My dear old thing! Blowers given out before Ashes finale

But now his clipped Old Etonian tones have been forced off the airwaves for next week's Test match against Australia because of financial cuts at the BBC.

"Blowers" will miss the game - arguably the biggest sporting event in this country for 40 years - because he has already had his turn at the microphone.

Budgets for Radio 4's Test Match Special (TMS) now allow only for two full-time commentators, with Blofeld, 66, alternating in the five-match series with Christopher "CMJ" Martin-Jenkins. For the game which begins at The Oval, south London, on Thursday, CMJ will take his place alongside Jonathan Agnew, the BBC's cricket correspondent, and Jim Maxwell of the Australian radio station ABC.

To some, the absence of Blofeld, who turned to journalism after a road accident ended a promising career as wicketkeeper-batsman, means TMS is entering the match "without its first team". His appeal was underlined by a poll of 12,000 readers in the current edition of The Wisden Cricketer magazine in which he was voted the most popular TMS commentator, with 1,334 votes. Jonathan Agnew received 423 votes and Christopher Martin-Jenkins polled 408.

John Woodcock, a former editor of Wisden and ex-cricket correspondent of The Times, who introduced Blofeld to cricket journalism in the 1950s, said: "It is only a personal view but to me it is tantamount to knowingly not taking out your first team. He has a good knowledge of the game, an excellent turn of phrase and is a real personality with the ability to convey this on air."

The BBC, which heavily promotes its TMS coverage in the absence of television rights for cricket, defended its line-up. A spokeswoman said: "It's in no way a reflection of his ability - it's just the way the cookie crumbles and that's the way it will stay. The rotas went up months ago and there's no question of slotting him in. It could have been the fourth Test that was the most exciting one."

Blofeld - who wrote a column for The Independent for several years - will be at the crucial match, in which England are tipped to win back the Ashes having taken a 2-1 lead, as a spectator rather than commentator.

Blofeld said: "I don't want to get drawn into anything. As far as I'm concerned it's down to the rota system and I'm not worried about not being in the commentary box. I will be at the game but asa spectator." He said he was hopings to be part of the TMS commentary team for the winter series in India and next year's home Test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Blofeld's best

* "There goes twinkle toes Tendulkar, his legs were going almost faster than he was." On the running style of the diminutive Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar.

* "My dear old thing..." Familiar address to fellow commentators.

* "Calypso, collapso." After another West Indies batting collapse.

* "In he comes, running like a baby elephant." The Test hero, Andrew Flintoff, comes in to bowl.

* "There goes another red double decker down Wellington Road."

A traffic update for TMS listeners from Lord's.

* "The bearded wonder." Moniker of Bill Frindall, the TMS statistician.

* "They stoop like subservient wine waiters." A description of cranes around the Oval.

* "He hit that like a kicking horse." Describing a batsman's "slog" - hitting the ball very hard.

* "Those who run cricket in this country, especially at the domestic level, are for the most part a self-serving, pusillanimous and self-important bunch of myopic dinosaurs unable to take any but the shortest-term view of everything." A general broadside against administrators.

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