English broadcaster, writer, and entertainer. Considered the ‘voice of cricket’ for nearly half a century, Johnston began commentating for the BBC in 1946, and was a commentator on Radio 3's Test Match Special from 1970. His genuine love of cricket and cheerful, friendly manner made him a popular broadcaster.
From 1972 to 1987 he hosted the radio series Down Your Way.
Early career After studying history at Oxford, Johnston entered the family coffee business. He developed a passion for variety theatre, and it was on a company trip to Brazil that he first began compering variety shows. During World War II he served in the Grenadier Guards.
He began cricket commentating in 1946, and became the BBC's first cricket correspondent in 1963. He continued to present radio programmes, and from 1948, in the feature ‘Let's Go Somewhere’ on In Town Tonight, engaged in a series of stunts, including broadcasting from a pit between the rails as a train passed overhead.
Later career Dropped from the TV cricketing commentary team in 1970 in favour of more serious-minded ex-professionals, Johnston made a forceful comeback on BBC Radio 3's Test Match Special, partnering the melancholic poetry and depth of John Arlott's commentary with his own light-hearted, anecdotal style. He retired as a full-time employee of the BBC in 1972, but gained renewed vigour as a freelancer, continuing as one of the Test Match Special team and chairing Radio 4's cricket quiz Trivia Test Match.
Despite his finely tuned professionalism, Johnston fell prone to numerous broadcasting gaffes, as at the Oval in 1976, when he tersely announced: ‘The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey.’ He was the author of numerous books on cricket, an autobiography, and several collections of jokes.