'I would have liked it in a more conventional way'
Sunday 13 November 2005
Shaun Udal had waited 19 years for the moment. For the last five, at least, he must have thought it had passed. But yesterday, at the age of 36 years and 239 days, he not only won his first Test cap, he took a significant wicket at a significant time.
There will not, there cannot, be many more where that came from and there will be none like it. Udal, the oldest debutant since John Childs played in 1988 at 36 years and 320 days, was bowling his seventh over in Test cricket. He tossed it a little wider, sensing that young Salman Butt was getting fidgety.
Butt took the bait. The edged drive went through Marcus Trescothick's hands at slip, hit the badge on his cap, rebounded behind and was caught by a remarkably aware Geraint Jones, turning, scurrying and lunging.
"I would have liked it in a more conventional way rather than off Marcus's head," said Udal. "I was a bit confused about where the ball had gone. When it hit Marcus and went up and Marcus didn't look for it, I thought the moment had gone. But when Jonesy ran backwards and put his hands up in the air, I lost control of my senses for a while. The whole day has gone fantastically well. I'm still pinching myself."
In his twenties, Udal was a coming young spinner. He was named in squads, only to be sent home on the first morning when the team was named, he toured Australia in 1994-95. A surprise but eminently justified pick for this tour, he was always certain to play in Pakistan if he stayed fit and in form. "It's a special moment, your first wicket in Test cricket, and when you've waited 19 years it's even better."
Udal held his nerve after his first ball, with which there was nothing much wrong save for being slightly too full, was carved over extra cover. "I'd been fine, but then I was a bit panicky." But 36-year-old cricketers do not panic.
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