Club 200 opens its doors to the least-lauded member

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The Independent Online

It was typical of the man that he should play it down. Sure, said Andrew Caddick, reaching 200 Test wickets was a nice milestone, but it was not the most satisfying moment of his career. Bubbly hyperbole has never been Caddick's style.

But out on the pitch at Eden Park yesterday morning, his bowling was at its most outrageously articulate. He produced two of the most incisive balls you are ever likely to see to bowl Mark Richardson and Lou Vincent, left-hander and right-hander respectively, and both utterly befuddled by the movement and control of their conqueror.

On the stroke of lunch, Caddick seamed one past Craig McMillan's bat and into his pads. When the leg before appeal was correctly upheld, the bowler slid to his knees and raised his arms in exultation. That was wicket number 200. Whatever he declared later, it meant something to him all right.

Of the nine England bowlers who have now taken 200 Test wickets Caddick is easily the least lauded. Praise for his prodigious feats has usually been accompanied by qualifying statements.

He has variously been accused of bowling too short, failing to produce the goods in the first innings, not shouldering responsibility and lacking heart. Some of these charges bear closer scrutiny than others – those first- innings performances are a mystery – but some are risible.

Caddick is 33, he first played international cricket nine years ago, he had to overcome selectorial rejection and debilitating injury. That does not describe a fast bowler who lacks either skill or heart.

He is a singular man whose time in the England team has been spent in the shadow cast by Darren Gough's ebullient personality. Caddick and Gough have become a double act (and they will assuredly be restored this summer when the Yorkshireman is available again) and there is only one straight man in the partnership.

Caddick's popularity in the dressing room, however, is clear. The day before this Test match began, the tour's unofficial vice-captain, Marcus Trescothick, stood in for Nasser Hussain, who was representing the England team at Ben Hollioake's funeral in Perth.

Trescothick mentioned how highly Caddick was thought of among his peers, not just as a bowler but as a bloke. He did not quite say as much, but the implication was clear: they had grown accustomed to his little ways, found them endearing indeed.

Trescothick is close to Caddick at Somerset. When the young batsman broke into the county side Caddick was already an international bowler. It was noticeable that when Trescothick first played for England, Caddick eased his passage. They were usually together in those early days, though Trescothick is not now so reliant on his old buddy.

By the end of the first day in Auckland, Caddick had taken 19 wickets in the series at 17 runs each. His overall record against New Zealand, where he was born and raised, is almost equally astonishing: 47 wickets at 19, which is nine runs cheaper than his overall average. Nobody could accuse him of being soft on his former compatriots.

The modern generation of prolific England bowlers are not taking their wickets as cheaply as their predecessors. It says something about pitches and in Caddick's case about the supremacy of Australia's batsmen, who have made it their business to target him before he gets them. His 44 wickets against Australia have cost 42 apiece.

Caddick was angry at being left out of England's side for the one-day series in New Zealand and was determined to claim compensation in the Tests. The way he has bowled over the past four weeks makes the decision to omit him from the one-dayers seem peculiar, if not plain daft. Caddick is the most economical of all England's one-day bowlers and his presence in the World Cup next year will be vital.

"The fact that Goughie isn't here [for the present Test series] just puts a little more pressure on me and I actually enjoy the responsibility of it all," he said after play was curtailed yesterday. "With the added responsibility you tend to get on with it a bit more." His bounce and movement has disconcerted New Zealand in all three matches.

Apart from Nathan Astle in his extraordinary, explosive, last-ditch double hundred in the First Test, they have not come close to looking comfortable against him. Time and again, they must have wondered why he was not on their side.

Having passed 200 wickets, Caddick allowed himself to think of the next landmark. "Maybe there is a 250 target for me to achieve in the next couple of years," he said.

That would take him past John Snow, Sir Alec Bedser and up towards Brian Statham. And that is the stuff of legend. He would still find a way to play it down.

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