The international season is in full swing now, and straight after that great win by England at Edgbaston, they are in action again at Old Trafford. No wonder there's little time for the regulars to get involved in county cricket any more. Not that it affects us at Middlesex just now because we're not blessed with anyone in the England team.
I thought it was a top performance by the lads at Edgbaston. They did absolutely everything that was asked of them to go one-nil up in the series. Andrew Caddick and Matthew Hoggard setting it up with the ball, Graham Thorpe, Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher doing what was required with the bat - well played the lefties - and that was that. Simple game, cricket, when you stick a big score on the board and bowl the other side out twice cheaply!
It might have been a bit of a lack-lustre performance at Lord's, but in Birmingham it was a good comeback. They got stuck in and did the business. It's got to boost the confidence going to Old Trafford with a draw or a win in their sights to take the series.
Talking of confidence, I was interested to come across the fact that Matthew Hoggard had a long chat with the captain just before the Test - admitting that he was suffering some sort of crisis of confidence. I don't think people realise that bowlers can suffer in that way. As always in this game, the attention is on the batsmen. If the poor dears are not in top nick, everyone rallies round to get them through it. Don't forget that bowlers need confidence too and it's not just a case of running up, letting go of the thing and expecting wickets to fall.
Sometimes you get on flat wickets, like Lord's was, and you're feeling good. Then you go out there and they get a load of runs against you and you wonder how you're ever going to get any success again. It happens, and when those days do come along all you can do is put it in good areas (even if the batsman then hits the thing out of that area - sometimes even out of the district!), it's coming out well but it's just one of those days. That's when you have to believe in your own ability in the knowledge that when it is your day, you have to make the most of it and pick up your wickets.
It happens with the batsmen too. You are hitting the ball well - I'm led to believe - and yet you get out. Then one day you get a scratchy fifty and off you go again. These crises of confidence do come along and it's a question of how you deal with them. Your team-mates, the captain and the coaching staff have to say "We believe in you; you believe in yourself."
It will be interesting to see how the wicket plays over five days at Old Trafford. It's Muralitharan's adopted home ground, but I'm sure they won't prepare a big turner for him. I reckon it will be fairly flat with a bit of bounce and a bit of pace. England's job? That's easy. Keep the same disciplines we had at Edgbaston with some good, steady cricket. Get runs on the board in the first innings and bowl one side of the wicket. If the win comes along, that's great. We win the series two-nil. If it doesn't because there's a bit of rain around, well, let's make sure we nick the draw and still win the series.
One thing I would say to the bowlers. If the wicket turns out to be a really flat one and you're hot and bothered because a few decisions haven't gone your way and you've been flayed round the park, don't snatch your cap from the umpire after you've bowled the last ball of the day and wander off having a bit of a chunter to yourself. If you do, you might get yourself on a dissent charge. I was given a right old telling off, I can tell you, after our game against Durham on the flattest pitch you will ever see. But now I've apologised and it's all in the past. I'll learn. One day. Probably.
Phil Tufnell appears courtesy
of Paragon Sports Management