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Alex Tudor on the surprise call-up, epic 99* and lethal Perth blow

Alex Tudor
Ed Kemp by Ed Kemp 7 minute read

Indisputably the nicest man in cricket, Alex Tudor talks through his career from Perth to Perth in an exclusive conversation with Ed Kemp.

First published in 2015

The belonging

89 | Dartford Festival, 1988

Fred [Flintoff], Swanny [Graeme Swann] and I played against each other from a very young age. I was playing for London Schools at the Dartford Festival and at the end of the week the best XIs were picked to play in a festival match. I got picked in one of the XIs and I scored 89 to win Man of the Match. I had actually been picked for my batting, not my bowling. Fred was captain and he was batting at No.3. He hit a four and then got out, I came in after him at No.4 and managed to get a few. At the time, I felt like I belonged with the best around in my age group.

The top three

3-63 | Surrey v Middlesex, Britannic Assurance County Championship, Lord’s, 1995

I’d had a very good beginning to the season in the 2nd XI, I think I’d taken 40-odd wickets, so I got picked for my first-class debut. Home of cricket, you can’t ask for better than that. I got three-fer: Jason Pooley, Paul Weekes and then Ramps felt sorry for me and clipped one to square-leg having got a double-hundred! He thought ‘I’ve seen enough of this lad, let me just clip him and let him have a wicket!’ Emburey and Tufnell destroyed us in the second innings and the game was over very, very quickly. It was very memorable because it was at Lord’s but also because we got badly beaten. It stays in the memory and those wickets weren’t a bad three either – they weren’t tailenders, they were the top three.

The lesson

6-101 | Surrey v Middlesex, Britannic Assurance County Championship, Lord’s, 1995

When Dave Gilbert came in as coach he shook up the Surrey changing room. We trained very hard and I remember the day before this game he had me bowling for 50 minutes. Normally you do 20-30 minutes the day before and then you finish but he kept me going, insisting I’d learn from it. The next day I took 6-101. After that he sat me down and said: ‘That’s how you train. You train hard and then you’ll get the rewards at the end.’ I never forgot that. At the time, I thought ‘this man’s going to kill me, I’ll have nothing left in the tank’ but I soon understood what he was doing.

The call-up

Included in England’s Ashes squad | The Ashes, 1998/99

I don’t think I would have even had 20 first-class wickets when I got the call-up! It was a total shock. Andrew Caddick had just come off 105 wickets in the County Championship and I was hoping that he wasn’t thinking I had just taken his spot because I was the young bowler going in for work experience, so to speak. How someone can take 105 wickets and not make the Test team I do not know. There was a little bit of drama about that but I was just over the moon, as were my parents. The best bit was that I actually had my 21st birthday on the plane. I remember the physio Wayne Morton brought out a cake for me to celebrate and you don’t get many better 21st birthdays than that!

The Perth berth

4-89 & 1-19 | England v Australia, 2nd Test, Perth, 1998

As was the case back then we were getting hammered left, right and centre and there was the thinking that something needed to change. It was between Dean Headley and myself but we didn’t know until the day of the match. The night before was the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had. I was so nervous. I got to the ground and Stewie said: ‘Tudes, you’ll be making your debut,’ and I was like ‘You are kidding me!’ I was 21, I had grown up watching these guys on TV and then all of a sudden I was playing in the same side as them, playing against Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, the Waugh brothers, Ponting… it was like ‘What is going on?’ I managed to get a four-fer and I was just thinking of my parents back home. I felt like I’d arrived, like I’d done it. This is what you dream of as kid and then all of a sudden you’re there, you’ve done well, you’ve got the Barmy Army singing your name and you’ve brought the guys back into the game. It was just wow.

The 99

32* & 99* | England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Edgbaston, 1999

I remember Nasser, in the second dig, looking around the changing room and saying ‘Right then, who’s going in?’ He was normally No.3 and he wanted a nightwatchman. He was looking around the room and people were looking a bit sheepish so he said: ‘Right Tudes, you got some in the first innings, get in.’ I hadn’t done it before because we didn’t really do it at Surrey. We came off for bad light after I faced one ball – never saw it. Next morning I went down to the nets with Ramps and he said, ‘Have some fun’. I said, ‘Look mate, if I’m in for any period of time, there’ll be fireworks!’ The wicket wasn’t great but they bowled a lot of four balls. It’s a day I’ll never forget. My brother kept dropping himself down the order in his club game so that he could watch me, he normally batted at No.3 but batted at No.8 that day so he didn’t miss me! I look back and it’s a bit annoying that I was one run away from 100. Not many people have done that for their country but I suppose I’ve got a name for it!

The career-best

7-48 & 2-42 | Surrey v Lancashire, PPP Healthcare County Championship, The Oval, 2000

Adam Hollioake and Keith Medleycott – both of whom I loved – came up to me before this game and said, ‘We know you’re not 100 per cent, we know you’re struggling, but you at 70 per cent is better than what we have to call up. Even if you bowl at half-pace, we’ll go with that.’ With that, I just relaxed and didn’t try to bowl too fast. They were brilliant at man-management. I ended up bowling very well and ended up taking a seven-fer – my career-best figures. It was another massive learning curve for me.

The Test five-fer

5-44 & 1-37 | England v Australia, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, 2001

Athers was captain for this one because Nasser was injured. I wasn’t fit but he sat me down and asked if I could get through it. I said I could and that was good enough for him. I bowled in good areas and it was a spell that brought us back into the game. In the second innings we imploded but it was a great feeling to get us back into it and I remember that my dad and brother were there watching. They had a serious batting line-up. When I played, I played against the best, and I did OK. Had it not been for injuries, then who knows?

The Man of the Match

4-65 & 3-44 | England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 2002

This was a great win. Caddy got injured early on so myself, Hoggy, Fred and Gilo had to do a lot of bowling. I got four wickets in the first innings and three in the second and we won by 10 wickets. They followed on and we needed 50 to win in five overs – Tres and Vaughany went out and smashed it. I remember running on to celebrate and getting the Man of the Match award, which was nice.

The shiner

2-144 | England v Australia, 3rd Test, Perth, 2002

Brett Lee was bowling absolute gas. I had sort of peppered him earlier on so when I walked he said: ‘Tudes, I owe you some.’ He told me he was coming but me being me I said ‘bring it’. It was not very nice, I had Darren Lehmann at short-leg and Glenn McGrath being very big and brave at cover. I decided I was going to duck if it was short. They took the new ball and I thought it would bounce more than it did so when I saw it dug in I went down. It didn’t get up and I just thought ‘shit’. It was some serious pepper. I remember putting my glove over my left eye and I actually thought my eyeball was going to fall out – there was a lot of claret. Butch ran out and I knew my mum was watching so I told him that he had to call her. He did it straight away, which was good because she is a worrier. It’s one of those things isn’t it, but who can say they made their debut and finished their career on the same wicket? Started at Perth, finished at Perth.

First published in 2015

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