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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Jonathan Agnew

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Now one of the regular voices on BBC’s Test Match Special, Jonathan first came to note as a seam bowler of genuine pace.

In a first-class career spent entirely with leicestershire, Jonathan took more than 650 first class wickets, including a best of 9-70 and represented England in three Tests and a further three one-day internationals.

After retiring from playing in 1990 aged just 30, Jonathan began to pursue a career in broadcasting and joined the TMS team in 1991. Now the senior member of BBC’s cricket team, Jonathan is a regular on the radio and BBC Sport website and also fronted the television coverage of the 1999 Cricket World Cup.


Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace, after a few moments silence for our member Geoffrey Gough who recently passed away.

Apologies for Absence (on the notice board): Roger Gibbons, Stephen Crew, Susanne Marlow, Andrew Bruce, Verity Crump, Hugh Cocke, Jo & Derek Coulson, Peter Ryder, Keith Ebdon, Roger Packham, Roy Birch, Julian Lawton-Smith, Terry Johnson, Ralph Simmonds, Mike Gordon, Mike Coeshott, Ian Duke, Barrington Lawes, Stephen & Dudley Green, Chrissie Marris.

The President:

1. The President welcomed all members and their guests, and our speaker, Jonathan Agnew in being with us today.

2. Simon Hughes will be the Speaker at the next autumn meeting.

3. Prize Draw: Members were reminded to put their place names in the jugs provided for the prize draw for collection by our Steward.

Other admin reminders:

1. Outstanding cash subscriptions and payment reminder for lunch, with cash or card, was requested by the Steward.

2. The prize draw (in support of Hambledon Youth Cricket) was won by Stephen Saunders. The raffle raised £280.

20th Anniversary: Stephen Saunders devised a quiz to mark the occasion, which took place during the afternoon, and fun was had by all! The winner was Anthony Mayson who took away the £50 prize. Douglas Miller was the running up, also taking away a bottle of wine.

The Treasurer:

Hambledon Young Cricket: Stephen presented a cheque for £500 to Steve Toogood – the Hambledon Colts coach for the past 15 years – and advised the membership that the club had raised over £7,500 for the Colts. Steve thanked the members for the support they have given over the last 20 years. While club cricket has struggled over the years, Steve said the club had been fortunate to have between 130-150 children playing every summer between the ages of 6-16. There are 11 teams of under 9s to under 17s. Changes have occurred over the years to include – which some members may be horrified to hear! – a coloured kit with a pink ball with the addition of some over 13s having their names on the back of shirts! But the kids love it! The club had also reduced the numbers per side from 11 to 9 to get more action on the pitch to prevent the domination by the few. The biggest contribution into the club has been an artificial wicket allowing for two simultaneous games alongside each other which has been quite an achievement. In addition, a mini bowling machine, which allows consistent bounce and length, especially for the younger children when they take to bow! And to add to the long list is the renewal of the nets, which get nibbled by the rabbits! Steve again thanked the members for the wonderful support of donations to the club over the past 20 years.

The President:

Hampshire Heritage: The President also handed a cheque for £500 to Terry Crump, director of Hampshire Heritage. Terry gave tremendous thanks to the club for their contribution to Hampshire Heritage, which was an excellent start to the new company. Looking around the room, he noticed there were numerous members involved in not only club and county cricket but also past players, along with individuals and families that are absolutely integral to the history of Hampshire cricket. He reiterated in thanking the club for their generous support to a much worthy cause in the historical preservation of county cricket.

Committee Elections: The President invited approval en-bloc for existing committee members: Stephen Saunders (Treasurer); Dick Orders (Steward); Lou Allen (Secretary); David Brown (Chaplain); and Brian Ford (The President). With cheers from the floor, all members were in agreement.

The Toasts:

The President asked members to be upstanding for the traditional Toasts:

The Queen’s Mother, The King, Hambledon Club, Cricket, The immortal memory of Madge, The President: (Dave Allen asked members to toast the President)

Our President introduced Jonathan Agnew.

Jonathan was pleased to make his first visit to our historic ground and pub – even as he told us, after 59 years! He recalled the formative experience of visiting Lord’s to watch Lancashire beat Kent in the 1971 Gillette Cup Final and how watching Peter Lever race in to bowl inspired him to pursue his own cricket career. Lever took 3-24 that day in a Lancashire victory, and Jackie Bond’s catching of Asif Iqbal became the stuff of legend. Lever was thereafter Jonathan’s here and Lancashire his favourite side, as they became the first ‘Kings’ of limited overs cricket. He went back to London for his 16th birthday in April 1976, to be coached at Alf Gover’s Cricket School. Alf of Surrey and England had played for his country in India in 1937 and thought he had escaped an attack of dysentery, until he ran in to deliver the first ball … he ran passed the umpire, the non-striker, the facing batsman, the wicketkeeper and into the pavilion but always joked afterwards that he “lost by two yards”. Jonathan recalled that the school was above a petrol station, which today would surely contravene health & safety rules, but it was well known back then – a few years before Jonathan’s visit Alf had coached a couple of promising youngsters from the Caribbean called Richards and Roberts.

