July 17, 2008

Happily to Headingley

Paul Harris
On the fightback at Lord's and looking forward to the second Test

Waking up with the house on fire: McKenzie and Smith did a splendid job of damage control at Lord's © Getty Images

So it's all square going to Headingley, but who would have thought that would be the case on Saturday evening when we were following on? We showed our fight and how badly we wanted to stay in the match by battling to the end.

The morning of the Lord's Test was a tense one for me personally as I was not told the night before if I was playing or not because of all the rain that had fallen over the days leading up to the Test. The management wanted to have a look at the wicket before making a decision, but I was a really happy man when Mickey gave me the thumbs up for my first Test at Lord's.

Much has been spoken of the toss. At the time we were all in agreement that we should bowl first, and with all the rain that was around Graeme (Smith) didn't have much of a choice but to bowl. I think if our bowling unit was honest we would have to say that we were not at our best on the first two days. I will say, though, that walking through the famous Long Room at Lord's and having all the members stand and applaud was one of the best moments of my career. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen played really well for England, although they were helped at times by us bowlers! Morne (Morkel) was the pick and deserved his four wickets. I'm sure for the rest of the series people will see a much better bowling performance from our attack.

On a positive note, we're delighted with the fight we showed when our backs were against the wall. First, Ashwell (Prince) played a great innings under pressure that was crucial for us. Without that we may have struggled to come back.

On Saturday night Graeme had a few choice words for us and basically said that if we didn't wake up and start applying ourselves and fast, we were going to go 0-1 down in the series and would be under huge pressure going into the next Test. Everyone seemed to respond.

Graeme, as usual, led from the front with a great hundred and Neil (McKenzie) played an unbelievable knock and showed his immense powers of concentration, while Hashim (Amla) also deserves credit - he faced a fair amount of short bowling, came through it, made a hundred, and got his name on the honours board in the dressing room.

England clearly remember Hashim having a few problems against the short ball when they bowled at him last in South Africa, but over the last couple of years since then he has improved his technique a great deal and England will now know that he cannot be bullied into giving his wicket away as they may have thought would be the case. He's having an unbelievable tour and I hope it continues.

I have never played at Headingley before and I can't wait for the match to start. When I played for Warwickshire we did play Yorkshire away, but the match was at Scarborough.

I hear it is a ground that favours the seamers but I hope I will be playing again and that I can contribute. South Africa showed on the last tour there that it can also be a flat wicket when the sun shines. I will be speaking to Jacques Rudolph before the match and will ask him about the conditions as he now plays there.

I know our wives and girlfriends have had a huge amount of fun on the trip, and I think Lord's had to bring in fresh supplies of Pimm's for some of the ladies

The big talking point going into the Test is the return of Andrew Flintoff. We haven't spoken too much about him yet but I'm sure we will speak about him in team meetings nearer the game.

I played against Freddie once when he came out on a pre-season tour to Cape Town with Lancashire, probably about eight or nine years ago. It was an all-star team they brought out and the Western Province Academy team I played for won, against the likes of Mike Atherton, Peter Martin, Freddie, Neil Fairbrother and John Crawley.

I realise Freddie is going to be a much different proposition than in those days, but I'm looking forward to the contest. These are the reasons why we play Test cricket.

On the social front, the boys have been quiet and the wives and girlfriends have been with us for the past two weeks. It has been great for me to have my wife with me. I know the girls have had a huge amount of fun on the trip, and I think Lord's had to bring in fresh supplies of Pimm's for some of the ladies!

South Africa spinner Paul Harris's diaries will appear on Cricinfo throughout the England series