Ben Stokes’s heroic display at Headingley has led to repeated calls for Test match cricket to be made widely available on free-to-view television.
And Sports Minister Nigel Adams, Conservative MP for Selby, has told The Yorkshire Post that he was hopeful that more world class cricket would be accessible to all and available on channels such as the BBC and Channel 4.
Despite earlier interviews when he said he feared cricket was unlikely to become available on terrestrial television, he said today: “It seems now there is going to be lots of cricket on free to view television in future. This is great news that people will be able to see lots of live cricket across all channels.”
Sunday’s heart-stopping third Test match between England and Australia at the Emerald Headingley stadium, saw Stokes haul England back from the brink, to scoop victory over Australia by just one breath-taking wicket.
Legendary cricket umpire Dickie Bird, 86, from Barnsley, today agreed it was probably the best match he had ever seen, during his eight decades of cricket.
Mr Bird said: “It was probably the best game of cricket I have ever seen. I have umpired all over the world and never seen anything quite like it. It was certainly a special day I was glad to witness.
“The only thing that has come close was a match in Karachi in the early 1980s when Pakistan played Australia.”
He agreed that live cricket should be available to view for free adding: “Everyone should get the chance to see live cricket, particularly kids who play on the street and older folk who cannot afford to pay extra. My whole test career was covered by the BBC and it should be accessible.”
He recalled his childhood when he would play cricket at school in Barnsley on grass strewn with glass, where he captained the school team.
Sunday’s thrilling result levelled the Test series 1-1 and sparked hopes it might return to terrestrial TV, with the last two matches of the series shown free-to-air.
Those calling for the move included Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tweeted that Stokes’s unbeaten 135 was “yet another reason that Test cricket should be free to watch on TV”.
And though debate has resurfaced about restoring Test cricket to the ‘crown jewels’ list of sports reserved for terrestrial TV – a list currently being updated for the first time in 20 years – the Sports Minister earlier said the game relies heavily on its income from satellite TV deals.
“Cricket also needs the cash,” Mr Adams said, referring to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s lucrative agreement with Sky. “You simply wouldn’t see the county game as it is without the money that comes in.”
Earlier this month, a report from the centre-right Policy Exchange think-tank recommended returning Test cricket to terrestrial TV as one of several steps which would help strengthen the United Kingdom post-Brexit.