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November 12, 2005
Shaun Udal captured his first Test wicket to fulfil an ambition he has been harbouring for 19 long years, as England fought back manfully on the first day at Multan to reduce Pakistan to a wobbly 244 for 6 at stumps.
Since poking his head into the international arena more than a decade ago, Udal has had ample opportunity to romanticise about that big moment, and it finally came in the 55th over of the innings, as Salman Butt cannoned an edge off the top of Marcus Trescothick's head at slip, and into the gloves of Geraint Jones as he dived back to gather the rebound.
"I'd have liked it to have come in a more conventional way," Udal joked, "but the whole day has gone fantastically well. I've waited for this for a long time, so to play a part and to have some say in what happened as well is fantastic. I'm still pinching myself.
"I was a bit confused as to where the ball had gone," he admitted. "Obviously it hit Marcus but when it looped in the air and he was still looking for it, I thought the moment had gone. But then Jonesy dived, and I lost control of my senses for a few seconds. It was a special moment - Freddie, Harmy and the boys came and gave me a big hug - and when you've waited 19 years to play, it's even better."
Udal's long experience as a county pro meant that he was better equipped than most for coping with the new-boy nerves, although he did admit to feeling a "bit panicky" when his first ball whistled over the covers for four. But the team spirit that carried England through the Ashes was on full show to help him out. "It's been relatively easy because the guys have made me so welcome," he said. "They are very special and it's a pleasure to be involved with this team."
There was no doubt that he was straight in at the deep end of Test cricket, however. "The first two or three hours were tough," he said. "I may be a new boy here, but watching from the sidelines, I've seen the tough times, we get through them. The discipline and strength of character of the side showed what you can do when you put your mind to it. We stuck to our guns, stuck to our plans, made run-scoring a little more difficult and it went our way."
And Udal wasn't afraid to change his natural spinner's rhythm to suit the conditions. "I probably bowled a bit quicker because of the docility of the pitch and the quality of the players. You need to make them rush their shots a little more. There'll be more turn and bounce for the wristspinner, for a fingerspinner you've got to work hard and eliminate the bad balls."
As to the match situation, Udal felt England weren't far from the ascendancy. "You never know in cricket, but another 60-70 runs and a total around the 300 mark, and we've had a good first innings. But it's only a quarter of the job done. Today's been a very special moment, but I'm not going to get too carried away."
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