Cricket: The relief and the self-belief

Andrew Caddick says the Test victory has transformed the whole nature of the tour
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The Independent Online
GOING out to bat on the final morning of the Third Test, I did not feel nervous. I was aware of what was needed. Had I not been in this position countless times for Somerset? England needed 12 runs to win. We had lost two wickets in fairly short order, had four remaining. I was aware of what was required, I was ready. As I went to the wicket I had no doubts that Mark Butcher and I would see England home.

I knew the likelihood was that Curtly Ambrose would bounce me. And when the ball came I could do absolutely nothing about it. It was a good ball and I edged it. Two wickets in two balls, still 12 to win. It was a long, painful walk back. I was upset and stayed in the dressing-room, where I watched the rest of the match on television. Butcher's innings was one of the great 24s of all time. He was stoic and mature, and against bowling which gave him no margin for error on the last morning he was almost flawless. He will make more runs for England in the years to come, he may well play other match-winning innings but whether he will play one quite as nerve- racking is more arguable. When England needed him to hang on in there he did his duty.

Victory was an enormous relief. It drew us level at 1-1 and it has made this series. For all my belief that we would get home, it is difficult to imagine a tighter match. Sure, we beat Australia late last summer when they wanted only 123 to win but there were two big differences: the series was already lost and therefore we had nothing to lose. In Trinidad, had we gone 2-0 down, the consequences might not have been terminal but getting back would have presented one of cricket's more formidable challenges.

As it is, there is no requirement to match Len Hutton's 1954 England side who came back from 2-0 to draw 2-2. We can go on to win this now. The team always felt that we could get the required 225 in Trinidad, the highest score of the match, but a good start was essential. Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton were tremendous. They gathered runs quickly at the start, let the West Indies know that England meant business.

On the fourth morning, as this stirring partnership developed, I wandered round to the Sky commentary box. Once there, I was not allowed to leave. The producer and Mark Nicholas, the presenter, said departure would only bring a wicket for West Indies. They insisted I stay put. Michael Holding, on the other hand, was urging me to depart forthwith.

It was that bravura opening stand that set up the victory. Although there was some stuttering along the way it had made us favourites. Not that Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose accepted that. They were magnificent on the fifth day. For nigh on two hours they didn't bowl a bad ball between them. In the elation of England's victory I congratulated them on their effort though I'm not sure they heard at the time.

Which brings me to my own bowling. It has continued to get some stick in certain sections of the Press. I think some of this has been extreme. As I have said I have not bowled perfectly, but it has not been disastrous either. Sometimes I think my character and personality have been needlessly questioned. I have been called aloof, but this is a description attached by people who don't know me. The team have been wonderfully supportive. The win will help us all and I can only anticipate the three matches to come. My history has demonstrated my resilience. I will not let my self- belief be eroded. I want to do well so England can do well. I shall work my socks off; I can and will take wickets here.

Before embarking for Guyana we celebrated a little. On the night of victory we were invited to the new house built by the West Indies captain, Brian Lara. He threw a splendid bash and we followed that with a team get-together.

Guyana may present a different set of pitch conundrums. Re-laying of surfaces seems to be all the fashion here. They have had several summers of dead pitches where the bat has tended to dominate, so there seems to be a desire to enliven things. Watching the pitch in Georgetown, of course, may take second place to watching the weather. There have been drought conditions here for several weeks but the place is notorious for rain which often has the temerity to coincide with big cricket matches.

The short break has given me the chance to start another thriller. Tom Clancy's Politika is taut, pacy and attempting to avert a conflagration among super powers in 1999. The Fourth Test starts on Friday.