Mike Holmans August 6, 2009

Andy Caddick, the second-innings demon

The great mystery about Caddick was the enormous disparity between his performances in the first innings, which were usually insipid, and those in the second, which were often devastating.

Amid the welter of high-profile retirements from Test cricket, one which has not been noticed very much is Andy Caddick's – the consequence of his retiring from all cricket at the end of this season.

The great mystery about Caddick was the enormous disparity between his performances in the first innings, which were usually insipid, and those in the second, which were often devastating. It is particularly appropriate to take note of his retirement on the eve of a Test at Headingley, scene of one of his most spectacular feats of brilliance and of one of his most abject disasters.

In 2000, West Indies struggled to 172 in their first innings, with Craig White taking 5-57. That England managed to gain a lead of 100 was entirely down to a stand between Michael Vaughan, in his 11th Test innings, and Graeme Hick, who scored his last Test half-century. When West Indies batted again, it was Gough who took the top-order wickets, but then came Caddick's over of overs: W . WW . nb W, crashing WI from 52-5 to 53-9. Sarwan managed a three off Caddick's following over, but the second ball of his next knocked Walsh's off stump back and England had achieved their first innings victory against West Indies in 34 years, Caddick's second-innings return being 5-14.

Two years later, he was by a long distance the senior bowler in the England attack for the game against India. There were gasps around the ground when it was announced that Sourav Ganguly had elected to bat on winning the toss. The sky was dark grey and there was dampness in the air – ideal conditions for pace bowling – and when Sehwag departed in the seventh over, it seemed as though Ganguly's gamble was a loser. But we had reckoned without Caddick's inability to bowl well in the first innings of a match. Ball after ball was banged in far too short and went sailing harmlessly over the stumps as Rahul Dravid swayed patiently out of the way. By the time the clouds cleared and batting became a much less daunting proposition, the match was effectively over.

His last Test was the fifth of the 2002-3 Ashes, a dead rubber to be sure, but one which England won through one of Caddick's classic performances – a weak 3-121 followed by a brilliant 7-94. He was not officially dropped, as he never ceased to remind people, but England under Michael Vaughan had moved on.

Two-hundred-and-thirty-four Test wickets is no mean tally. Only seven England bowlers have taken more, and most of them have claims to greatness. A new-ball bowler who fails to take first-innings wickets can have no such pretensions, but he did enough to re-establish the idea that England could win matches after the barren 1990s. He was too diffident and too grumpy to win many fans' hearts, especially since his main England partner was the ebullient crowd-pleaser Gough, but his contribution to England's revival under Nasser Hussain was profound.

But even if he was not an international great, he has been an absolute giant for Somerset for whom he has taken 873 first-class wickets (and counting). Of post-WW2 players, only Brian Langford took more, and he was never required by England. That 75 of them at 23 apiece were in 2007, when he was 38, behind only Mushtaq Ahmed and Ottis Gibson was remarkable, but that he took more than half of them at the Taunton bowlers' graveyard was little short of phenomenal.

The body won't take any more pounding, and so he has announced that he will not be back next season. For the remainder of this one, the collection boxes for his testimonial deserve to overflow, and may he have a long and happy retirement on the proceeds.

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