Bats, boxes and autographs
Normally when you visit your sponsor's bat factory it's all about getting a bigger, lighter bat and asking for a bit to be shaved off here and there. So when Daniel Flynn, Peter Fulton, Tim Southee and I visited Gunn & Moore's factory this week, spare a thought for Kevin, a bat-maker for 25 years, when I took issue with the quality of my box.
During the game against Northamptonshire, one delivery shattered my box and I carried on batting with Aaron Redmond's titanium version. From a safety perspective it was ideal, but I'd forgotten that he'd sweated his way to a hundred wearing it. At least I made it through to 150.
We always carry plenty of gloves and a few bats in our coffins but a back-up box is something you just don't think about. Thankfully, Kevin sorted me out with a replacement when he made me a new bat. It's a pretty cool feeling to have your bat made in front of you and for it to be ready to use at the end.
My first contact with GM was as a 13-year old when they sent me gloves, pads and some GM stickers, which I put on the bat my granddad had bought me for Christmas. I went on to average over 100 for Central Districts in our age-grade tournament that summer and I've been contracted to GM ever since. And after two hundreds in the last two matches, I think I'll be sticking with my current bat for now.
As a kid I blamed my bat when I got out, but not anymore - such is the precision technology they use. The secret to a lighter bat is better drying of the willow. In the past it was left outside to dry: now they also put it in a special machine for two or three months, which has greatly enhanced bat quality.
Against Northants I was able to try some things I wouldn't risk trying in a Test match. You can afford to do that when the bowling does not have the same pace and consistency that you get in Test cricket.
I thought Tim's five-for, which included four of the top five batsmen, was superb. It has brought him back into contention for the third Test at Trent Bridge, a ground known to assist swing bowlers like him. Aaron showed his class too with his second century of the tour on a first-day wicket that was doing a touch. If he can get a score at Test level, he'll be away.
|If we were paid for our tour duties, Iain O'Brien would do well. His effort on laundry has been spot on, but there has been a lot of assistance, it must be said, from Gazza, our tour liaison|
The loss at Old Trafford still lingers, but it is motivating us to play some good cricket. We are only thinking of winning the third Test, as both Sri Lanka and India have done at Nottingham in the last two seasons. We can also draw on Sir Richard Hadlee's vast knowledge of Trent Bridge's secrets as his brother Dayle is our bowling coach.
The other big contest starting this week is Kyle Mills' Euro 2008 sweepstake. Having never won one, I'm not quite sure yet of my approach. Bob Carter has been juggling his video-analyst job with studying Euro form for weeks now, and I know Jacob Oram will have been preparing big time. Jamie How, on the other hand, won't study at all and will just back himself, and some of the guys will just copy others. Even though we're paid much better than guys in the past, we're only likely to put in ten quid each.
Speaking of pay, if we were paid for our tour duties, Iain O'Brien would do well. His effort on laundry has been spot on, but there has been a lot of assistance, it must be said, from Gazza, our tour liaison. The most demanding job on tour is coordinating the team's autograph signing. Everyone says it's the one thing you want to avoid in England, as the flow of bats, posters and letters to be signed is relentless. Michael Mason is in charge of ensuring we meet all of our autograph requests. When the jobs are re-allocated for the one-day series, I desperately hope Jamie gets autographs, as he still doesn't have a duty.
There are also lots of other times kids ask us for our autographs, especially at the grounds. I used to get really annoyed when players did not sign autographs when I was young, so it's something I'm very aware of. No matter how focused you are on your cricket, there's no excuse for not making an effort whether it's a few kids on the boundary at Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton or a crowd of them outside the team bus at Trent Bridge, as there will be on Thursday.
New Zealand middle-order batsman Ross Taylor's diaries will appear on Cricinfo through the England series. Taylor spoke to Andrew McLean, an expatriate cricket writer based in London