Cricket: Tudor announces his arrival in style

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ENGLAND'S PERFORMANCE over the last two days has been almost as bleak as anything that could be found on the neighbouring Nullarbor Plain, which is sensationally barren and arid. There has appeared one genuine watering hole, however, which, on this evidence, is not a mirage or a figment of the imagination.

While England's batsmen made a sadly predictable hash of a fast and bouncy pitch which is unique in world cricket, a tall, gangling 21-year-old took his first tentative steps into the arena of Test cricket.

Alex Tudor has been spoken about as a likely lad for some time now by those in the game. In Australia, he has worked at his fast bowling with unremitting effort and has impressed everyone with his keenness and his willingness to learn.

Essentially, this tour was meant to be a learning exercise for him, but England's performance in Brisbane has forced the selectors to turn to him when they and others doubted he was ready.

He would never have been picked in England, where there would have been many more options. Here, he was the only realistic alternative. So, when England were staggering along at 81 for 7 in their first innings, this young man strode through the pavilion gates and made his way to the middle. His height gave him the look of a young Garner or a Croft, a Walsh or a Bishop.

He took guard and, without fuss or flourish, he on-drove Damien Fleming for three and then steered Glenn McGrath off the middle of the bat wide of the slips for four. More than that, he got in behind the line of the short stuff and played it down at his feet and he refused to play anything he could leave alone.

There were some more good strokes and he took an accomplished and unruffled 18 not out back into the pavilion. Ten minutes later he was back on the field. Then, just before tea, Alec Stewart threw him the ball. His first over, which included a couple of no-balls, went for six; the second was a maiden and he hurried Mark Taylor twice.

He carried on after the interval, finding his rhythm, not trying to strain too hard for that extra pace which can cause the fast bowling mechanism to fall apart. He was controlled, fast, not fazed and clearly has an ideal temperament.

When Graeme Hick dropped a catch at second slip, he showed little emotion although he would have been disappointed not to have taken his first wicket. He had pitched the ball up and had not allowed himself to be seduced by Perth's high bounce into bowling the ball too short.

He had five good, fast overs at the start of the second day and came back for one more before lunch. He carried on afterwards and, when he had bowled the first of the afternoon, the new ball was taken by Darren Gough. Tudor bowled the second over with it and his last three balls were driven for four by Steve Waugh.

Tudor's nerve held, so did his captain's, and he was kept on. In his next over, Steve Waugh went back to force through the covers and the ball nipped back between bat and pad and hit middle stump.

In his next over, Mark Waugh drove and was caught low at third slip. It was genuine, controlled fast bowling.

He only once showed emotion, when Gough dropped Ricky Ponting at fine leg. In his next over, it was leaps and smiles when Ponting was caught behind and, one ball later, McGrath at gully. Wicket to wicket, Tudor had taken 4 for 21 and the watering hole was on the way to becoming a full-blown oasis.