« Previous | Main | Next »

The perils of the Test Match Special nightshift

Post categories:

Kevin Howells | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 10 December 2010

"This is the BBC. We regret to inform you that our live outside broadcast from Australia is temporarily suspended due to technical reasons. Our engineers are working on the problem and we hope to restore commentary as soon as possible. In the meantime here is some music from Mantovani and his orchestra."

Those were the days. Instead now I come bungling in yelling as if in the Walmington-On-Sea home guard. "Don't panic. Lines down. I'll keep an eye on what's going on so we don't miss anything and the boys behind the screen will try and get the line back. No time for Mantovani. Oh begger. It's a drinks break what I am going to talk about now?".

If you were listening to Test Match Special on Friday night some time after midnight you'd have had the pleasure of my company for about eight minutes rather than Aggers, CMJ and the rest of the team in Adelaide.

'Highlights' of my stand-by commentary from last Friday

In order to see this content you need to have both title="BBC Webwise article about enabling javascript">Javascript enabled and title="BBC Webwise article about downloading">Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions.
If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

The main pitfall of being the substitute commentator is trying to work out whether what we're watching on our monitors is live or replay. There is also the off-putting silence when the ball is struck to the boundary. I'm convinced hours of watching Alan Partridge serve me well at these times. I even get to stay in a travel tavern to get some sleep. Yes the staff know me by my first name and there is a service station near-by. Just can't seem to engage the fella behind the counter in conversation. There is the diet to die for. Nachos, fries, bacon sandwiches and sugary drinks seem the ideal evening meal ahead of a long night. Tea becomes breakfast and breakfast becomes supper. All very simple.

Let's be straight about this - when the line goes down it's serious - we get annoyed and frustrated. No one ever says "Well done" for filling but instead they grill me over what went wrong. That is usually impossible to answer. But almost always it's probably an electrical glitch which blow the circuits and boxes we broadcast from. No matter how much back up we have, if one goes, they all go. Then it's over to me. Thankfully never for long and it's not always us who takes the hit.

I am in no doubt, whatever the hours, I have an enviable job which I don't take for granted. I'm being paid to sit up and watch the Ashes. No working out how long can I stay up and still be able to function for the day job. My role involves being the middle man between the team in Australia and folks back here. I help out a bit with intervals and go off getting interviews in between matches.

There are three of us back in London. The trusted studio manager and the broadcast assistant are the real workers. Good sense of humour is required and I hope I'm not alone in thinking we have a good time. But just as they are about to fall off their chairs from being up all night they have the job of turning everything around and creating the day-long highlights and catch-up packages. They are a creative bunch and I'm chuffed so many of you are enjoying their work.

Related links
Test Match Special podcast - download Aggers & Boycs' match round-ups
Ashes Highlights - listen to the last the Test


  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting blog Kevin. I'm glad you are there someone he knows cricket, sometimes in the past the person filling in hasn't been able to do any commentary at all.

    I do still miss Andy Rushden who used to always do the shipping forcasts during the home series for simialr reasons.

  • Comment number 2.

    How interesting. Is there a mad dash for the microphone when you realise that transmissions have stopped getting through...Do you have to have one on standy to avoid gettting too much radio silence?

  • Comment number 3.

    @SamJordison - I asked Kevin yopur questions. Here's his reply: "There is a standby recorded message in case the line goes down when on a call of nature. But you are always told never to run before going on air so I try not to dash into the studio. I am sitting close by anyway and the time it takes me to get into the seat is the same amount we would need to be certain the line had really gone down and not just temporarily vanished to quickly return."

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting! Thanks for replying!


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.