Darren Gough dazzles once more, bringing energy, experience and buzz to England's bowlers

Scyld Berry
The Telegraph
Darren Gough is back in the England camp for the two-Test series against New Zealand - Getty Images Europe
Darren Gough is back in the England camp for the two-Test series against New Zealand - Getty Images Europe

And there he was, again. Chest puffed out. Shoulders back. Blue-eyed. Beaming smile. Outwardly confident, and full of anecdotes as Yorkshiremen are. Aged 49, Darren Gough is back as England’s bowling coach for the two-Test series against New Zealand.

The Monday morning after England’s super-over victory, and 3-2 series win against New Zealand, had been miserable to that point. More than two hours’ drive through lashing rain from Auckland past verdant hills, swelling creeks, logging lorries and fields of cattle. If architects never inhabit the buildings they design, administrators never go on the tours they schedule: could not the England players and coaches have been allowed 24 hours to savour their T20 success?

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But there was Gough waiting in the quiet Kiwi town of Whangarei, beaming and talking away like the radio show host he normally is, and you could see why England’s head coach Chris Silverwood had appointed him for this assignment. The team hotel is a motor inn, the rain lashed down all day, the sights to be seen in Whangarei add up to little more than a clock factory and the port from where logs are shipped to China; yet Gough somehow lit the place up.

“He’s got a lot of experience, played all around the world,” said Silverwood, when asked to explain why he had chosen a former Yorkshire team-mate for England’s bowling consultant. “ I know what energy he brings to the dressing room from playing with him before, and I just thought it would be a great experience for the younger fast bowlers to talk to him, about the skills he had - yorkers at the death. The skills he was good at then are still very relevant today, so why not?”

Gough was forced to develop these skills ahead of his time because he is less than 6ft tall and could not get the same bounce as his opening partner Andrew Caddick. Instead, he was the first England bowler to master reverse-swing. In my observation no England bowler - only Pakistan’s masters like Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram - has reversed the ball so much as Gough did in the Lord’s Test of 1994 against South Africa. OK, his captain was done for ball-tampering - the dirt-in-the-pocket affair - but the ball still had to be swung, at pace.

<span>Darren Gough during his pomp as England's strike bowler on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2000-01</span> <span>Credit: Stu Forster/ALLSPORT </span>
Darren Gough during his pomp as England's strike bowler on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2000-01 Credit: Stu Forster/ALLSPORT

It is one of cricket’s great shames that Gough never played a Test in the West Indies: their crowds - in the days of Caribbean Test crowds - would have responded to him as Australian crowds did, when Gough wore his heart on his sleeve and took the fight with bat and ball to the world champions. He won Test series for England in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Remarkably, his bowling average abroad (26) was lower than his average in England (29); Gough found a way.

Is it not a bit cosy though for England’s coaching team to consist of Silverwood, and his old team-mate too now, along with the longstanding Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood - would some ideas from outside come amiss? Of course not; but nobody who wants a home life, and a semblance of normality, and a wife and children, would want to take on such a job full-time and live out of a suitcase 11 months a year.

“It’s difficult to appoint a permanent guy,” Silverwood said. “We’re on the road, buzzing around, it’s difficult to do the due process. So more than likely we’ll look to bring someone in to cover that period with a view of taking a further look at certain people in a longer-term way.”

<span>Chris SIlverwood and Paul Collingwood await the delayed start of the fifth T20I in Auckland</span> <span>Credit: Gareth Copley/Getty Images </span>
Chris SIlverwood and Paul Collingwood await the delayed start of the fifth T20I in Auckland Credit: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Shane Bond, the former New Zealand fast bowler, is a prime candidate to be an England consultant for certain assignments. He worked with England in the first two Ashes Tests in Australia in 2017-18, and informed the pace bowlers of exactly the length they had to bowl. Had no effect when England sent in Australia at Adelaide in the day/night Test and bowled far too short, but the message was right.

If the rain persists, it will mar the first of England’s two warm-ups, a two-day game at Cobham Oval, when England are due to bat one day and bowl the other. The ground is named after Lord Cobham, the former Worcestershire captain and ninth Governor-General of New Zealand, from 1957 to 1962. He got up his own team to play MCC in a first-class game when he was 51, made some lusty hits, and not surprisingly was captain too.

A more leisurely era then, unlike modern touring. As Silverwood said, after winning his first assignment then getting on the road next morning to prepare for the two-Test series: “We don’t like to rest - it’s against the rules apparently.”

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