Cricket: Highlights outshone my brief spell of gloom

Andrew Caddick applauds the efforts of Angus Fraser on a striking day for England
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The Independent Online
SOMETIMES life can be perplexing for a fast bowler. Take the second day of the Second Test (or is it the First?) here in Port of Spain. England had tormented the West Indies to distraction with a magnificent ninth- wicket stand in the morning. With Gus Fraser, hit on the head by the first ball of the day, exhibiting a real cussedness and determination to stay there, the side pulled themselves firmly back into the match.

Then it was our turn to bowl on another sporting wicket. It was far from a batsman's paradise and the pitch was always going to encourage seam movement if the ball was put in the right spot. And that's what England did. At the start of the West Indies innings they could hardly get a run off the bat. If they were not discouraged they were certainly discomfited. Our tails were up and it felt good to be bowling. The entry of Brian Lara into the proceedings changed things a bit. After my first spell, in which only 12 runs came off nine overs, I felt brisk and confident even though the temperature was 33C and sweat was pouring off the bowlers like water down the Niagara. The second spell was a little bit different. Lara took the attack to me.

It would be silly of me to claim that I bowled well in that short burst but it was irritating to see the ball being carved through the slips. The pitch might have been green but the rub of it was hardly with us in that brief period. But England are a hardened side these days and we did not let them get away. The bowlers performed well as a unit and knew that due diligence and adherence to the right principles would bring their own reward.

So they did, not least for Fraser. He was written off in many quarters last year but nobody should ever be consigned to the scrapheap. He is a bowler who has forged a career out of putting the ball in the spots where the batsmen have to play it and that is what he did in Trinidad as the West Indies first innings ground into trouble.

Lara, it should always be remembered, is not super- human. Much was made in the press over here after a press conference I gave before the match started. It was as though I had said I had a plan for the West Indies' captain and wanted to take him on. Sure, I wanted to bowl to him but it is silly to suggest that he would be singled out. You always have to bear in mind that any batsman can be prised out. That is what happened to Lara here. He played some good-looking shots but he was taking some risks, too.

He took one risk too many against Fraser, who really had his tail up. What a good day it was for the senior seamer, batting as he did and then charging in to get five wickets on his recall. No doubt, considering all the pre-publicity and the fact that he is captain, Lara was the most special. No doubt, too, our captain's heart was in his mouth as the ball skewed in his direction at mid-off.

England shaded the second day through good, hard-headed professionalism. We might have scored more runs on the first day, but this is probably destined to be a low-scoring series. No praise is too high for the innings played by Nasser Hussain. Going in at No 4 he stayed there until the end and shepherded the lower order through. His concentration in trying temperatures never wavered. It's often said that a 50 in certain cricketing circumstances is worth more. Hussain's unbeaten 61 definitely merited a century.

I will always have happy memories of Port of Spain, for although England were bowled out - infamously - for 46 here four years ago, and thus lost a Test match we could so easily have won, my career-best bowling figures still remain the 6 for 60 I took then. Let's hope that the memories after this Test will be even better.

There is no mistaking now that this tour has finally started. There is nothing like the tension of Test cricket to keep your mind honed. It can be irritating, annoying, tiring but it can be enormously uplifting too - as long as you keep replacing those fluids.

Not much time or inclination for reading at the moment but I have finally come to the end of John Grisham's The Partner. The hero did not get it all his own way in the end after setting his carefully laid plan and found himself without any of the money he had stolen. We must hope our carefully laid plans are properly rewarded.

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