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Brian Johnston descending into giggles during a Test Match Priceless

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Published on Feb 24, 2009

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Unforgettable moments with Brian Johnston as introduced by the instigator himself Jonathan Agnew.

Barry Johnston -- Times (2003)
I WAS listening to the radio at home on Friday, August 9, 1991, when I heard an instant classic of radio comedy. Jonathan Agnew, the former Leicestershire and England bowler, had recently joined the Test Match Special (TMS) team as a summariser and was running through the scorecard with Brian at the end of the day. Earlier in the afternoon, Ian Botham had got himself out in bizarre fashion by knocking a bail off with the inside of his leg. I was walking out of the sitting room when Agnew mentioned something about Botham not quite getting his leg over.
I heard Brian's stifled chuckle and hurried back into the room. I knew he was going to get the giggles. By the time he stopped a minute or so later, I had tears running down my face. It was, and still is, the funniest thing I have ever heard.

The original remark was not even Agnew's. He had been in the press box when Botham's wicket fell and John Etheridge, of The Sun, had whispered to him: "I know what our headline will be tomorrow — Botham cocks it up by not getting his leg over!" In his defence, Agnew has said that he did not originally intend to pass on the comment, but when Brian started to talk about Botham doing the splits, the words just popped into his head. The rest, as they say, is history . . .

Afterwards, Brian used to claim that it was the most professional piece of broadcasting he had done because he tried to keep on talking, in spite of everything. But at the time he was furious with himself for losing control and felt that he had been badly let down by his colleagues. "Brian was appalled," Peter Baxter (the TMS producer) said, "and so was I.

"He was very professional and expected others to be so. That is why it upset him." Brian was cross with Tony Cozier for not coming to his rescue. "It did flash through my mind at the time," Cozier said, "but only for a split second." Like countless others, Cozier had been a victim of Brian's practical jokes and he took a special delight in turning the tables for once.

The next morning Baxter was surprised to discover that BBC engineers had made copies of the giggle and that it had already been played on several radio breakfast programmes. Later it was selected for Pick of the Week on Radio 4 and someone even suggested that it be entered for a Sony Award. "How can you enter a mistake for an award?" Baxter wondered.

The letters and phone calls started to flood in. Thousands of drivers had been listening in their cars on their way home and many of them had been forced to pull into the side of the road until they had calmed down. Tim Rice laughed so hard that he thought he was going to endanger his fellow motorists. Ronnie Corbett rang to say that his wife, Ann, had to stop on the hard shoulder of the M1.

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