30 Aug

At the Emirates Old Trafford Manchester this afternoon the BBC will broadcast its first major live cricket match for 21 years.

The second of three Twenty20 internationals between England and Pakistan starts at 2.15pm and the BBC is also showing two other England T20s in the coming weeks — when the men play Australia in Southampton on 6 September and the women take on West Indies at Derby on 26 September. This will be the first women’s match shown live by the BBC.

This is a significant moment, as it is the first live terrestrial TV cricket since Channel 4’s involvement ended with the Ashes in 2005. The BBC were to show some games of The Hundred, but the tournament was postponed until next year. It is still not clear when spectators will be allowed back into grounds in significant numbers.

Last year’s epic World Cup final, when England beat New Zealand on boundary countback at Lord’s, showed how broad the reach can be when cricket’s big occasions are more widely available. That game was shown simultaneously on Channel 4 as well as Sky Sports and more than 8.5 million watched Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer become heroes.

Under the new deal, the BBC has also been providing daily highlights of England’s Test matches with West Indies and Pakistan. The highest viewing figures of 1.7 million came on the second day of the final Pakistan Test, in which Zak Crawley scored 267, Buttler 152 and James Anderson finished the day with a three-wicket burst.

Isa Guha, who has been presenting the highlights programmes, will front today’s broadcast alongside Alison Mitchell, the former England captain Michael Vaughan, former England spinner Phil Tufnell and James Anderson.

“Hopefully there’s going to be some great cricket. We’ve got three out of the top four teams in the world here [England, Pakistan and Australia] and we’re very lucky to have them on our shores” said Tufnell.

“It’s a chance for some young guys to make names for themselves and the game to find new audiences. There will be the cricket aficionado and the casual cricket fan, but also some people who haven’t watched cricket on the telly before and want to have a look.

“Pakistan have always had a massive following, they’re great supporters and great cricket lovers. Hopefully it will reach out to everyone: men, women, children and the Asian community alike.”

The opener against Pakistan on Friday night was abandoned because of rain after 16.1 overs of the England innings but not before the Somerset opener Tom Banton, 21, became the youngest player to score a T20 fifty for England.

Thankfully the forecast for Manchester today looks dry.

John Stephenson


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