DateLine: 13th February 2006
Once upon a time Alex Tudor was fast bowling future of English cricket. Now, at the age of 28, with many fellow quicks having overtaken him in the England pecking order, he is not even sure if he has a First-class future. His raw pace and talent gave him his Championship debut for Surrey at the age of 17, and when selected for the Ashes tour of 1998-9 he was allegedly picked mainly for the experience. However, with the series still at 0-0, England gave him his debut at Perth, the quickest track of the tour. He performed credibly with the bat and then took 4-89 (including both Waugh twins), although he couldnít prevent a comfortable Australian win. He had demonstrated though that even the best batsmen in the world can be vulnerable to someone new doing something his colleagues canít, although with a less bouncy pitch at Adelaide in the next Test he was rather disappointingly dropped. The 1999 English summer saw him perform the act which is likely to stay with him for the rest of his career. In the First Test against New Zealand he came in at night-watchman with England on 3/1 and chasing an unsimple 211 to win. He didnít so much linger his innings the nest morning as smash the Kiwi attack all around Edgbaston, as England secured a surprisingly comfortable seven wicket win. His boundary laden innings had taken him to within sight of a most unexpected century, although a run a ball 21 from Surrey team-mate Graham Thorpe used up the runs remaining so quickly that Tudor was left high and dry on 99*. The disappointment which both he and the public felt at him falling one run short (he hadnít even scored a First-class century up to then, never mind a Test hundred) was tempered by the feeling that his obvious abilities with the bat would one day see him cross the three figure Test threshold. However, that match proved a false dawn for both Tudor and England, as injury ruled him out for the rest of the series which New Zealand eventually won. Although he would return to the Test team with some success (he took 5-44 against the Australians at Nottingham in 2001), injury was never far away, and Nasser Hussain very rarely trusted him with the new ball. The last Test which Tudor played was at Perth in 2002/3, although in losing by an innings, being haunted by continual no-balling, being forced to retire hurt when batting and with Steve Harmison starting to get established in the team, it was a truly forgettable match for him.
His 2003 and 2004 seasons were badly hit by injury, just as Englandís fast bowling attack started to grow serious claws. At the end of 2004 Surrey released him, despite him having a year left on his deal, and despite his Central London birthplace and his fatherís employment as an Oval gateman seemingly making him a permanent fixture in Kennington. Essex signed him for 2005, with a deal heavily linked to his availability. This was sensible insurance, as he managed just two Championship matches in April before spluttering out and not even playing limited-overs matches after June. The knee surgery which followed came at the price of a nine month rehabilitation. His past efforts in an England shirt mean that Tudor is still remembered (and warmly so) by the cricketing public, although there is little doubt that 2006 is make or break for him. There may not be any obvious England vacancies available for him next season, but if he canít stay fit and bowl well in 2006 he may not even have a county career left.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)
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