The Moment Cricket Clicked: Duke and Kookaburra
The third instalment in my new series and today i'm thrilled to welcome Duke and Kookaburra (@d_ktalkballs on Twitter) to discuss the beauty of test cricket and the series that made him fall in love with this silly old game. Duke's posts on Inside Edge where always exceptional so to have him write this for me is an honour. Enough from me here's Dukes story of the England vs West Indies series in 2000.
I have been besotted with cricket since I was a young lad and I can't remember my life without it. I remember England fans were excited about the arrivals of Gough and Cork on the international scene in 1994 and 1995, I remember an instant impact from both and feeling England could get excited about new talents.
I remember clearly Nasser's double against Australia in 1997 and getting very excited that this might, finally, be the tide turning; spoiler alert, it wasn't but '97 was the best chance that generation had of regaining the urn. The Atherton/Donald duel in '98 was magnetic viewing and remains so to this day even though you know what's coming.
Test cricket is an individual and also a team game and the many layers of this examination still leave me enthralled. Your team could be winning but one of your batsmen could be in the grip of a horror trot with his feet in clay, his arms like lead weights and his mind frazzled; your team could be losing its' way, its' grip on a series despite the heroic efforts of one of your players in the form of his life fighting fires. There is no finer game than Test cricket.
This leads me to one of the most fondly recalled series of my youth: England v West Indies in the summer of 2000. England hadn't beaten WI in a major series in decades but the advent of central contracts had, at last, brought the care/control of players to the door of the England coach : Duncan Fletcher. Fletcher's tenure had started with the horror of being 2-4 in Johannesburg and there was only one way from there: up. The Lord's Test in 2000 v WI must in hindsight prove to be one of the most important for a generation; 0-1 after a hiding at Edgbaston, England conceded a big first innings deficit at Lord's but a Caddick (5-16) inspired fightback saw WI shot out for 54, leaving England needing 188 v Ambrose, Walsh and the weight of history. That run chase was one of the worst I've ever had to endure, but Atherton/Vaughan combined to do a lot of the work before a middle order collapse left Cork to flick, carve and mow his way into folklore and England were home. Just.
Old Trafford was notable for one Brian Charles Lara batting like a dream (in an otherwise quiet series for the maestro) Trescothick's debut (one of the new bloods who would of course prove his weight in gold), Alec Stewart scoring a century in his 100th Test and lots of rain.
Headingley was a surreal experience, over in two days as Caddick took four in an over as WI were blown away in a haze of delirium for the home fans in the ground and the millions watching on Channel 4; in fact Channel 4 put up huge screens in parks so more people could watch - watch a winning England team, WI vanquished and England on the up.
Certain Tests sit proudly to the fore in the memory and this 2000 series has pride of place for many; from being booed off at The Oval the previous summer after defeat to NZ left us bottom of the rankings, there was a sense of something building, a strong leader, an excellent coach, a team in every sense of the word blending experience and youth. Hussain's England would go on to notch other serious wins, including a brilliant winter 2000/01 winning away in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I know several people who fell in love with the game that summer of 2000, people I have now been on away tours with - the golden mixture of free to air exposure, winning cricket, drama and nerve shredding tension proving once again that Test cricket is unbeaten.