I’m not going to preview the Ashes, because people far more informed about this sort of thing than I am have already done so.
I do, however, want to rave about one of my favourite discoveries of the year. If you are without Sky and wish to follow the Ashes this winter, you should keep in touch with what’s happening Down Under by listening to Test Match Sofa.
In case you are unaware of the sofa’s backstory, there’s a good account of it by Andrew Miller here. Basically a group of cricket tragics were made redundant, and thought they might as well start a cricket commentary team. After beginning with the Ashes series in 2009, they covered England’s tour of South Africa last winter, the 20/20 World Cup and now cover matches not involving England as well. Just this week they’ve provided commentary on New Zealand-India and South Africa-Pakistan.
Their method is wonderfully simple. Watch cricket on TV, talk about what’s happening, get drunk. And it’s proving increasingly popular; getting over 10,000 listeners by the end of this summer, which isn’t bad for a site that relies on word of mouth to get recommended.
I now cannot listen to Test Match Special after listening to Test Match Sofa, because the latter is far more entertaining. It just sounds like a group of friends sat at home talking about cricket. Which is fitting, because that’s what it is.
Their great and glorious leader Dan Norcross is a wonderful mimic – his Richie Benaud in particular is a joy to behold.
However, Test Match Sofa fundamentally works because its presenters know their cricket. Their commentary team have over 200 years of club cricket experience between them, and having seen them play against a Lord’s Taverners side in September I can confirm they can all play rather well. They obviously have a great love and knowledge of the game, and that shines through. Manny Cohen in particular has a good eye for a batsman’s technique and what weaknesses he may have. A lunchtime discussion they had over the summer on “Ultimate Cricketing Bastards” had some well-informed discussion of the Bodyline and D’Oliveira affairs.
So why don’t you give them a try tomorrow evening, when the first Test starts? Give the other – dare I say it, the proper – TMS a listen.