'I hit Mark Taylor on the head'
Dean Headley played in 15 Tests - including six matches against Australia -before injury cut short his career in 2001. He is now a director of a newspaper in Kent. Cricinfo spoke to him about his role in the 1997 Ashes series.
I had been playing for England A for quite a while, so I felt that I had earned the right to play by the time the call-up came in the third Test at Old Trafford. I had toured Pakistan and I was the highest wicket-taker, and I bowled well on that tour and in Australia. So I'd done well on two overseas tours - much more so than any other bowler at that time - and I did really want to play Test cricket that summer. Test cricket is a step up, but it's the same principles if you get the ball in the right place. Whether you're playing against a good player or not you have the chance to get them out. The only thing is that, as you go up further in the game, that good area gets smaller. That's the main difference.
I was extremely nervous ahead of the third Test because they're the best team in the world and this is the tour that's going to test your ability. All I remember is that they won the toss and chose to bat. It would have been worse if I had to sit around waiting for us to bat before I had to bowl. When I did, I got the first honour. I hit Mark Taylor on the head early which settled me down! And then I got a wicket early, so that was good. Taylor was great to have as my first Test wicket but, to be honest, any of their batsmen aren't bad Test scalps.
I've never really had a problem bowling to left-handers but it was that game - I removed Mark Taylor, Matthew Elliott and Michael Bevan in both innings - where all of a sudden I got that reputation. Nobody had really said it that much before. I bowled very differently to left-handers than the way English bowlers normally do. They bowl a bit of away and try to bring it back, whereas I used to bowl it tight and middle-and-leg. It was my natural game to jag the ball away - literally, I didn't try to do it, it just happened. My strategy against the Australians was to bowl straight, but the idea was to make them unsure as to what they could play and what they couldn't. If you create doubt you can create chances and that's what I used to do.
I'd always done nightwatchman and stuff like that, so I wasn't too bothered about playing against quick bowlers or fast-medium bowlers. Facing Glenn McGrath was alright, but he was on top of his game and he bowled me his best inswinging yorker, which I didn't hit! By that stage the wicket was turning and I had had a fantastic game, but we did have our chances in that match. We dropped Paul Reiffel in the first innings. Andrew Caddick had a very good lbw shout against Steve Waugh. Waugh went on to get a hundred in both innings so we did have our chances, we just didn't take them.
I was disappointed to lose my first Test. It wasn't the best thing in the world but, for me, I would rather have not got any wickets but won the match. The England dressing-room has changed a lot: it's not as selfish as it was then. That's not a dig at the players playing at the time - that's the way they were made to feel by the selectors. There was always some chopping and changing going on and it made guys feel nervous so that when guys did get to play for England, that's how they played. I didn't play like that, though - you always get some players who don't. And now it's great: you've got a whole England team there who are playing for a team.
Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain have always taken the mickey out of me for being a blocker, but in that match I hit 22 and I actually played some shots. I played a couple of drives off McGrath through extra cover, I hit a few fours, but then eventually got caught out at gully - then we had a collapse. But I enjoyed batting that day.
I was out lbw for 3 in the second innings, which was probably a fair call! I leave it up to the umpires and, of course, at the end of the day I've also got to bowl. If you protest, they might not give you some wickets later.
In the fifth Test at Trent Bridge, I've never played cricket like that. If I'm having a bad day, I'm having a bad day, but against Australia I played six Tests and seemed to bowl well in them. It didn't all go our way - at Headingley, I went for over 100 runs for two wickets and I got hit all over the place, but my whole philosophy has been to try and to keep going. I'm not the best technical bowler but I bowl in my own style and it seemed to work.
Dean Headley was speaking to Jenny Thompson