Cricket: Fraser refuses to be fazed by narrow defeat

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The Independent Online
'I should have bloody caught it,' admitted Angus Fraser of the slip that precipitated England's defeat in the second Test. Otherwise, the big bowler had an outstanding game at Queen's Park Oval.

And, he informs Derek Pringle, he is confident the next encounter with the West Indies will be markedly different.

In the aftermath of the second Test, England's players are taking a two-day break in order to lick wounds and recharge their batteries. But while a round of golf or a boat trip round the Gulf of Paria may serve as pleasant diversions, one question refuses to go away: with another Test due to start on Friday, how do you begin to snapping again at your opponent's heels when you've just had your teeth kicked in?

One man who should know the answer is Angus Fraser, for whom it was third time unlucky at the Queen's Park Oval. Apart from performing heroically with the ball, taking 11 for 110, Fraser was also partially the villain of the piece, dropping David Williams off his own bowling with the very first ball of the final morning.

"I should have bloody caught it," said the hulking Middlesex bowler the morning after, confessing that he also felt knackered and hungover. "With only half a dozen caught-and-bowled catches in my career I wasn't really expecting it. But it came back at a nice height and a nice pace, so even though I had to dive to my right, I really should have snaffled it.

"As I picked myself up off the deck, memories of us dropping Shivnarine Chanderpaul here last time came flooding back, but I really didn't think that we could lose again. That said, Carl Hooper played superbly. When you think that he was stuck in the twenties for an hour and a half and still didn't give it away. On that pitch, it has to be one of the great innings."

With two days at leisure, Fraser believes it is up to the individual to cope as best they can with the after effects of losing a match England ought to have won.

"Athers [captain Michael Atherton] was just saying the other night that when you win, how everyone comes together to celebrate, but when you lose how fragmented it is. I guess it's natural that people just want to spend time on their own. That's certainly the way I feel, and I did well.

"There is nothing daunting for me about playing the next Test at the same ground, and although I'll most probably spend the next day feeling sorry for myself, I'll be revved up in time for Friday. Hopefully we can redeem ourselves and get back into the series."

One player who may perhaps be tempted to spend the next few days doing a Greta Garbo is Andrew Caddick who, on a pitch tailor-made for tall pace bowlers, failed to take a single wicket.

But if the England coach, David Lloyd, was quick to implicate Caddick when he said: "Two bowlers underperformed big time on that pitch, and one of those has the experience to do better," Fraser, was more charitable about his team-mate.

"OK, we might have bowled better as a side, but Caddy [Caddick] can bowl, and his recent Test record is as good as anyone's. He's a top bowler and there is no reason why he shouldn't turn it round and do well in the next Test.

"You're not going to be able to bowl well every time. In fact I felt I bowled much better in the second innings, and I got three wickets instead of eight. It's the same with Dean [Headley]. He's proved he can bowl at this level last summer. It's just that as you become a better bowler, you tend to have fewer poor days."

There is a theory going round that Fraser, having shouldered so much over the first four days of the match, had little left to give on the last, when his probing seam and bounce were most needed.

"I didn't feel that, and I felt really good for my first five overs. Mind you, when the second new ball arrived I did feel weary. It's true that I do throw myself at the match and I can't pace myself. I guess sometimes your mind may feel good but your body simply won't respond. That's when you get into bad habits, like bowling the wrong line."

Yet it was precisely because Fraser did not get into bad habits, and kept an immaculate line and length, that he prospered. On a pitch offering so much help, there is no need for variety or experimentation. So why could not the other pace bowlers follow his example?

"When you're not getting wickets, you start doubting yourself. On that pitch, where some balls die and others fly through, you begin to wonder whether that inconsistency is down to you and not the pitch. Then, instead of relaxing into a rhythm, you start trying too hard, and that's when you lose your action and most likely your accuracy, too."

Having not bowled in a Test match since the Cape Town Test two years ago - he was dropped by Raymond Illingworth, who sent out sundry unsubtle signals to the Middlesex bowler that he did not rate him - Fraser has more reason than most to be cheerful about his dismissal of Brian Lara in the first innings, his 123rd in Test cricket.

"When Athers caught him at mid-off, I said it may be Lara but that wicket is special for another reason. When he asked why, I said, it's taken me past Illy [Illingworth].

"I'm not sure why Illy didn't rate me. I think it's because he didn't think I could bowl on flat pitches. Maybe that's true, but on pitches like the one here, I'm a dangerous prospect, because I generally get the ball in the right areas. If the next Test pitch at Queen's Park is anything like the last one, I won't mind bowling on it."

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