BBC coverage a hostage to the weather yet Captain Tom raises spirits
Jofra Archer cued the music, the tap of the cowbell segued into familiar, beguiling Hammond organ and Soul heralded Test cricket’s return to the BBC after 21 years.
The ambitions of the producers of Today at the Test were stifled by a damp squib of a first day and they sensibly took the decision to curtail the hour-long slot to 45 minutes, instead of overinflating 82 minutes of stop-start play beyond its merits.
The hectic bursts of commentary used to punctuate the theme tune were needlessly intrusive but, that apart, the corporation made a sounder start than Dom Sibley.
Inviting “Captain Tom” to welcome back cricket was a striking success. Capt Sir Tom Moore, the centenarian who raised more than £30million for charity during the lockdown, has been a cricket lover all his life and introduced its comeback with a homily about the nation’s patience and his joy that “the time has come for our great game to take a long walk back to the crease and remind us what we missed”.
After the obligatory montage, Isa Guha made a confident start as host and the team made a virtue out of necessity, but there was nothing about the players taking a knee to match the powerful and moving contributions about racism made by Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding on Sky Sports during the live coverage.
Michael Vaughan and Guha shared commentary duties, with Carlos Brathwaite, Sir Alastair Cook and Phil Tufnell summarising. The volume of the artificial crowd noise was kept respectably low.
Given there was so little action, it was too early to get a flavour of their styles. Cook, only one summer out of the dressing room, was sympathetic to Joe Denly’s struggles, explaining his nuggety worth as a softener of the new ball. He is perfectly cast for the role of “cricket badger”, explaining the mechanics and psychology of batting coherently, but cannot hold back on criticism of his former team-mates when it is demanded.
The graphics were clear and unobtrusive, the Hawk-Eye tracking distinctive and easy to follow. Without much cricket to show, the postmatch analysis and interviews understandably meandered but, like the match itself, it was a hostage to the weather. A full day will give both a fairer chance to shine.