Giddins fit and ready to swing into Test action

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The Independent Online

Lord's was bathed in sunshine yesterday, which if good news for 21-year old leg-spinner Chris Schofield was less well received by Ed Giddins. Sunshine normally means a dry pitch, which after a few days' play usually means turn. Giddins' speciality is swing and seam, a type of bowling that responds better to cloud and moisture.

Nevertheless, the early feeling is that Giddins may well add to the one cap he won last year, if not to wreak complete mayhem with hooping swingers, then at least to rid his team-mates of that famous scourge - the left-hander.

Due to his ability to swing the ball both ways Giddins is reckoned to bowl well at cack-handers, of which Zimbabwe have three in the top six. The plan may even extend further than that for when West Indies arrive seven of their top eight - presuming Brian Lara does not have another change of mind - could be left-handers.

Giddins more or less confirms the ploy. "I probably prefer bowling at left-handers, particularly at Lord's with its slope," he said after nets yesterday. "If anything I prefer the Pavilion End, but it's such a great place, I really feel I can do myself justice here."

His debut against New Zealand at The Oval last August did not measure up, despite his four wickets. Apart from England losing both match and series, Giddins was told that his fitness was not up to scratch.

"I'd had a long season and was jaded, not injured as some people have said. When David Graveney [the England chairman of selectors] told me I wasn't going on tour because I lacked stamina I decided to do something about it. So I booked a six-week course at Lilleshall. Since then the difference has been awesome."

It cost Giddins £7,000 of his own money, but he says the results are worth it. "I'm always fine at this time of year, but going to Lilleshall was really to make a difference later in the season."

A former pupil of Eastbourne College, Giddins possesses all the dash, mischief-making and racy charm of the errant public schoolboy. Unlike the Samuel Beckett play of similar name, waiting for Giddo has never been dull. From his 18-month ban and subsequent dismissal by Sussex for testing positive for cocaine - he claimed he was slipped a Mickey Finn at a party - the bowler, now with Warwickshire, has a lust for life few in English cricket share.

His latest jaunt was a trip up the Amazon with Surrey's Nadeem Shahid, but other occasions have seen him try his hand as a topless waiter in a Sydney bar and selling Christmas trees in Wandsworth.

"Going up the Amazon was just something really different," Giddins said "Some people like lying on a beach and getting a tan when they go on holiday, but I get one of those playing cricket. We saw an anaconda and even swam in piranha-infested water. Sleeping in hammocks was a lot more comfortable than the beds at Lilleshall."

The upshot of his winter exertions is that he is ready for what he sees as a second chance - as opposed to a continuation - of his Test career.

"At the moment my rhythm is good and the ball is coming out well," he said. "I'm a thinking bowler who likes to use the conditions so don't always expect to see the speedgun pushing the 90mph mark."

If he has an obvious weakness it is his desire to attack at all costs. Against Test batsmen on good pitches pressure sometimes has to be built slowly in order to reap reward.

Giddins' problem is that he sees maidens as dull fare. In a pace attack led by Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick, neither known for their nagging accuracy, it is a philosophy that may well have to be rethought.