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How I have paid Lara back for 375 painful memories

By Angus Fraser

22 February 1998

THE scene was Brian Lara's lavish - but still uncompleted house, a magnificent setting in the Port of Spain hills for a party thrown by the West Indies captain after our dramatic Trinidad Test win. Mike Atherton's two-bedroomed flat in Didsbury this was not. . .

One room in the mansion was of particular interest to me as our host was showing us around - 'The Angus Fraser Suite', as Lara jokingly said he was going to name it after my 'contribution' to the house for being one of the England bowlers who conceded 375 to him in Antigua four years ago. It has been nice to gain a degree of revenge for that.

I, of course, have managed to get Lara out in each of his four innings so far in this series. It is something I am aware of but have not thought a great deal about. Certain members of the press are even suggesting now that I have a thing over him, but this has never entered my head. Too many times in the last four years I have seen his bat raised in acknowledgement of another big score. So even though I may be getting the better of him currently, there is a lot of history that will not allow me to take anything for granted.

Naturally, we have had a view on how we should try to bowl at him as he is still their most dangerous player and the one we want to get out most. We have watched video footage of how the Australians bowled at him in their recent contests - when Glenn McGrath was particularly successful - but it is one thing to talk about it, another to put it into action. So far it has worked in that he is only averaging 40 in this series! I'm sure, though, at some stage this winter he is going to get the better of us. He is too good a player not to, the best I have bowled at.

Bowling at him is a real contest as his ability and reputation can immediately put you under pressure, but all I am doing is attempting to bowl the same at him as any of their left-handers, which is to hit a good length on or about off stump and see what happens. In doing this we are trying to put him under pressure by restricting his scoring shots and frustrate him into trying to hit a ball that is not there to be hit.

His arrival at the crease is similar to that of Viv Richards. The crowd erupts as he enters the arena and he normally comes out and plays a few big shots: 1) to announce his arrival and 2) to take away any initiative the fielding side may have had following a wicket. This does give you a chance early on but makes your first few balls to him very important.

Following this initial burst he then usually tries to settle into building a big innings. Because of the wickets we have played on so far here, he has tried to remain positive, and this has led to his downfall as we have bowled quite well at him. But there is a long way to go and the wicket in Guyana has a history of being good for batting.

Even though I have now got him out seven times in Test matches, I would still say Brian has had the better of our exchanges. McGrath has dismissed him the same amount of times I have but I do not think he has been in an attack which has conceded five hundreds to Brian as I have!

The most satisfying of my dismissals, however, was at Lord's in 1995 when I had him lbw. It was special as he was my 100th Test wicket, so you could imagine I was quite proud of myself as I walked down to fine leg at the end of the over. I was not expecting a standing ovation, just some applause and a pat on the back. But my walk back down was greeted by an England supporter standing up and shouting: ``Oi, Fraser, you tosser. What did you do that for? I haven't paid 35 to watch you bowl all day.'' It is still a batsman's game.

It has taken me eight years and four of the hardest Test matches I have played in, but at last I can now leave Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad with some happy memories. What a pleasure it was at last to walk into that dressing room at the back of the pavilion and see smiling faces, not players with heads bowed or faces buried.

The initial reaction to seeing Mark Butcher and Dean Headley scamper a bye was one of relief, not elation. To have worked so hard and once again have nothing to show for it would have been devastating to everyone concerned. Four months of effort were on the line.

It is only now, several days after the game, that I can sit down and enjoy both the victory in Trinidad and the personal success that I have had in the past two weeks. This past fortnight will obviously stand out as one of, if not the, highlight of my career: to take 20 wickets in two Tests is just not something you expect to do. It has never happened to me before in any cricket, so in some ways I do not know what to make of it all, but long may my good fortune continue.

But am I doing anything different? Is it the balls we are using? Is it because the wickets are good to bowl on? Has my famous nip returned? Is Mike Atherton's inspirational captaincy getting the best out of me? Many more such questions are going through my head in trying to explain this run of events. Or is it just that I'm bowling pretty well and things are going my way? I know it is a boring answer but I think it is the right one.

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Date-stamped : 22 Feb1998 - 18:19