Why the odd couple are on a record roll

Gough is smiling face of English cricket, I'm not. He likes the fame and attention, I don't. We respect each other
Click to follow
The Independent Online

We have now opened the bowling for England in 18 consecutive Tests. Other pairs - notably Trueman and Statham and Botham and Willis - have done it more, but none has done it as many times in a row as Gough and Caddick.

We have now opened the bowling for England in 18 consecutive Tests. Other pairs - notably Trueman and Statham and Botham and Willis - have done it more, but none has done it as many times in a row as Gough and Caddick.

This is testimony to several things: continuity of selection, management of (and some luck with) fitness and injuries and, I suppose, the occasional taking of wickets. Gough moved into eighth place in England's all-time list on Friday when he went ahead of Jim Laker's 193. Not long after, I took my 150th.

Yesterday, on a magnificent afternoon for this team, those figures advanced a little bit more. As Sri Lanka's second innings crumbled to dust, my partner and I played our part. The first four batsmen all fell to the new ball, and Gough was quite rightly made man of the series for the way he has operated on these pitches.

We form a contrasting partnership. Different bowlers, different blokes, but we know how well, perhaps how much better, we have performed together. Some 113 of our total number of wickets have come in these matches over the past 18 months since the Wanderers game against South Africa.

It has been a small wonder that we have endured this winter on these pitches intact, but we have. Gough has donebetter but we have survived as the new-ball pairing. I think we have a bit left in our tanks yet, and I cannot see a more accom- plished, complementary pair of new-ball bowlers in England.

But it took the selectors a long while to alight on us as the combination which might do the trick. We had both made our debut years before we bowled up to the Wanderers in late 1999. We are helped by the fact that there is usually something in the pitch or the conditions which will suit one of our styles. He is shorter, skiddier, bustles in and gets pace. I am long and gangly, get a bit more movement and bounce. He has a big faster ball which can give the best batsmen the hurry-up and tries a lot of variation, I'm trying to swing it with a degree of movement off the seam. On a perfect day, it should not leave much room for batsmen to get settled early on.

Gough is the smiling face of English cricket, I am not. He likes the fame and the attention, I do not. There is no doubt that he is splendid for the game, no doubt that the game needs people with his demeanour, but that, I'm afraid, is not me.

There is another difference in the way our characters come through on the field. His bursting heart and titanic effort are there for all to see. I am a different, less bubbly, maybe more brooding, but that does not mean, as some may have perceived, that I am not trying with all his Yorkshire might.

We get on. He wouldn't live in my house and I wouldn't live in his, but we respect each other's abilities. Like many sportsmen who spend hours together in the confines of the dressing-room, we have a joshing relationship. He will call me a long streak of you-know-what, I will retort by describing him as a short, fat thingy. Hilarious, eh?

If we don't spend hours in each other's company, there is no friction. There is, however, rivalry. I suppose we reached our peak as a pair last summer (with, I fervently trust, more to come), when his doing well spurred me on to do well and vice versa. That is the natural competitive edge and it can only be good for the team.

The one thing we don't talk much in earnest about, except to realise that we have been thrown together and it works (mostly), is bowling. We don't discuss in any detail with each other how we might bowl at so and so, we just get out and do it. I'm afraid I'm resigned to the fact that he is always going to have first use of the new ball and also bowl with the wind. It doesn't make me any less slightly resentful, not least because he will say how much better I bowl into the wind. He can try it, then.

But the new-ball strike bowler he is. Gough followed by Caddick in the order. But not on the batting list. When he goes in ahead of me in the Test batting list, 10 to my 11, that's when I'll be really cross.

England lost the toss again in the Third Test in Colombo. Nasser Hussain can hardly win one (well, one out of 10), Sanath Jayasuriya can hardly lose one (well, two out of 18). Again it was important. It was a turning pitch on which batting fourth was nobody's idea of Utopia.

We have three one-day matches after this, and if thoughts naturally turn towards home our spirits are high, partially sustained by success and the vast influx of English fans. My team-mates have recently cottoned on to a new way of taking the rise out of me and a certain part of my anatomy as we travel round this country.

I find it easier now to get in first. Every time we pass an elephant I say: "Oh look, there's one of my family."

Comments