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The Definitive: Angus Fraser

Jo Harman by Jo Harman

Angus Fraser speaks to Jo Harman, as the tireless England and Middlesex seamer remembers the hard yards and the just rewards.

THE EARLY MARKER
5-23 | Stanmore v Starlight, Mayor of Harrow Final, Harrow, 1983

The Mayor of Harrow tournament was a 20-over knockout and the final was quite a big occasion. I was playing for Stanmore against Starlight, who were a team of Caribbean extraction, and I remember taking five-fer. There were a few hundred people around the ground and it was a big night for the club. It’s a game I look back on with real fondness.

THE COUNTY DEBUT
1-68 & 0-56 | Glamorgan v Middlesex, County Championship, Swansea, 1984

I didn’t play any representative cricket until I’d taken my O-Levels but then things moved forward quickly. I gained my reputation playing for Stanmore and Don Bennett [Middlesex coach] got me involved in a couple of 2nd XI games at the end of the 1983 season and I made my debut the next year. Middlesex had a lot of players in the Test side and there was an injury so I played down at Swansea. I got a wicket in my third over, knocking John Hopkins’ middle stump out of the ground, and thought ‘This is a piece of piss’. I ended up with match figures of 1-124! I didn’t get whacked around the park but I realised there was quite a bit of work to be done.

THE FIRST SILVERWARE
3-36 | Middlesex v Worcestershire, NatWest Trophy Final, Lord’s, 1988

It was played in front of a full house at Lord’s and I got 3-36 and bowled a really good opening spell. The final was all about Graeme Hick really and I bowled him, so for me to perform on that big stage and not be overawed by the occasion was another tick in the box. Mark Ramprakash hit a fifty too and it was a bright sign for Middlesex that two young cricketers had helped win the game.

Gus on his England debut against Australia

Gus in action on his England debut against Australia at Edgbaston

THE ENGLAND BOW
4-63 & 0-29 | England v Australia, Third Test, Edgbaston, 1989

England had got hammered in the first Test at Headingley and I was picked in the squad for the next match at Lord’s. I got given a big plastic bag with all my England kit but while I was preparing for the game I had to train in my Middlesex gear because I wasn’t an England player yet. I was left out of the team and had to hand back this bag to [England coach] Micky Stewart, thinking ‘Is this as close as I’m ever going to get?’ But England had a shocker and I was called up for the next Test at Edgbaston. It was a bloody hot day but I just wanted to wear my England sweater – I was out there sweating like nobody’s business! I bowled Steve Waugh with a nip-backer and got Dean Jones and Ian Healy without going for many runs.

 

THE MAIDEN FIVE-FER
5-28 & 1-31 | West Indies v England, First Test, Jamaica, 1990

This was a great game for everybody involved. We went out there without a particularly strong side because of the ‘rebel’ tour and we were very young and raw, but we did really well and won the first Test in Jamaica, with me taking five lower-order wickets. It was a new regime under Graham Gooch and Micky Stewart, very fitness orientated, and I flourished under that guidance. We lost the last two matches to lose the series 2-1, but all of a sudden I realised what it took to be an England cricketer and how fit you had to be. That hard work we put in was rewarded with the win in Jamaica.

THE INDIAN THRILLER
5-104 & 3-39 | England v India, First Test, Lord’s, 1990

I’d injured my side in the Caribbean and missed the start of the English season but I came back in to play my first Test at Lord’s against India, which was a fantastic game of cricket – we won an hour after tea on the final day with a run out. I got Sachin caught at slip and took eight-fer but that was of course overshadowed by Graham Gooch’s 333 and second innings ton. To have played at Lord’s and dreamt of getting up on the honours board and then go on to achieve it was extremely special.

THE HIGH BEFORE THE LOW
6-82 & 1-33 | Australia v England, Second Test, Melbourne, 1990

They’d knocked Bay 13 down at the MCG, which meant there was a huge hole in the Southern Stand with a northerly, desert wind blowing through it – like a hairdryer in your face! I got a six-fer and bowled really well on a flat pitch in serious heat. But that game was also when my hip injury flared up. It kept me out of the game for the thick end of two years, so that was the best and the worst. People were writing me off and there was a lot of worry about whether I would ever play again. It was a really stressful time.

THE GLORIOUS COMEBACK
5-87 & 3-44 | England v Australia, Sixth Test, The Oval, 1993

I’d seen a hip specialist, had an operation and was relatively pain-free again. I remember having a row with my dad after telling him I’d only got a couple of wickets in a match but deserved better. He said ‘I’m sick and tired of hearing you say that, when are you going to get some bloody wickets?’ Then something just opened up and 1993 became a magnificent year for me. Middlesex won the title and I took 32 wickets in four games, one of those being a Test match. England were having a miserable summer: they’d lost the Ashes and there was a change of captain with Mike Atherton taking over. I came back in for The Oval and my first wicket back was Mark Waugh. He drove me through the covers and Mark Ramprakash pulled off a brilliant stop to keep him on strike and the next ball bounced, left him, caught the shoulder of the bat and went through to Alec Stewart. Even now I think that was my most satisfying wicket. I’d had two years of soul searching and here I was taking eight wickets and getting Man of the Match.

Celebrating the series win over South Africa in 1998

With Stewie, Butch and Nasser celebrating the series win over South Africa

THE BAJAN CELEBRATION
8-75 & 0-40 | West Indies v England, Fourth Test, Barbados, 1994

The best game of cricket I ever played in. I went on to get an 11-fer at Trinidad in 1998, but Barbados was the better display – I didn’t bowl that well in Trinidad, it was just one of those days where it went my way. We’d lost three in a row, we’d got bowled out for 46 in the previous match and everyone was talking about a blackwash but Alec Stewart got a hundred in each innings and I got an eight-fer. There were almost 10,000 Brits in the ground and the scenes at the end were astonishing – the pitch invasion, the celebration and the joy.

THE SERIES CHANGER
5-60 & 5-62 | England v South Africa, Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, 1998

We’d drawn at Old Trafford after I’d blocked it out with Robert Croft, but Croft was left out for Trent Bridge and I thought I might get dropped too. But I kept my place and the match was a really satisfying one – taking a 10-fer to help win the game. That was a lovely little period: over that Test and the next one at Headingley I took three five-fers in a row and 18 wickets in all and we won those two matches to win the series. That was the first five-Test series that I’d won in my career, against a good South African side too, so that was a really special moment.

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