Cricket: Such entering pressure zone: Glenn Moore reports on the tests and challenges which are lying in wait for England's latest spin-bowling hero

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The Independent Online
WHERE did he come from? This loping figure with the blond mop- top trim and can't-quite-believe-it smile who completely bemused the Australians. From Sittingbourne, Newbury Park, Elland and all those other outposts of the county second XI circuit. Peter Such's appearance on the back pages follows a lifetime on the edge of the county treadmill; twice he fell off, twice, as much in habit as hope, he climbed back. But even a year ago he remained one of those players you only come across in the Who's Who when searching for someone else.

He arrived at Old Trafford an unknown face; he will leave with even those whose cricket knowledge comes from 30-second television clips aware that 'Screaming Lord' Such is England's new saviour. It is the classic inspirational story. The man who came from the shadows after constant rejection. But will he be another Bob Taylor, who won due recognition and his second cap at 36 and earned 55 more, or a Bob Massie, who played just five Tests after his sensational 16-wicket start?

It did not take long for the pressure of expectation to build. Keith Fletcher's overnight wish that 'he'll get another six, for about 20 runs' was being echoed by a near- capacity crowd as Such entered his third day as a Test cricketer yesterday. 'I'll try not to think about it, just try and bowl and see what happens. It's nice to get the recognition,' Such said, before going out and taking Mark Taylor's wicket with his fifth ball.

Scottish-born and Nottingham- bred, Such, who will be 29 on Saturday, is at his third county. His career started at Trent Bridge but he struggled to get past the figure of Eddie Hemmings, who had just begun his belated England career. Hemmings, still going strong at 44, provided plenty of tips but few chances and, after four 1986 Championship appearances, Such moved across the border to Leicestershire.

But little changed. He may have been in the home dressing-room at Hinckley and the away one at Worksop but wherever he hung his blazer it was still on a second- team peg and after three further frustrating years it was time to sling his hook again.

The new destination was daunting but welcoming. Essex, the leading side of the decade, had seen something in the gangling Such. 'We saw him as a good, youngish spinner who had lost his way a bit,' his captain, Graham Gooch, said. 'He has blossomed every year.' It was the first step to reviving a career that had started with Young England recognition at the age of 18.

'To be wanted, given a chance, by Essex, is a big confidence boost,' Such said. 'Being capped at the end of the second year was an even bigger bonus.' He also remodelled his action with individual coaching from Fred Titmus and the wisdom of John Childs, his spin partner

Childs, who made his Test debut in his late thirties on a less helpful Old Trafford pitch five years ago, said: 'He attacks the crease more and bowls with greater purpose. He added a couple of yards to the run-up to get the right arc and pace on the ball.'

Initially he was wheeled out for Essex's games in late summer, when the wickets were dry and the ball biting, to provide the foil to Childs' knowing left-armers. Last year he began to achieve parity with the elder spinner, playing 15 first-class matches and picking up his first 'six-for', 6 for 17 against Sussex at Southend.

That, and his winter success with England A in Australia, brought the quietly spoken, unassuming Such's confidence to the stage where he could look upon Old Trafford's advantageous wicket as a great opportunity rather than an onerous responsibility. As England's spinners found in the winter, it is not always easy to bowl on turning wickets.

'That can happen,' Such said. 'You have to accept it and try your best. You have to put the ball in the right place.' He did, his confidence being underlined by his refusal to be flustered by Allan Border's attempts to hit him off his line. Border's subsequent scalp was the most prestigious reward for Such's perseverance.

'I never thought about giving up although I did think that the way the game was going in the late 1980s, with the high-seamed ball and green wickets, I might be surplus to requirements in a few years,' he said. 'I tried not to think about alternatives but to play for as long as I could.'

His county future appears assured but whether he will become an England fixture, or an accessory, to be used on occasional home turners and on tours to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, only time will tell. Such, one suspects, will remain essentially unchanged either way. His popularity at Essex can be seen from the cheers from the dressing- room that have punctuated their present match and Childs, who was only picked for one other Test, is optimistic that Such will be more fortunate.

'He could have a big future. As an off-spinner he bowls more tightly than I do, he has worked on his line and pace and certainly spins it. With wickets comes confidence and he is now a match-winner in his own right.'

(Photograph omitted)

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