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Dropping a hint for great return

By Angus Fraser

8 Feb 1998

THERE must be something about being dropped which brings out the best in me. This is the fourth time in my Test career that I've bounced back with a five-wicket performance.

It's a nice habit to get into, though it would be nicer still not to be dropped in the first place. It was just one of those occasions when everything seems to go for you, a bit like four years ago in Barbados when I also got eight wickets, though I had to work harder on that occasion.

The only thing which brought me down to earth was when I rang home on Friday. My wife Denise admitted that she hadn't seen much of it on television because my son Alex preferred to watch Power Rangers.

Every time you get dropped you feel under pressure to perform, mainly from yourself, and the first wicket - in this case Stuart Williams - did a lot to ease things. Hopefully it should let me bowl without pressure for the next couple of games.

The mood was rather different when we were sitting, shell-shocked, in the Sabina Park dressing room after the first Test was abandoned. The prospect of back-to-back matches in Trinidad was mentioned. ``What's the wicket like there?'' asked a player on his first West Indies trip. ``Well,'' replied a seasoned campaigner, ``we got 46 there last time.''

I thought the conditions at the Queen's Park Oval might suit my bowling, but even in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined I'd take eight wickets. It was also amusing to hear that the spread-betting firms reckoned I'd get no more than 12 wickets in the whole series.

Trinidad, to me, is the liveliest country we visit on our journey around the Caribbean. People here have a real zest for life. It is the home of calypso music and has reputedly the best carnival in the world, where the whole island comes to a standstill.

Different days have different themes but in general it involves people dressing up and travelling around the streets dancing to a cacophony of noise coming from 'panyards' (steelbands) and calypso singers like Black Stalin, Cro Cro, Shadow, Chalkdust and the Mighty Sparrow. Not that I could name any of their singles. . .

Queen's Park Oval is the only ground in the Caribbean where, before this trip, I had played twice and both were memorable but hugely disappointing Tests. Each time we worked our way into a winning position only to see it all disappear. In 1990 it was the rain and the West Indies' go-slow tactics which cost us, but our wounds in 1994 were self-inflicted. We dropped two crucial slip catches and were then blown away by the most inspirational spell of fast bowling I have ever witnessed.

With an hour to bat out on that fateful day we would have settled for being 35 for two. Instead, we were 40 for eight. Our dressing room was as subdued as any I have been in. Sometimes you can look back on passages of play and say we should have played it differently, but on this occasion we just came up against a great bowler in Curtly Ambrose, who got everything right.

I still have vivid memories of that day - Mike Atherton burying his head in a towel and screaming 'No!' as he watched on TV as Mark Ramprakash was run out; and the look of sheer disbelief on Graham Thorpe's face as he walked off.

On this trip, meanwhile, we have once again enjoyed the delights of the Petrotrin Cricket Club at Guaracara Park, bang in the middle of an enormous oil refinery. This caused one problem - we had to leave Phil Tufnell out in case he lit up a cigarette and blew everybody up.

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Date-stamped : 08 Feb1998 - 18:46