TOM CRADDOCK was the talk of English cricket last night.
The 23-year-old Honley leg-spinner took three big wickets for Essex against England in the Ashes warm-up match at Chelmsford.
They were Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matthew Prior – and Craddock was naturally delighted.
“I knew it was a big chance and I just wanted to grab it,” he said.
“I was wondering what might happen when my first ball to Kevin Pietersen went over long off for four, but I managed to get him caught and bowled and it went on from there.”
Craddock, who began his Drakes League career at Holmfirth and signed a two-year contract with Essex last year, made a brilliant effort to take a return catch off Pietersen before he actually snared him.
He then had Bell brilliantly taken at short leg when attempting a paddle sweep and then he got Prior caught behind from a cracking leggie which dipped nicely and then spun just enough.
He finished with 15 overs, four maidens, three for 63 and was interviewed on Sky TV after getting rave comments from commentator Bob Willis, the former England opening bowler and captain, who was most impressed with Craddock’s control of length and line.
Joe Root, set to open alongside England captain Alastair Cook in the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge, had earlier fallen for 41 after needing a time-out and treatment from the physio, having suffered a painful blow as he pushed forward to Tymal Mills.
The young Yorkshire batsman endured a slightly sketchy start, edging his second ball from David Masters just in front of and between the slips for four to get off the mark.
But he and Cook appeared increasingly in control on an easy-paced pitch by the time the captain went caught-behind cutting at Mills to end an opening stand of 33.
Root was joined by Jonathan Trott for the addition of another 40 until the opener, still in discomfort, edged Sajid Mahmood low to second slip.
As he walked off limping, there was an obvious if not yet major concern over an untimely knock for a player England have nominated as Nick Compton’s successor at the top of the order at the start of this year’s back-to-back Ashes series.
There appeared to be less initial consternation about the well-being of Stuart Broad, left out because of a stiff shoulder, and otherwise England were in good health at lunchtime.
Pietersen, on his first-class return for his country after three months out with bone bruising behind his right knee, was set up with some poor deliveries as he announced himself with four successive fours in his first 16 runs.
Trott’s progress was less eye-catching, but typically assured.
He was to go, however, in the first over of the afternoon, when he pushed out on the front foot at a delivery from Mills and edged to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
New batsman Ian Bell was in no hurry, but Pietersen was in adventurous mood.
England finished the day on 328-7 with Tim Bresnan unbeaten on 55 and Graeme Swann batting nicely on 62.