Cricket: My day for a high five after the low mood

Andrew Caddick in Port of Spain explains how criticism was given the perfect riposte
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The Independent Online
IT had been a long, long week. And then the West Indies opening batsman Stuart Williams edged a ball which moved away from him to first slip. Graham Thorpe held a good low catch in front of him. It was my first wicket of the series and as the ball stuck I felt I might have been emerging from darkness into light.

That initial breakthrough was of utmost significance. I had started bowling well with the new ball at the start of the Third Test, but without tangible reward of the sort that has "... bowled Caddick" in the scorebook it would have been of little use.

I had felt good on the morning of the match, utterly determined as well. But even when Williams fell it did not quite pave the way to instant riches. Brian Lara came in and hit his first ball for four. In the first over after lunch Lara was flying and I copped the brunt. He played some lovely shots, took a risk or two and 19 came from six balls.

The West Indies captain seems to have made up his mind to try to set the tone by dominating the attack immediately a new session starts. He did it in the first Trinidad Test and it was me who was on the receiving end then as well. I was almost amused. Here we go again. But I felt I was still in control. The next four overs yielded just three runs.

With Gus Fraser at the other end once more bowling a rigorous line, the West Indies' runs dried up. Fraser took three wickets and they were virtually scoreless. They tried to play a few shots. And then wickets started to come for me. The second was down to an astonishing catch by the captain, Michael Atherton, who held on to a blistering Jimmy Adams drive close in on the off-side.

On such moments can not only innings but the confidence and approach of players turn. The next ball, I got David Williams. I had three wickets. There were two more to come and the ball that bowled Curtly Ambrose, pitching and cutting back, was pretty useful.

The task was hardly finished, but getting 5 for 67 was a combination of delight and relief. The days which preceded it had been fairly wretched. England had lost the Second Test to go 1-0 down in the series. It was a match we controlled for almost four days only for the West Indies to scrape home.

There is no point in trying to claim that I bowled well throughout the match. I didn't. I started off all right when the opposition first went in but there were two spells afterwards which will not feature in my two most incisive of all time. It was one of those matches where it wouldn't go quite right. The wicket wouldn't come. One, just one, is all I felt I needed and then things might have taken off. But it was elusive. You then try harder, but still you get nowhere.

The dressing-room was sombre afterwards. It was immensely disappointing. We had chances on the final morning. There were two spilled chances but England didn't have what luck might have been going. Decisions that might, who knows, have gone for us on another day didn't.

Nobody is a harsher critic of my performance than me. The two days afterwards were reflective. I thought of how I bowled, of how it wouldn't quite come out properly. I was grateful for support from Gus, who had bowled with such magnificent heart and spirit and from David Graveney, the chairman of the selectors who rang from England and was supportive, understanding and looking to the future.

When we won the toss and put the West Indies in on Friday morning I was glad. I wanted to get it over with, to prove that I could still bowl. I've come back before. I was dropped for the final Test against Pakistan in 1996 and last summer at Headingley I was omitted again. But I came back. At The Oval last summer I took eight Australian wickets, five on a glorious sunny afternoon as England bowled them out for 104 and won by 19 runs. Had people forgotten that? But I knew, too, that was then and this is now.

I didn't feel nervous on Friday. In fact, I felt remarkably good. The ball came out all right and when I changed ends it felt still better. But the wicket, the first wicket, that's what I wanted. And to bowl the West Indies out for as few as we did. Well, it was some effort.

Bowling is an art you have to take from day to day, week to week. You either hit your straps or you don't. Bowlers have to accept that and the day when it starts to go just right, just as you practise for and imagine in your dreams, that's when the confidence returns and you have to take advantage. On Friday that happened. Of course, the job is not finished. But I feel it has started at last.

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