On the Front Foot: Agnew caught in the crossfire of ball-by-ball commentary war

  • @stephenbrenkley

What fun at The Cricketer, the world's oldest cricket magazine.

Venerable it may be, but to move with the times and, as the vogue expression goes, to get down and dirty with the kids they have acquired the online commentary service Test Match Sofa. This is presumably intended to lend street credibility, not something that overly concerned Sir Pelham Warner, player, writer, selector and administrator when he founded the magazine in 1921.

Unfortunately, one of The Cricketer's modern directors is Jonathan Agnew, BBC cricket correspondent and the sonorous, reassuring voice of Test Match Special. While TM Sofa is no more than a so-called rival – mildly irreverent, faintly diverting and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is – its acquisition presents a conflict for Agnew. As it might for other luminaries of The Cricketer also associated with TM Special such as Vic Marks, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Simon Hughes.

So far, so polite, a matter of mere commerce in the post- modern media. But now the feisty new editor of The Cricketer, Andrew Miller, has taken to the social networks babbling about the delights of his new baby.

"Test Match Sofa – the alternative cricket commentary," he writes. "Forget Aggers, this is up-to-the-minute, ball-by-ball coverage by cricket fans, for cricket fans."

As of yesterday, Agnew et al were still registered on the (excellent) website of The Cricketer as columnists. Presumably it cannot go on, and Plum Warner may have turned in his grave.

T20 stars young at heart

There was great excitement at the fact that only two England players in the first Twenty20 match against Pakistan were over 30. Graeme Swann was the oldest at 32 (33 in Sri Lanka next month), Kevin Pietersen is 31.

But the average age of the team was still above 26, much older than the team that appeared against West Indies at The Oval on 25 September last year (and also lost), whose average age was only 24.46. The oldest batsman in the top five that evening was Ravi Bopara at 26 and 144 days.

It was still younger than England's youngest Test team, 26 years and 95 days, which appeared at Mohali in March 2006. The youngest international team of all were fielded by Zimbabwe in a one-day international against South Africa in February 2005, a barely-out-of-nappies 20 years, 205 days.

Let's hear it for all that Jazz

It is always a bone of contention in sport about how much publicity should be given to sponsors. The tendency is not to append the sponsor's name to a ground on the basis that another one will be along in a year or so.

The Oval for instance now has its fourth commercial prefix. When whole teams are named after sponsors, as they are in South Africa, making it impossible to determine their geographical location (the New Age Impi anyone?) it becomes trickier.

The sponsors of the series in the UAE between England and Pakistan may feel they have not entirely had their money's worth. Each of the three formats has been played under the same banner and a new trophy has been forged for Tests, ODIs and T20s. The official name of each is the Bank of Alfalah Presents the Mobilink Jazz Cup.

Openers forever in blue jeans

The new batting sensation on the block is South Africa's Richard Levi, who last week scored the fastest international Twenty20 hundred, from 45 balls, and made the joint highest score of 117no with 13 sixes.

As David Stewart points out, it was as well he has not followed the path of some of his compatriots and chosen to play for England. "The ECB commercial department would have been beside themselves at the prospect of him opening with the England Test captain." Indeed.

Levi and Strauss would doubtless have been expected to bat in blue jeans.