DateLine: 13th February 2006
Born in County Antrim, but raised in Australia, Martin McCauge in an England cap was always going to be an interesting experience. His Test debut came at Nottingham in 1993 as England threw caution (and their uncapped young cricketers) to the wind with a youthfully inexperienced line-up. Despite unconvincing match figures of 4-179, he had been the fast and nasty bruiser that England wanted, with several Australian feathers ruffled by him. However, when he took the new ball with Andrew Caddick it meant England had a new-ball attack with accents and upbringings far removed from the shires of England, which didn’t go unnoticed on either side. He wasn’t an unknown quantity to the Australians though. He had graduated from their pioneering cricket academy and had played several Sheffield Shield matches for Western Australia, where the rock hard Perth pitches suited him nicely. Although he bowled disappointingly in the next Test at Leeds (where an injury which forced him to leave the field turned out to be a stress fracture of the back), his hard to find raw pace ensured he stayed in the selectors thoughts. Their desire to gamble everything on an attacking bowling line-up for the 1994-5 Ashes series led to him receiving his plane ticket. If the small, discontenting murmur which some Englishmen had felt about a de facto Australian playing for England was loud enough to be audible in 1993, it was nothing compared to the anger of the Australian press in 1994-5, although the inferiority of the England team allowed for ill-natured superiority as well as pure venom. Although headlines like “The rat which joined the sinking ship” were doubtless hard to stomach (especially as the journalist in question missed the irony that the phrase was first coined by Winston Churchill), the nadir of his tour (and probably his career) came in the First Test at Brisbane, where a series of nerve ridden bad balls were gobbled up by Michael Slater and Mark Taylor as the Australian’s set the tone for yet another one-sided affair. A stress fracture of the shin prevented him from bowling in the second innings, and McCauge said goodbye to Test cricket.
He had first played for Kent in 1991, although his decision to permanently make a home in the garden of England was made after Western Australia omitted him from their line-up for the 1991-2 Sheffield Shield final. Despite him being a consistently dangerous and effective bowler in a strong Kent bowling line-up in the mid to late 1990’s, the Canterbury based county remained the second placed bridesmaids of the English game during that period. Injuries forced him out of the First-class game in 2001, although he played for Herefordshire for three seasons in their C & G Trophy campaigns, where he was surprisingly expensive. Although technically correct enough with the bat to have been the English night-watchman at Brisbane, his batting was at its best when it was as thunderous as his run-up. His categorisation as an excellent county player who came up short against the Australians by no means makes him unique, although the levels of vitriol surrounding him were of an obnoxiously high amount, and in sustaining injuries in two out of his three Tests, the circumstances McCauge found himself in would have hampered most players, regardless of ability or attitude.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)