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July 10, 2001
I had so much hope for English cricket just a little while ago. Then the wheels came off. I had said what a cracking summer we were going to have, especially with the NatWest Series comprising of teams of the quality of Australia and Pakistan. I expected England to compete on even terms with them, but that was not the way it turned out.
They were the champions and runners-up from the last World Cup, but even so, this was not what England expected. I went to the England-Pakistan match at Lord's - not as a player, and not in the corporate hospitality areas. I went as Joe Public, sitting in the crowd on the top deck of the Compton Stand. It was a great experience. I like the atmosphere created by the Pakistanis, even if I did get a headache from the all the noise. At least, I presume the headache came from all the noise and not the half of lager I allowed myself - all a trained athlete should consider, you understand.
England should have won that match, along with others in the competition, but managed to lose them all. We were promised a new plan after the last World Cup debacle, but it does not seem to have happened. I was pleased for Owais Shah, though. He has been batting out of his skin this season and deserved his chance and then deserved to succeed. I am pleased to say he got what he deserved on both counts.
I kept on thinking that Australia were steamrollering everyone else in that series, but just before it started, we at Middlesex had beaten them. Mind you, it was the same Middlesex, give or take a couple of players including me, who then lost to Herefordshire in what we now call the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy. What a dreadful experience that was! All credit to the Herefordshire lads who deserved to win, but I can honestly say that fielding in front of all those home supporters was easily the worst three hours I have spent on a cricket field.
I had some rather good figures in that game, and it has all been going well in the CricInfo Championship where, I hope the selectors notice, it has all been going pretty well too. There we are sitting on top of our division with the name Tufnell regularly featuring in the bowling statistics. I keep on bowling and batsmen keep on getting out. Lovely job!
We would have been even further in front if the rain had not stopped us when we were on the brink of beating Nottinghamshire. They were a couple of runs in front with just two wickets to fall when following on. Then it rained. We were robbed as surely as if Robin Hood had still been around.
It gave me a chance to watch a bit of the Test. How disappointing was that? Wonderful cricket played at the gallop, but such a shame for England. Obviously Australia are the best in the world and we knew they were, but Edgbaston just went to show that it's going to be a long, tough summer. But let's not panic, let's stand up and fight. We've been one-nil down before, like in Sri Lanka where everyone said how tough it is to play, but we came back to win. Now we've got to turn this one round like we did then.
It will be tough, because this Aussie side is amongst the best I've ever seen. It's only the second time they've got the three quicks all together in a Test that makes it a pretty formidable attack, and backed up by a bloke they said was knackered. He was too fat, eats too many pizzas, had had several injuries and too old. But I've heard all that before (and not only about Shane Warne) and I reckon he's still one of the very best. It makes a fantastic bowling attack.
Even so, we've got to stay strong and work it out. I didn't think we bowled at the top of our form. Conditions should have suited our guys, but you get days when it doesn't go right. At the end of the day, we have to put that behind us, learn from our mistakes and introduce a bit more discipline. On the bating side, we have to build partnerships and get some runs on the board and go to Lord's to turn it around.
It won't be easy with Captain Poppadom out again. It will be blow to Nass and a worry after just coming back from a broken thumb. He'll start thinking "Blimey, what's going on here?" I don't know who you pick as captain. Perhaps Trescothick would be a good shout, but he's in such good form you might not want to risk it. It's a hard job, so perhaps it should go back to Athers. Or Goughie perhaps. Yes, give it to Goughie!
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