Cricket: Paceman in unfamiliar territory

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IT SEEMED to be one of those situations that was perfect for Private Eye to run its spoof apology. You know the kind of thing: "In yesterday's edition, we may have given the impression that the appointment of Nasser Hussain as captain represented the dawn of a bright new era for English cricket. We now accept that this was not the case."

To muse along these lines was understandable. After all, England were 45 for 7, Chris Read had just joined Aftab Habib back in the pavilion to share notes on traumatic Test debuts and New Zealand's 226 all out seemed an enviable score. However, where England are concerned these days you can take nothing for granted - not even abject failure.

Enter Andy Caddick and Alex Tudor, hardly the most accomplished of cricketers at chasing lost causes. But thanks be to them. They stuck around. They played some shots. And while 126 did not in any way qualify as a respectable total - 158 is the previous lowest against New Zealand here - at least it was not 64, which England had totalled at Wellington during the winter tour of 1977-78.

Then Caddick, whom one suspected had ousted Alan Mullally for the privilege of bowling at the more helpful Pavilion End, sends Roger Twose back with the first ball of the second innings, completing a wretched Edgbaston return for the former Warwickshire man, who faced only four deliveries in the match. By 5.30pm, with eight Kiwis back in the hut - five of them falling to the bowling of Caddick - and only 52 runs on the board, we know it to have been a portentous moment. Now demons in the pitch are giving New Zealand the jitters.

To be acclaimed for heroic deeds is not an especially familiar experience for Caddick in an England career of stops and starts. This is the third of his comebacks, which reflects not only fluctuating form but the unavoidable fact that he is not everybody's cup of tea.

He began against Australia in 1993 and toured the Caribbean the following winter. Ditched by Ray Illingworth, he won a recall in August 1996 and from February 1997 enjoyed 14 months of almost permanence. Then came the elevation of Alec Stewart to the captaincy and another Caddick demise.

Certainly, during the formative years of his international career he was seen as rather taciturn and introverted and not at all a team man. Others sympathised with his sensitive nature, which the crueller comments brought out. He had undergone a charisma bypass, one writer wrote. Another mocked his ears - big flappers of the Prince of Wales variety - for which he demanded an apology and was laughed at still more.

The pertinent point today, of course, is that he is himself a Kiwi, the son of a Liverpool builder but born in Christchurch, modelled on Richard Hadlee but passed over by the country of his first allegiance.

"It doesn't mean any more to me to be playing against New Zealand," he said before this match. But then exiles always say that. And no one at Edgbaston yesterday believed it for a moment.