From the moment he entered the scene at the age of 17, Alex Tudor was the next big thing. He still is. The trouble is that seven years have passed without much change in this state of affairs.
He demonstrated again yesterday why so much faith has been placed in him. The months of injury and frustration, the periods when he has not performed or has bowled without pace or vigour, have never quite obliterated the perpetual notion that the second age of Tudor may be at hand.
It is not quite a case of now or never, but he will be 25 later this year and next big things who are quick bowlers do not last much beyond that.
Tudor spent a fruitful winter in the National Academy (mind you, who didn't?), he has had a solid start to the season with Surrey and he was desperately unlucky not to make the England team for the First Test.
The biggest thing that has happened to the next big thing was that his long-term pelvic problem was finally diagnosed in the winter, which may possibly be the finest act the Academy ever performs. He was found to be suffering from osteitis pubis and an appropriate exercise regime was instituted to combat it. It will become increasingly difficult for England to overlook him.
On his home ground – on the day that another fast bowler, Simon Jones, was hauled out of a short queue to join the squad for the Second Test – Tudor generally bowled with honest pace and frequent menace. His bowling started and ended raggedly in a flurry of boundaries, but between times there was some exacting stuff.
There were three wickets in all for him, the top trio in Somerset's order, which is a sufficient reward. He got one to bounce at the left-handed Marcus Trescothick for an edge to the keeper's left, moved one away from the right-handed Michael Burns to have him held at slip, and then removed Jamie Cox's middle stump with a late swerve in.
In the morning, when he took all his wickets, Tudor bowled 11 overs, the last five of them maidens, for 25 runs. It should be remembered that in his sporadic England career he has hardly let them down, from the pacy debut at Perth, through the match-winning 99 not out at Edgbaston to the 5 for 44 at Trent Bridge, England's best innings bowling return against Australia last summer.
Where he goes from here is up to the selectors, but it will not be too far from their sights. Their bowling cupboard, as is evident from the cricket in the shires this season, is hardly overstocked with overachievers.
That is partly because Surrey seem to have cornered the market. James Ormond, who opened the bowling for England in the winter, is operating at first change in this match; Ed Giddins, who was man of the match in a Lord's Test only two years ago, was not playing. Surrey, for one, take county cricket seriously.
Martin Bicknell, who was less incisive than Tudor early on, mopped up in the afternoon and finished with four deserved wickets. Surrey's entire team here have played international cricket, which can be said of only two of the Somerset side. Not that Surrey had it all their own way. Having made only 220 themselves on the first day (victims of Andrew Caddick, incidentally the best bowler in the match, unless anybody has other ideas) they reduced Somerset to 111 for 5.
An innings of destructive authority from Ian Blackwell largely helped to give Somerset the lead. A fortnight ago, he was utterly dismissive towards Matthew Hoggard, hitting him for 24 in a single over during a fearsome century. Yesterday he took on Tudor, reaching a 44-ball fifty with three fours in four balls, straight, through extra and past midwicket.
Blackwell is the sort of batsman who always keeps the bowlers interested while also breaking their hearts. His spirited hitting deserved a second hundred of the season before he was lbw, playing a rare defensive stroke. If the selectors are still looking they could do worse than select him in their one-day squad, and probably will do worse, since he does not meet today's weight-distribution template or bleep-test limit.
He and Rob Turner put on 106 for the sixth wicket. Turner did well to stick around considering he might have been embarrassed out at any time from any of the first 60-odd balls he faced, and he was dropped off one of them.
Surrey will be spurred on all summer by the memory of their colleague Ben Hollioake, whose death in a car accident in March will continue to haunt them. In Perth yesterday, his brother Adam and partner Sherryn had their first child. She will be called Bennaya after Ben and his girlfriend, Jannaya, who was critically injured in the accident.
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