Cricket: Careers in the risk business

Andrew Caddick provides the view from the dressing-room as hope was abandoned
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AS play unfolded in the First Test the amusement on the dressing- room balcony was un- mistakeable. Not that it was exactly a happy feeling. It was the sort of black humour which people often seek in adversity. We smiled partly because it was hard to grasp what was going on and partly because we knew we had to get on with it.

The state of the pitch was not quite apparent at first. For a start, pitch-reading is an imperfect science. We knew it wouldn't be a shirtfront, suspected it would be sporting and would get worse. But I don't think anybody predicted the bizarre unpredictability which was to occur.

Then it takes bowlers a couple of overs to loosen up, and it is possible to get an oddly behaved ball early on which is not repeated. But by the third over it was pretty obvious from the safety of the perimeter that what was going on out there was not usual. Nobody said very much. There was no ranting or raving, not a single word about the match being called off, just the occasional wry smile.

As the wickets fell and the dismissed batsmen came in they didn't complain. We had spent months preparing for this. There was still a match to be won. But there was an uneasy feeling. Careers could have been threatened out there. The ball could have hit elbows, or heads, or almost anywhere and done severe damage. We knew what the stakes were.

Getting wickets in Test cricket, as I wrote last week, is usually about restricting batsmen, boring them into making mistakes. Here the only way not to take wickets was probably for the bowlers to get bored. Not that I would have had any desire to bowl. The England bowlers would have been as damaging as Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh but it cannot have been enjoyable. It looked clear from where I was that fairly early on, after a word with the batsmen, neither of them bowled bouncers. That was the right reaction.

It might have been unprecedented but it was not completely surprising when the match was abandoned. Still, there was no denying the feeling of deflation. Of course, it was disappointing for the players. We didn't have a meeting or anything. There was nothing that we could say about it.

However, there was widespread admiration for Alec Stewart and abundant sympathy for Mark Butcher. Stewart was very brave. He kept getting hit, but he kept on playing forward and getting into line. Believe me, it took guts. Butcher had not played in either of the opening two tour games, was called up on the morning of the match and then was out first ball to a delivery which was as close to unplayable as they get.

But our thoughts went out also to all those English fans who had come out to support us. It's always uplifting to see them abroad and there were plenty of them packed into Sabina Park.

In the immediate aftermath the players wondered if the supporters could be compensated. For some it would have been the trip of a lifetime. Some suggestions were bandied about, like free flights, which might be a goodwill marketing opportunity for somebody, but there is no easy solution. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

We have to put it behind us. This was a one-off, desperately unfortunate, but Test cricket will recover. The tour was tough anyway, but now we have two lots of back-to-back Tests. That's a lot of bowling - not a prospect to make you jump for joy but it's the Tests we are here for. While I suspect there would still be a result in fewer, a five-match series is what was planned.

Going into the Test I had felt in good order. My figures in the last warm-up match were nothing special, but I was leading the attack and it was decided that on a flat surface I had to try a few things. They didn't quite come off, but that's what you have to do to bowl sides out.

The restructured schedule has given us an unexpected break. It should enable me to finish John Grisham's book The Partner. I have reached Chapter 37 (five more to go) and the hero appears to have sorted everything out. There is the small matter of a dead body but he is coping with that and looks to have got clean away with $90m. Knowing Grisham, however, he could yet be batting on a dodgy wicket.