Caddick at home in the wickets

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The Independent Online

The past may be another country, but Andrew Caddick's homecoming to Christchurch has seen a return to familiar territory on the cricket field, with the England pace bowler taking 5 for 69 in Canterbury's first innings.

On a blustery day, three generations of Caddicks, including his wife and childen, were on hand to see the bowler dominate on a ground next door to the one he played on as a teenager. Amid a tree-lined park with cicadas belting out their midday song, his decision not to go on the Test tour of India was a distant memory for Caddick as he got the ball to dance a merry jig to his piper's tune.

Riccarton Cricket Club, less than an overthrow away, remember Caddick and he remembers them, recalling "good games, good drinking and good evenings". For a man who has a very sober view of life, such a recollection must surely have been some mistake? If he takes a big haul in the Test next week, will we be hearing of a seamy past as a Hell's Angel, or a stint as a male stripper?

Fortunately for England, after a rusty start to proceedings in Queenstown, Caddick has not forgotten how to bowl. On a surface offering regular help to the seam bowlers he was first-class throughout his long bowl, while his colleagues rarely ventured out of club. He even removed one of his old Riccarton team-mates, the home side's captain, Gary Stead, who was well caught by a diving James Foster low to his right.

Afterwards, Caddick claimed his near monopoly was not a concern but, with only a week to go before the opening salvo of the series is fired, Nasser Hussain must have had mixed feelings over the day's events, after winning a useful toss.

Naturally, the captain will have been happy that Caddick at last hit his straps, but there must be concern that the other bowlers looked anaemic on a pitch, which, if on the slow side, was grassy enough to have driven most pace bowlers into a frenzy of bloodlust.

Matthew Hoggard was one of the successes of the India tour before Christmas, but has yet to recapture that form here. Part of the problem may be that he bowled to a definite plan for 90 per cent of the time there, reeling off over after over of the infamous outside off-stump ploy to Sachin Tendulkar, with a nine-two, or 10-one, off-side field.

In New Zealand, on pitches that usually offer some help to bowlers, there are no batsmen dominant enough to warrant such attention. Unless it is one-day cricket, the new freedom appears to have disoriented Hoggard, who has had to think for himself with only modest results.

Before he left the field for some treatment to his right forearm, which is badly bruised following several blows on it over the past fortnight, Hussain appeared aware of Hoggard's dilemma, and ordered the bowler to resort to the "Tendulkar tactic". It did not change anything, and was not tried for long, but it showed the England captain was willing to try anything to get his other new-ball bowler into form.

None of the bowlers performed badly, but, with the opposition reeling on 39 for 4, including Nathan Astle, who skied a hook off Caddick and was well caught by a tumbling Usman Afzaal, pressure should have been applied from more than just one end. For those who feel England players do not represent their counties often enough these days, this was Astle's first first-class game for Canterbury in four years.

As one of those on the receiving end of Duncan Fletcher's ire, after turning up unfit for duty, Afzaal made good ground at long leg to gather the swirling catch. Not long ago, the difference between fit and fat for most cricketers was nothing but a misplaced vowel, a sentiment clearly shared by Afzaal's fellow porker-in-arms James Ormond, who is not playing here.

Ormond, a recent signing for Surrey, is an old-fashioned eight-pints-and-a-curry kind of cricketer, but they are rapidly becoming extinct. Overweight bowlers have made the grade, as Shane Warne and Merv Hughes have proved. But, as a skilful bowler, Ormond has to ask himself if he would not be better served by being fitter and a yard quicker.

It is not the only chicken and egg question and, though it would be churlish not to give credit to Chris Harris and Robbie Frew, who added 106 for the fifth wicket, how much of the recovery could be put down to pure skill and judgement, and how much to the bowlers being off-colour?

Harris, a stalwart of the New Zealand one-day side and one of six players with international experience in the Canterbury line-up, played superbly, defending stoutly while pouncing gleefully on anything that looked like stray meat.

Although the last of his 19 Tests came two years ago, the home selectors present cannot have been unimpressed and it took the best ball in Andrew Flintoff's 13 overs – a beauty that bounced and took the shoulder of the left-hander's bat – to prevent him reaching his century.

With Harris gone, Warren Wisneski followed, run out in spectacularly stupid fashion after a mix-up with Paul Wiseman. Unsure how to top that, Canterbury promptly declared on 212 for 8 to leave England 40 minutes batting, a task Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan accomplished without alarm.

Christchurch scoreboard

First day; England won toss

Canterbury ­ First Innings

R M Frew c Flintoff b Caddick 44

S L Stewart c Hussain b Caddick 0

M H W Papps c Hussain b Hoggard 7

*G R Stead c Foster b Caddick 12

N J Astle c Afzaal b Caddick 6

C Z Harris c Giles b Flintoff 82

ÝG J Hopkins c Ramprakash b Caddick 3

P J Wiseman not out 26

W A Wisneski run out 8

Extras (b6 lb10 nb8) 24

Total (for 8 dec, 74.1 overs) 212

Fall: 1-5 2-18 3-33 4-39 5-145 6-149 7-186 8-212.

Did not bat: W A Cornelius, C S Martin.

Bowling: Caddick 24-5-69-5; Hoggard 13-5-25-1; Flintoff 13-2-45-1; White 12-3-29-0; Giles 12.1-1-28-0.

England ­ First Innings

M A Butcher not out 14

M P Vaughan not out 13

Extras (nb1) 1

Total (for 0, 9 overs) 28

To bat: *N Hussain, M R Ramprakash, U Afzaal, A Flintoff, C White, A F Giles, ÝJ S Foster, A R Caddick, M J Hoggard.

Bowling: Wisneski 5-1-18-0; Martin 4-1-10-0.

Umpires: R D Anderson and D M Quested.