Henry Blofeld: Test Match Special commentator calls time on career

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Difficult and sad decision to leave TMS - Blofeld

Henry Blofeld will retire from BBC Radio's Test Match Special after 45 years in the commentary box.

The 77-year-old will broadcast on the show for the final time when England host West Indies from 7 September.

"Although I am still rather keener than mustard, I find it harder work than I once did," he said.

"I leave supremely confident TMS is in the safest of hands, led by the ageless Aggers [Jonathan Agnew]. I think he will come to be seen as the best."

"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.

"I hope some will be sad that they will now hear less about the lifestyles of pigeons, seagulls and helicopters, although I fear the general feeling will be one of huge relief."

'My greatest memory'

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Henry Blofeld tells Today about the impact his commentary had in 1981

Blofeld - also known as 'Blowers' - played first-class matches for Cambridge University in the 1950s.

After what he says was an unfulfilling three years in banking, he moved into sports journalism in the 1960s before joining TMS in 1972, forging a career he says was full of "the greatest possible fun".

His highlight, he says, was England's third Test win over Australia in 1981, a series which became known as 'Botham's Ashes', as a result of Ian Botham's performance with both bat and ball.

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Blofeld's iconic 1981 Ashes commentary

Blofeld added: "My greatest memory? Headingley 1981, that amazing Test against Australia. Botham 149 not out, Willis eight for 43. Always good to beat Australia isn't it?"

'Please change your mind'

Vaughan added "pigeons will hold a minute's silence" pointing to Blofeld's regular reference of the birds in commentary
Michael Vaughan added "pigeons will hold a minute's silence", pointing to Blofeld's regular reference of the birds in commentary

Blofeld was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to broadcasting.

His unique style, with regular use of the phrase "my dear old thing" has become part of TMS during Tests, as has his analysis of the food served during breaks in play.

"You haven't heard my final 'my dear old thing' quite yet," added Blofeld. "Happily, I shall be commentating next month on the first two Tests against South Africa, and then for the last one of the summer against the West Indies at Lord's."

Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: "Please please change your mind... we need 'my dear old thing' for a few more years."

'I will always feel the TMS box is my home'

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Pint-Sized Gold: 2005 Ashes funniest moments

Blofeld welcomes the "new dimension" female commentators have brought to the game and cites their impact among one of the many changes the profession has seen during his 55 years in the media.

TMS commentator Alison Mitchell returned the compliment, tweeting Blofeld was "unparalleled at painting pictures with words".

Blofeld added: "Commentary has become much more conversational since I started. It has changed enormously. I don't know if it's better, I think it probably is.

"One of the important things about TMS is that it is company. That's a wonderful definition. A lot of our audience are people doing housework wanting a comfortable voice.

"I talk about pigeons, seagulls policemen and the girl in the red dress in the grandstand, it's all that I think which attracts people along with the cricket.

"I've been so wildly privileged to be part of TMS for so long. I shall miss it enormously and I will always feel the TMS box is my home."

'I will miss his chaos'

Blofeld joined in the middle by former England captains Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart
Blofeld joined in the middle by former England captains Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew:

"I sit here now with real mixed feelings. Real sadness, I'll miss Henry. His enthusiasm, his company, his chaos.

"Henry is one of those characters that really set up Test Match Special. It's the legacy of people like him who really developed this programme. People have tried to copy it ever since.

"People like Henry have never lost that total enthusiasm you have for the game that you have as a fan.

"We are all terribly insecure on the microphone. But he has gone of his own volition. He has absolutely timed it right. I have huge admiration for him going at what he considers is the right time."

'Soundtrack to summer' - Your tributes

Chris Watkins was one of many paying tribute to Blofeld's carer on Twitter
Chris Watkins was one of many paying tribute to Blofeld's carer on Twitter

Tom McCarron: Going to miss Blofeld; he's a soundtrack to summer; great analysis to ramblings on pigeons. Looking forward to his 'best of'.

John Graham: What pleasure this man's commentaries have given me down the years. Thank you and very, very happy retirement Henry Blofeld.

Paul Bentham: I know we should wish Blowers a happy retirement and all that but, selfishly, I'm gutted! Our dear old thing!

Henry Blofeld
Blofeld played a handful of first-class matches and eventually joined TMS in 1972

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