England look for Caddick to secure victory

After a long hard winter on the road followed by the depressing events of last week, England can lift their spirits by securing the Test series here against New Zealand.

After a long hard winter on the road followed by the depressing events of last week, England can lift their spirits by securing the Test series here against New Zealand. On another drop-in pitch, likely to start damper than normal, they possess both Andrew Caddick and a 1-0 lead, a combination that should ensure an overdue return to winning ways.

After a nervous start in the opening Test, Caddick's confidence has grown in inverse proportion to New Zealand's meekness and he is the biggest cannon among the light artillery on show this series. With six-wicket hauls in both Tests – one in the second innings and one in the first – Caddick has hit form and needs four wickets to reach the exclusive 200 club. Provided he reaches it, and then passes John Snow's total of 202 Test wickets, England should keep their noses ahead to the end.

New Zealand have a reputation for being a combative side, especially at home. Unlike England, they are at the end of their domestic season not the beginning, and with Adam Parore making his last Test appearance they could still raise themselves for one last effort.

The selection of two all-rounders, Andre Adams and Chris Harris, will add depth, though ever since injuries to three of their leading bowlers, dejection appears to have set in. Indeed, Nathan Astle's batting blitz in Christchurch aside, they are a shadow of the team that gave Australia a run for their money two months ago.

England have sensed that and with Caddick tormenting them with steep bounce, seam movement and even reverse-swing, they have not really been allowed to get into a game.

"Caddy has shouldered the extra responsibility of leading the bowling attack in Darren Gough's absence," said Marcus Trescothick, standing in for Nasser Hussain, who was making his way back from Perth. "He can be a difficult character, but this team has grown to love him and understand him. We know how he operates."

The milestone of 200 Test wickets will mean a lot to Caddick on several fronts. Firstly, it will mean he overtakes Chris Cairns (197), who was his schoolboy rival in the Christchurch area where he grew up. It will also be a glorious moment of revenge on all those who felt he lacked the mental fibre to be a Test match bowler.

"It will be important for him," agreed Trescothick, who is also a colleague at Somerset. "Mind you when he does well we tend to do well, and when he is on song he is the premier strike bowler in England."

The portable pitch, which was lowered into place last Sunday, may not suit him at least at the start, when it could be just like the one in Christchurch where Matthew Hoggard's swing won the day. According to the groundsman at Eden Park, the strip has a 42 per cent moisture content, which he hopes to lower by two per cent for the first day.

It is a high reading and with a thick covering of grass both captains will badly want to win the toss and bowl, a fact Trescothick more or less confirmed when he recalled how the ball had darted about in the one-day match here a month ago when the moisture content was 38 per cent.

Apparently, the pitch has to start as damp as that to enable it to be carried on a steel frame and dropped into place. If it was any drier the slightest amount of flexion in the process would cause it to break up. In any case, the groundsman says he wants it to move about off the seam early on. "We don't want it going too flat too quickly," was all he would say on the matter.

Test matches that confer too much of an advantage on the sides that win the toss are not good for cricket. With its quirky angles and lop-sided boundaries, Eden Park doubles as a rugby ground, by some margin the No 1 sport here in New Zealand. Unless the agenda is to get cricket off the rota completely, damp drop-in pitches, and with them shortened Test matches, appear to be the future.

Played over the holiday weekend, it will be interesting to see how many home spectators turn up. Perhaps not more than the small gathering who assembled in the Michael Joseph Savage [New Zealand's first Labour Prime Minister] Memorial Gardens at Bastion Point on Thursday afternoon.

In a 15-minute ceremony of celebration and thanksgiving, the England team manager, Phil Neale, read tributes and prayers for Ben Hollioake, whose untimely death in Perth last weekend, has cast a pall over the latter part of this tour. Mark Butcher then sang Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," a favourite of Hollioake's. For those who are not familiar with the song, the lines "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds" sum up the choices some of the players here have to make if England are to clinch this Test series.

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