Retired cricket commentator Henry Blofeld will be back behind the microphone at Fenner’s this Sunday
PUBLISHED: 10:05 06 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:05 06 July 2018
Supplied by Cambridge Literary Festival
Fenner’s, the Cambridge University Cricket Ground located on Mortimer Road, will be hosting a T20 charity cricket match from noon on Sunday between a Cambridge University President’s XI and a Royal Anglian Regiment XI.
The event, sponsored by Catherine Jones of Cambridge, is to be ‘orchestrated’ by former Test Match Special commentator, the irrepressible Henry Blofeld, and his guest of honour will be ex-Pakistan and Cambridge University cricketer, Majid Khan.
The match will be marking the centenary of the end of the First World War and will raise funds for the Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent charity that cares for the needs of soldiers, ex-soldiers, their families or dependents and the bereaved.
An auction of cricketing memorabilia will include a Pakistan sweater generously donated by Majid himself and a bat, donated by Grays of Cambridge, which will be signed by the celebrities and the players.
Before taking up the role in the commentary box, for which he would become famous, Blofeld was an exceptional schoolboy cricketer who kept wicket for the Eton College First XI.
In 1956, he scored 104 not out for a Public Schools team against the Combined Services and won the Cricket Society’s award for the most promising young player of the season.
A disastrous accident when a bus drove into him when he was on a bicycle left him with injuries so serious that he remained unconscious for 28 days. His enthusiasm for the game never wavered, however, and he continued playing when he came up to King’s College in the late 1950s.
He played for Cambridge University, making his debut exactly 60 years ago in 1958, and in the 1959 Varsity Match turned out against Oxford, winning his Blue.
A career at a merchant bank in the City followed but wasn’t really for him, so Blofeld drifted into writing about cricket and ended up covering the England tour to India in 1963-4.
This was the start of an illustrious career as a cricket journalist and broadcaster with the BBC, Sky and, most notably, BBC Radio’s Test Match Special until last summer, when he finally called time on his career.
One of cricket’s most charismatic figures – also known for his taste in neckwear – Blofeld has recently undertaken a one-man nationwide theatre tour based on his bestselling book, Over and Out, with more dates to come later in the year.
He tells the Cambridge Independent: “Playing cricket at Fenner’s was very exciting; I remember I played under Ted Dexter in my first Cambridge cap in 1958. In 1959, I scored a first-class 100 at Lord’s – that was quite exciting.”
On meeting up with Majid Khan again, Blofeld, 78, says: “I know Majid quite well; I haven’t seen him for a long time but he’s been a good friend of mine in the past – and what a wonderful cricketer he was too.
“It’ll be great to see him and he will lend the day a great air of distinction.”
Blofeld’s decision to hang up his microphone in 2017 was greeted with dismay by many, this writer included. After all, who else would ever say upon announcing their retirement: “Listeners will now be relieved to know that their chances of being told the right name of the fielders at third man and fine leg have greatly increased.”
“My eyes are not as good as they were,” he explains, “and the whole thing [commentary] is changing... I was the last of the old ones left and I think probably the time had come. I think when you’ve been doing any job for nearly 50 years and you begin to have doubts, it’s probably time to go.”
Blofeld added: “In a way I’m sorry I’ve left, but actually I’m delighted to have left now because I think it’s going on in a rather different way to which it used to – it’s just as good but I was brought up in the Old School.
“Ways have changed and I think probably my time had come, simple as that.”
Although he no longer commentates, Blofeld is adament that he hasn’t stopped working. “I’m not retired, I’m just merely not commentating about cricket,” he states. “I’m in the theatre 140 nights a year, on stage, and I’m busier now than I’ve ever been.
“I’m incredibly busy – I’m just about to rush off to make a speech at Lord’s. Yesterday I was doing a recording for two hours on a Radio 3 programme... It just goes on and it’s great fun, I love it – I couldn’t possibly retire.”
Gates open at 12pm on Sunday, July 8. Tickets, which are available to pre-order or purchase at the ground on the day, are priced as follows: standard £30; family group of four (two adults + two under 14s) £72; school groups (one teacher, eight under 14s) £90; child under 14 £12; senior citizen £12; student £12; unwaged £12; serving soldiers and veterans £12; family of soldiers and veterans £12; disabled £12; companion free (when purchased with disabled ticket).