The only Englishman ever to be ranked No.1 Test bowler in the world casts his mind back over the performances that made a mark, in an interview with Matt Thacker.
CATCHING COOK’S EYE
1-30 | Northumberland under 17s v Durham under 17s, Jesmond, 1996
To be honest I wasn’t that into cricket as a kid. I wanted to play football for Newcastle and that was it. I don’t even remember much about this game – which is a bit of a feature of my career to be frank! – just that Durham’s coach was Geoff Cook, and he asked me over to play a game or two for Durham 2nd XI just after. It all happened pretty quickly. I never thought I was that special at this level. Lively, yeah, but I definitely wasn’t the quickest. I reckon the growth spurt I had that kept me out for the whole of 1997 was the main thing in my development but Geoff saw something…
ON THE WAY
0-77 | Durham v Leicestershire, County Championship, Chester-le-Street, 1996
I had played a couple of second XI games and this was my Durham debut, a massive moment for me. It was the final game of the season and it was a real baptism of fire. I was hit around the park by Phil Simmons and Paul Nixon and I’m thinking: ‘Am I good enough to do this?’
4-58 & 3-93 | Northants v Durham, County Championship, County Ground, 1999
This game stood out. It was our first win of the year – and for about a year – with rain having thwarted us on a couple of occasions. This one was rain-affected too but we managed to just do enough and I got the final wicket. I think it was Devon Malcolm, and I remember we had about five or six slips all stretched out. From then on I thought that with one of the greats, David Boon, at the helm, we had a chance of being in the top division before the County Championship split.
3-57 & 2-63 | England v India, Second Test, Trent Bridge, 2002
I will always remember my England debut at Trent Bridge. It was such a proud moment. Playing against Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman, and Ganguly – a dream come true and the wickets I got, along with the support from the England lads, made me believe I could do it at this level.
2-61 & 7-12 | West Indies v England, First Test, Jamaica, 2004
This was the individual highlight of my career. We had a small lead on first innings and it looked like it would be a tight game. It was one of those spells where I felt I could get a wicket every ball. I conceded 12 runs in 12 overs and eight of those came in boundaries. This is where it all started. After this series – and the West Indies were a decent side at the time – we went on a run where we were unstoppable, culminating in the Ashes win over Australia. It was such a good time for English cricket. We had a really good side that was well balanced in terms of youth and experience. We still had Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe in the team and they helped us through.
5-33 | England v Australia, NatWest series, Bristol, 2005
People were saying I couldn’t play one-day cricket and couldn’t control the white ball but I took five against Australia. We restricted them to around 250 and everyone was talking about me but then it got overshadowed when Kevin Pietersen hit 90 off about 60 balls. It was a great innings and to this day no one remembers my wickets thanks to him! Fair’s fair, he won the game for us and it was a brilliant knock but for me it was good to know I could hack it in ODIs. That game also showed the Aussies we could beat them. A great day, my family was down and we had some good celebrations afterwards.
THE START OF SOMETHING
5-43 & 3-54 | England v Australia, First Test, Lord’s, 2005
I got a five-wicket haul but we got beat. You tend to forget things when you lose, even when you do well. But this was an achievement I took something from, because it was five wickets against a strong Australia batting line-up at the Home of Cricket. I roughed a few of them up and we realised as a team that we can beat Australia, we can bowl these out twice. We’ve done it in this Test match and we can win the Ashes back.
4-89 & 3-58 | Kent v Durham, County Championship, Canterbury, 2008
Really special. I’d broken my wrist so bowled that last day with it in a cast and took the final wicket of Martin Saggers to win the Championship, with my brother standing at first slip. I remember they all piled on top of me and I was desperately trying to keep my wrist out of the way! That bus trip home, I mean, if anyone wants to celebrate anything, the best place to do it is on a bus! It was fantastic – we didn’t know we had won the Championship when we got on the bus, but obviously we knew that Notts weren’t going too clever so we were watching it on Sky on the bus on the way back up. It took us nine hours to get back from Kent and we had more booze than you could imagine, it was great! Whoever was on that bus that day will never forget it. When we got off the bus at 11pm there were still plenty of people at the ground and it made you realise what you had just achieved. I felt so pleased and proud for everyone at Durham, especially for the ones that have been there from the start. For me this runs the 2005 Ashes pretty close.
DRINKING IT IN
0-15 & 3-54 | England v Australia, Fifth Test, The Oval, 2009
Winning the Ashes again in 2009 was great. I took every moment in after that game. I was one of the last off the field. It was great at the end of that Test match and series, standing on the field at The Oval, doing the lap of honour. I was looking around and thinking ‘Look, this should be time to go.’ When I was interviewed afterwards they asked: ‘Will you be around in two years for the next series?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’ But I knew in my heart of hearts that that was it. So I had to make the most of the afternoon when we were celebrating.
0-108 & 3-38 | Durham v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Chester-le-Street, 2009
I took the final wicket to win again but this time at home, which made it special. We won the title at a canter with about two games left. There was a great celebration, it was fantastic and great to have won back-to-back Championships. For me, my most ‘personal’ memories tend to be of team successes and this was one of the great moments.