July 29, 2002

A man who knows the virtue of a good line

Angus Fraser
© CricInfo
Perhaps it was the number of times he was called 'ageing warhorse' that prompted Angus Fraser to retire from playing cricket and move on to writing on cricket. Perhaps it was the fact that the bowler so famous for 'knackering' batsmen with his line and length ended more days knackered himself instead. Whatever the reasons, it's a pleasure to have the measured and soft-spoken Middlesex and England seamer in the pressbox, tapping away at his laptop with the same determination that saw him scalp 177 wickets in 46 Tests for England. England captains called on him time and time again to bowl a good line and tie one end down. There's a twinkle in his eye when he speaks about his art - and an art it is, though less glamourous than the flashing blade of a Lara, the tweak of a Warne, or the sheer pace of an Akhtar. Over to Angus.

Angus, you would have liked to have a bowl, the way the Indians batted today. What's it about the wicket that's meant that England have been able to dominate so much?

I think it's still a pretty good pitch. The odd ball is keeping a bit low, especially when the ball hits one of the cracks on this wicket. It's a dry pitch and is crumbling a bit. Mind you, when England played the West Indies here in 1995 it was a similar sort of wicket. Having said that, there hasn't been a great deal in the wicket for the bowlers - the England bowlers have done very well. This, combined with some indifferent Indian batting has meant that England are in total control.

It's not easy to sustain a good line and length over the course of a whole session? Can you even remember the last occasion when a bowling attack did so well?

The fact that India were bowled out for just 221 is a huge credit to the bowlers. They were bowling to a 7-2 offside field without having to land the ball a yard and a half outside the stumps. That would have made it easy for the batsmen to leave the ball. The bowlers kept up a magnificent line and the batsmen had to play at almost everything. They did the same against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford and many times against India in the winter. So it's not really a one-off thing or anything. I agree that it is hard to bowl a sustained good line over a session but you'll find that England have bowled well together as a unit before.

And this is a very weakened bowling attack in the absence of Gough and Caddick...

This is a good second string of bowlers for England. Hoggard and Flintoff have a bit of experience but, by and large, they are an inexperienced lot. Despite this, they've shown in the winter what they're capable of. In a way it's nice to see Caddick and Gough were not missed at all - either against Sri Lanka or here. England are not totally reliant on that pair and that's a good thing. There is light to look forward to after the pair has retired.

Does the performance of the second string make it difficult for the selectors?

I don't see Gough playing for England all summer, to be honest. Caddick will be fit, if at all, for the third Test against India. If this lot of bowlers stay fit, they'll get a decent run and they deserve it after the way they've bowled here at Lord's. If anything, I think Tudor is the likeliest to come in to this side and that would be for either Jones or maybe White.

Craig White coming back into the team and doing so well is a bit of a surprise, isn't it?

I think it's the right decision to pick White, although I must say I thought that the selectors would go for experience and take the Dominic Cork option. White bowled with discipline and the ball came through with good pace. If you had a look at the speed gun you would have noticed he was consistently at the 83-85 miles per hour mark. I like the look of White as a cricketer. He's not express pace but has enough in him to let the batsmen know he's around.

Angus Fraser
© CricInfo

Why is it that some teams implement bowling to a plan so much better than others? You yourself were a master of line and length. What does it take to do that?

It's the quality of the bowler to be honest. It does require a certain amount of skill to land a ball on a line and length consistently. Also, you must not get frustrated. You have to have patience and good concentration to stick by a plan. Bowlers need to try and bowl the ball in a way that it pitches on leg stump and hits the top of off stump. I'm not a big fan of the tactic of the left-arm spinner bowling over the wicket into the legs. I don't like that at all. I'd rather he attacked the stumps, but if the seamers bowl it as well as they did on the third day, I'm perfectly happy with it.

And how do you motivate yourself to bowling one line even when you're getting a bit of stick?

The basic idea is not to get stick (laughs). You can't hide the ball. Some days you just have to accept that the batsman is better than you. No matter what you do you're going to have your work cut out for you as a bowler. You just have to keep running in and hope to bowl the one ball that gets the batsman out. Like any game, you need to make sure you don't bowl bad balls. If you bowl well and the bloke hits you for four, you just say, 'well played, that's a fantastic innings.'

Finally, what's it been like moving so quickly from playing to becoming the cricket writer for The Independent?

I haven't yet missed playing. I still turn up at a cricket ground every day which is half the joy of being involved with the game. You get to a stage in your career when the pain outdoes the pleasure and you can't do what you once could. You can't force the issue like before and make things happen. When you get an opportunity to stay in the game after your playing days, you just sort of take it. Alec Stewart is three years older than me and he seems to keep going. I have a lot of time and admiration for the way he does that. Mind you, you won't see too many fast bowlers going on past 35!