Cricket: Down to business... an appointment with Lara

Andrew Caddick says that England are in the right mood for the hard work ahead
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The Independent Online
TEST matches are intense. For five days they demand mental and physical effort. Each is a battle in a long campaign. It is important to stay concentrated and, perversely, just as crucial to be relaxed.

When I go out at Sabina Park on Thursday I shall have slept well, I shall be prepared and if I'm nervous that feeling will disappear as soon as the match starts. You have to get on with it, treat it like another match. It is a hard, taxing game for bowlers, especially seam bowlers.

We have to work hard, we always have. Batsmen need immense powers of concentration; bowlers require that and and stamina too. Test pitches, generally, are prepared for batsmen. It is a batsman's game. We have to keep plugging away, over after over, waiting for an opening, probing, making scoring difficult, boring them into errors.

The bowlers did their job in the tour's first match. The wicket was not much to write home about, in fact it wasn't anything to write home about, but we got it in the right places. That was not an example of a batting pitch. This shows that it can work both ways. The batsmen were obviously unhappy because there was no chance of getting in, though I thought the Jamaican side were very brave.

I felt the ball was coming out well, I just need to keep bowling now to hone the fluency. It probably helps that the pitch for the present match against West Indies A is considerably flatter. It may well be the truest surface we play on all tour, but that will help our patience.

I had a minor scare last week. On Wednesday I got up feeling sick and weary. Maybe it was a touch of sunstroke, maybe a virus, but it wasn't welcome so close to this match or the Test. I stayed in bed for much of the day and wondered about pulling out of the game. But there was no choice in the end. I had to get through it, be part of the team. I already feel better.

It is 30 years since England won a Test series in the Caribbean when Colin Cowdrey's side took the series with a single victory. It is 29 years since England last collected the Wisden Trophy, with Ray Illingworth's side winning a home rubber 2-0. But this squad are confident that our time has come. The balance is good, it feels right.

Not that it will be comfortable in the Kingston arena. The West Indies tour is always a difficult one because of all the travelling, but later on when the series reaches Barbados and Antigua there will be plenty of English support. This is not usually the case at Sabina Park.

The West Indies crowds are fervent and it can be intimidating. My method will be as it always is. Some players may engage in banter. I don't. If I have to field at third man and fine leg after bowling I shall take no notice of what they say. That's my way.

The build-up may have started back home but we have not yet discussed the opening of the series. We know most of the batsmen named in the West Indies squad, we know their habits and foibles. We will be doing some chatting this week, naturally. Gus Fraser will be involved. Both of us have toured here before and our experience should help the others.

Dean Headley and I have played in only two Test matches together but I like bowling with him. It's bound to be an emotionally significant time for him. On Thursday he will step out on the ground where his grandfather, George, remains a potent folklore figure. Dean will perform in the shadow of the George Headley Stand. He will handle the occasion.

Much attention is also bound to be focused on West Indies' new captain, Brian Lara, by crowd and media alike. Having missed him at every possible meting since, the last ball I bowled at him was on England's tour here four years ago. It pitched outside off stump, he had a carve at it and Jack Russell took the catch behind. There had been the little matter of 375 runs which preceded that, but I shall take heart from our final encounter. Having got him out with my last ball to him it would be a shame not to dismiss him with the next as well.

Cricket on tour can be all consuming. But at least this week I've managed to read five more chapters of John Grisham's The Partner. Hardly the rapid progress I was making in the first few days but I've reached the stage where the hero's lawyer is making deals to get him off the hook. It's hotting up nicely. By next weekend so should this tour.