Gover was sufficiently impressed to recommend Jonathan to Surrey and so in his summer holidays, Jonathan stayed in a London B&B and played some 2nd XI games in the summer of 1977, the first two against Hampshire 2nd XI at Guildford and Winchester. Mark Nicholas scored a century in the first as Jonathan took two wickets but his time at Surrey was not happy in what he described as an “awful environment” – and one that he acknowledged has been turned around by Alec Stewart. Jonathan returned to Uppingham School and told his coach Maurice Hallam, the former Leicestershire batsman, that he did not wish to be a professional cricketer, but Maurice explained that his experience was not typical, and he recommended him to Leicestershire. Mike Turner, who ran the club, came three time to watch him bowl and three times it rained all day! They signed him nonetheless and shortly afterwards in August 1978, he made his county debut – against his Lancashire heroes. He took a wicket in each innings as Leicestershire won by an innings; more recently he took a ‘phone call from ‘Bumble’ who asked, “What were you doing 25 years ago today?” Jonathan had no idea, so Bumble told him, “You got me out you bastard!” Jonathan inevitably spoke about his fellow TMS commentator Geoffrey Boycott, explaining that Geoffrey seems better these days after some serious health problems. He revealed that he had been unsure about working with Geoffrey who can be blunt, but they get on well. Jonathan referred to his role carrying out the longest regular interviews on British radio – the celebrities who appear on TMS on Saturday lunchtimes. Apparently, Geoffrey hardly ever knows about these people, and on one occasion they got late news that the rock star Alice Cooper was due on air. Jonathan and Geoffrey were commentating in the 20 minutes before the break as Alice arrived with his wife. They sat to the back of the box and Geoffrey turned around and shook his wife’s hand: “Welcome Alice”! While he joked a little at Geoffrey’s expense, he clearly has some affection for him, and recounted the tale of him entertaining a couple from Yorkshire in his South African home, having paid all their travel and living expenses. He is apparently a private man and such kind gestures tend to pass unnoticed. Jonathan spoke warmly of another fellow commentator, Henry Blofeld, the first person he met on arriving for his TMS debut. Henry gave him the invaluable advice to avoid trying to copy any other commentator – “just be yourself”, and he expressed his admiration for Henry’s ability to bring the game to life – even when he’s watching a different match from everyone else. He also stressed the valuable contribution of top commentators like Henry, CMJ or Tony Cozier who did not play cricket professionally. He confessed that the former professionals see the game differently and perhaps somewhat cynically, while the amateurs retain the affection of the fans. This topic brought him inevitably to ‘Johnners’. He had been intrigued to learn that in the 1990s, Brian Johnson had spoken on BBC Radio’s Today programme against a plan to turn our Bat & Ball into a themed pub called “Natterjacks”. He reminded us all of the famous “Leg Over” sequence and played it over the speaker system. Despite our familiarity with it was greeted with genuine hilarity once again. He spoke of ‘Johnners’ still perched on his shoulder and enjoying his mastering of the art of ‘stitching up’ fellow commentators – Jonathan’s favourite tends to be Phil Tuffnell. There was a particular challenge which we heard on another extract when he was commentating on the Final of the Champions Trophy between India and Pakistan at the Oval in 2017. The Pakistan opening batsman was Fakhar Zaman which is unfortunate when pronounced by the average English commentator and that became complicated, firstly when he was given out and reprieved, and then went on to score a century as Pakistan won. Jonathan noted he will be back for the World Cup. The episode left ‘Tuffers’ unusually speechless. Jonathan was hugely entertaining, and he thanked us for the invitation. He answered some questions, agreeing that sometimes TMS commentators stray too far from the match situation, but declined to predict England’s top three for the third Ashes Test! He was not able to be altogether optimistic about cricket’s future, particularly its Test Match and county traditions, and he was wary of the influence of the Indian Board of Control and IPL. His presentation was nonetheless received warmly, on a very successful 20th birthday celebration for our club. The President thanked Jonathan for joining us and was also delighted that he should be with us on our 20th anniversary. AOB: None The President thanked the management and staff for looking after us and reminded everyone to pay on their way out, if not already done so.

Newsletter 41: 23 March 2019

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