Darren Gough: Return to Headingley brings back wonderful Test match memories

I AM back at Headingley this weekend and it does inspire some wonderful memories for me.

Darren Gough celebrates taking the wicket of Mark Boucher, his fifth wicket of the South African second innings at Headingley in August 1998 in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Picture: Tom Jenkins/Getty Images.

In terms of my best one with England at Leeds, I have got to say it was the 23-run victory over South Africa in 1998 which clinched a 2-1 series win.

It represented our first success in a five-Test series since Mike Gatting’s team won the Ashes against Australia 12 years earlier in 1986.

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Coming out on that last morning is something I will always remember. We did not really have a warm-up and came out at 10.55am with South Africa needing 34 to win with two wickets left.

It ended up being only a 30-minute day with 20,000-plus people in the ground. But they left happy and they were all chuffed to bits, Angus Fraser striking first before I trapped Makhaya Ntini leg before.

Yorkshire had let people in free and it was a full house for a day I will never forget.

My parents were there and my little child. That winning feeling when we got those wickets on the last morning was just unbelievable.

There was such relief in the dressing room and the scenes were amazing – being on the balcony and having Champagne poured over my head and hearing my name being sung ... it simply does not get any better.

Champagne moment: Darren Gough celebrates as team-mate Nasser Hussain pours a glass of bubbly over his head. Picture: David Munden/Popperfoto/Getty Images

You play the game for moments like that. I will never forget it – having taken my 100th Test wicket the previous evening by dismissing Jonty Rhodes.

Headingley will always be a special place for me; it is everything. I played most of my career there, apart from a spell at Essex. Headingley means so much as I had five-fers there for Yorkshire and England.

The three venues where I wanted to get five-for were Sydney, Lord’s and Headingley and I managed to do that.

Lord’s and Headingley are two great grounds, albeit with totally different crowds but both are very special.

SWEET MEMORIES: Darren Gough celebrates as Makhaya Ntini is given out and England win the fifth Test by 23 runs against South Africa at Headingley. Picture: David Munden/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Suffice to say, the biggest memory for me was certainly not when I bagged a pair for England against Australia!

There are always plenty of wickets falling at Headingley, although the pitches have got slightly better over the years.

People had been a bit nervous about Headingley’s future as an international venue last year before it was rescued after Yorkshire agreed a funding package with Leeds City Council for the building of the new stand.

But they have done everything that they had to do at Yorkshire to try and make Headingley an up-to-date quality Test venue and they still keep going with the improvements.

You have to do that these days as so many grounds want Test matches. There are grounds like the Rose Bowl in Southampton and the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff where they have spent so much money to get Test match cricket. Trent Bridge is also a fantastic venue and Edgbaston is getting better.

It really is a bunfight to get the Test games these days. Durham have been kind of punished for some of the financial events there, but it remains a fantastic venue as well.

Obviously, the big team news ahead of the start of yesterday’s second Test with Pakistan at Headingley was Ben Stokes being ruled out with a hamstring tear.

You do have to wonder what sort of Test preparation going over to the IPL is for him?

He can run all he wants and do as many weights as he wants but bowling four overs is not going to prepare him to bowl 20 in a Test match at 85 mph. Stokes got injured at the IPL last year and missed Test matches too.

How far are we are going to let it go with IPL players coming back to play Test cricket? Maybe players should come back and play an extra red-ball game as neither Jos Buttler nor Chris Woakes played a four-dayer before a Test match. There’s no way that a 20-over game is preparation for a Test match.

Stokes is a player who has got terrific wealth through the IPL and I do not blame him for wanting to play in it.

But after his last year which was interrupted by court cases and discipline issues, he was struggling with his fitness and did not really bowl in a couple of the games in New Zealand. Then he prepares for a Test series by bowling four-over spells in the IPL and he comes back and we wonder why he gets injured when he has to bowl on a hot sunny day at Lord’s two days in a row bowling 15 to 20 overs a day.

Him getting injured is not surprising. The only way to get fit is getting bowling fitness. It is not about gym sessions, going for a run and doing weights or pilates. You can still do those, but the way to get fit to bowl is by bowling overs in the middle.

We are seeing guys who are getting bowling fitness under their belts by bowling in the IPL. Mark Wood came back a game early and played at Lord’s and benefitted after getting six wickets for Durham. He did bowl well at Lord’s, yet I felt he was used wrong. But he stayed fit.

It is becoming a habit now, so do we have to say that the players have to come back a game early and play a four-day game.

The first day saw Stuart Broad and James Anderson answer some criticism from the likes of Michael Vaughan, but we are still no nearer to knowing in the long term who their replacements are going to be, with Joe Root still yet unable to stamp his own authority on the side.

There is going to be time when Broad, Anderson and Alastair Cook won’t be available and we are still no nearer to knowing their replacements.

You look at Wood, he plays one Test and is then left out.

We are still going around in circles a bit.

Is Wood ultimately going to be an opening bowler or first-change. Will it be Overton, Ball, Coad from Yorkshire or whoever else?

We have no idea at the moment.