don't mind how often he touches them. I mean, it's a new era, it's a change, it's exciting. On Thursday even the frumpy people were smiling, and I'm sure they hadn't had any beer." "Mmmmm. Ah, yes, well, if only we could actually see Pietersen do it today," sighed Aggers, "but this rain. And now the covers are going on. Look at the stewards with their umbrellas up. It's a sad sight, come to think of it."

The sound of a door opening and closing, and Boycott in the hall talking about the time he had cancer and watched television from morning until night.

"They're probably having a nice salad over there right now, wouldn't you say?" said Aggers of the players. "Or a bacon bap," suggested Ainsley. "Gatting loved a bap." (At that very moment on 5 Live from Beijing: "Tracey Hallam is at match point on the opening night of the badminton tournament! A smash on the return from Pui Yin Yip! This is sport at its rawest, swiftest and most exciting! A success for team GB only 40 minutes inside this glorious venue! . . ." Is it just me, but who gives a . . . ?)

Back at the Oval, Aggers was saying it was possibly time for lunch when Graham Gooch looked in. "You liked my bacon baps, didn't you, Graham?" asked Ainsley. The sound of chairs being moved and Gooch rustling a bag of chips. "Hello, everyone," said Aggers. "It's still raining. But if you want to ask us about anything to do with the Test match - or how you feel about the future of Twenty20 or the price of tickets here at the Oval or the career of Michael Vaughan - do email in. Ah, look, one from Paul in Solihull . . . Actually, Ainsley, I think it's for you: 'I've got two sea bream here. What do I do with them?'"

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Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 18 August 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Superpower swoop