05 Jun

England’s Test cricket team will return to BBC television next month for the first time in 22 years after the broadcaster confirmed it would show highlights from the series against West Indies.

The hour-long evening programme, fronted by former England women’s player Isa Guha (pictured), will contain analysis from former England captains Alastair Cook and Michael Vaughan, and will be screened on BBC Two at 7pm, shortly after the day’s play has finished. Sky Sports will broadcast the games live.

BBC’s coverage of Test cricket is part of a new five-year deal, and will include two England limited-overs matches. This will mark the return of live coverage of the national team on ‘free to air’ for the first time since Channel 4 showed the 2005 Ashes.

Assuming they go ahead, the men’s T20 internationals against Pakistan and Australia this summer will be live. The BBC had also negotiated the right to show ten live matches in the postponed inaugural edition of the Hundred.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, was keen for the return of live cricket to terrestrial television for the first time in 15 years, stating that while the partnership with Sky was crucial for the financial future of the game, he did not want cricket to be “the richest but most irrelevant” sport in the country.

There has been a debate about whether putting international cricket on subscription channels has meant a generation has turned away from the game while acknowledging that income from Sky — which under the new five-year deal amounts to £220 million a year — is crucial for funding the sport across grassroots, domestic and women’s cricket as well as ensuring that England players are well remunerated.

In other broadcast news the former Yorkshire and England batsman Geoffrey Boycott appears to have commentated on his last match for BBC Radio’s Test Match Special (TMS). The corporation announced its lineup of on-air talent for the summer which did not include Boycott.

Boycott, now aged 79, would have been unlikely to work on England’s Test series against West Indies and Pakistan because of Covid‑19.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Due to the current situation, Geoffrey is not part of the commentary team for the [West Indies] series. However, we are monitoring the situation closely and we hope to look forward to him making an appearance on TMS this summer.”

John Stephenson


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