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Blowers and Baxter present a Test Match Special
TO slightly invert a well-known phrase, the Memories of Test Match Special show at Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre next month isn't just cricket.
One of the most recognisable voices in Britain, Henry Blofeld, will be joined on stage by the man behind the scenes at national institution Test Match Special, Peter Baxter.
But while the show obviously takes cricket as its focal point, Baxter said there's still plenty of interest even to those who aren't fans of the gentleman's game.
Baxter, who produced TMS for 34 years, said: "We're at pains to say while it's from a cricket base and that's why we came together, it's not a cricket show. People who don't know about cricket shouldn't be put off. It's a lot of fun.
"People come along with their wives or girlfriends who've been dragged along not knowing anything about cricket. They say they enjoy it and that's the greatest thing. You don't need to know about cricket - it's stories about people and places, although it helps to know references."
Blowers and Baxter are just coming to the end of a 19 show run at the Edinburgh festival before setting off on a natiowide theatre tour.
Scarborough is the first stop, before the tour bus rolls into Aylesbury on Friday September 6.
It's a return to familiar territory for Baxter, who's lived in the nearby village of Soulbury for 25 years, and also a return to a less hectic schedule than the one he and Blowers have been experiencing in the Scottish capital.
He said: "We normally do the shows in theatres and it's two hours long with an interval. At Edinburgh it's a tight one hour - we've got to get the timing right.
"I'm in a run of 19 consecutive nights. It's not like anything I've done before, to do something for that length of time."
That scheduling meant the pair missed Stuart Broad's devastating spell that sealed Ashes victory for England at Durham, with the Australians all out by the time they came off stage despite the visitors looking likely to set up a nailbiting end to the Fourth Test.
Baxter said: "We started the show at 5.30pm and at that stage they were 100 for no wicket, so we were getting a bit worried.
"Henry said one wicket would bring a cluster and that's what happened."
The Edinburgh show has helped the pair prepare for their 18 date tour of the country - consider it a warm-up match against Queensland or Victoria ahead of an Ashes test match at the SCG.
Baxter said: "At Edinburgh we've honed a few of the stories but we'll be doing things slightly differently when we get back on the road.
"Before we started we did some quite detailed planning but then we didn't take any notice of it once we got on stage! All our reconaissance was wasted, but we've hit a basic formula that works. We've learned more on stage than we have done sitting in a dressing room.
"You hone a story. We might say to each other, 'When you do that line, that doesn't work but something else does'.
"India gets a fair number of stories. It's an amusing and fascinating place to go. Some of the funnier stories come from India."
Other memories come from his erstwhile former Test Match Special colleagues, the late Brian Johnston and John Arlott, who hark back to a different age when cricket wasn't quite as serious as it maybe is now.
Baxter said: "You'd become friendly with the players. The press party and the players' party were much smaller and they weren't kept away from us. Sometimes you'd be in the same hotel - that doesn't happen so often. Nowadays they'd be in their own section and wouldn't mingle.
"If you came down to breakfast at the same time you'd sit with each other. I suspect they don't do that so often now."
He added: "I started with two of the greatest commentators, probably on any subject, Brian Johnston and John Arlott. Finding radio commentators like that who can do ball by ball commentary is really difficult. They are born, not made. You need to be able to paint the radio picture.
"I miss the camaraderie in the box. It was all consuming. But in my last full year, I spent 160 nights in hotels and four in the air. Other things became more important and I was missing a small corner of Bucks more and more.
"Doing this job on this tour going round with Blowers is like sitting on an outside broadcast. It's been a good replacement."
Blofeld and Baxter: Memories of Test Match Special comes to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre at 7.30pm on Friday, September 6. For tickets go to www.atgtickets.com or call 0844 871 7627.
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