Cricket: Unstoppable `Corkee' in his element

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The Independent Online
THERE was no mistaking the sense of fulfilment enveloping Dominic Cork after his athletic return catch to dismiss Allan Donald ended South Africa's recovery and completed a five-wicket bag for the Derbyshire fast bowler on his return to the Test arena.

Cork punched the air and smiled a satisfied smile. He had already developed something of a rapport with the noisily-lubricated spectators in the Rea Bank, who from time to time stopped proclaiming their hatred of Manchester United to chant "Corkee, Corkee", which at least suggested they were paying some attention.

It is his portrayal as a mouthy boy liable to see off an opponent with a raised finger or two that has created Cork's popular appeal. It is not a reputation which Angus Fraser shares or would wish to, which possibly explains why the milestone the old warhorse reached at Edgbaston yesterday did not receive the acclaim it deserved.

Fraser's dismissal of Jonty Rhodes was significant for obvious reasons after Rhodes and Lance Klusener had thwarted England's hopes of forcing South Africa to follow on. Its extra significance to the bowler was that it gave him his 150th Test wicket, which is nowhere near Botham (383), Willis (325) or Trueman (307) territory in the roll call of England greats but places him a good deal higher than many. Raymond Illingworth, for example, finished with 122.

Furthermore it was Fraser's 24th Test wicket since his selection for the West Indies tour ended his international exile. He may go out of fashion again but, even at 32, he still believes he can go on to reach 200, which may be unrealistic but at least reflects how positive he feels about his cricket.

During the period in which Illingworth was his principal doubter, the common perception was that Fraser was not the bowler he was before the hip injury that forced him to undergo surgery in 1991. But Fraser points out, interestingly, that before the problem developed he had taken 47 Test wickets at just under 27 runs each. After his comeback, the next 99 cost a fraction over 27 each.

His return yesterday was 4 for 103, which fully supports his claim to deliver consistency. Another four and he will overtake Fred Titmus as Middlesex's most successful Test bowler, which will be another source of great personal satisfaction.

In the meantime, England will be grateful for having rediscovered their faith in him. He and Cork have shouldered the burden of Darren Gough's absence splendidly in this match. If only their team-mate had stayed fit, an England win might already be in the bag.