July 24, 2008

Raising the standard for a memorable win

Paul Harris
Some work with the bat, not too much with the ball, but a great win and a big boost for the rest of the tour

Paul Harris: a quiet Test at Headingley, but expecting more work at Edgbaston © Getty Images

After the great effort from our batsmen to save the Lord's Test, we knew we had to raise our game going to Headingley. It was great to see the boys play smart cricket and come back strong.

Our bowling wasn't up to standard in the first Test but there was a huge improvement in the second. Graeme [Smith] asked for us to play clever, patient cricket and that's exactly what we did. Morne [Morkel], Dale [Steyn] and Makhaya [Ntini] bowled really well and improved hugely.

I also have to make special mention of our batsmen, in particular Ashwell [Prince] and AB [de Villiers]. Ashwell went in when we were in some trouble and he showed incredible patience for his second century in as many Tests. AB showed what he was made of after the crowd got stuck into him over the catch that had bounced. I have to say that knowing AB as well as I do - we both play together at Titans - he would never claim a catch he knew had bounced. He said straight away he wasn't sure and that it should be referred. For him to go on and score that big hundred says a lot about his character and mental toughness.

In England's second innings we were smart and patient and managed to keep the pressure on the batsmen for long periods. Personally it wasn't the busiest Test for me as the pitch encouraged the seamers more. But I'm sure my chance will come in the next two Tests. It was nice, at least, to get in and play my part with the bat and put on 80 with AB. All bowlers enjoy batting and it was great to contribute to the win.

I really enjoyed the lively Headingley crowd at this game - I don't think I have ever seen such good fancy dress! My particular favourites were the three blind mice and Buzz Lightyear. The atmosphere was great and we even got the odd cheer. The "Paul Harris for England" chant was good banter.

This week we move on to Worcester for a tour game against Bangladesh A. I will be playing in that game to get a bit more bowling in before the Test match at Edgbaston rolls around. That's a match I'm particularly looking forward to as I played county cricket for Warwickshire. Although some might think it is a time for us to take our foot off the gas and relax after tiring back-to-back Tests, it's not the case. We know we have to work hard in the next week to keep up the standards we set at Headingley, so we go into Edgbaston with good momentum and still on the roll we started.

There were some good celebrations after the Test. A few of us found a local pub in Leeds and had a few quiet drinks to celebrate. There were some well-earned hangovers on Tuesday morning but a drink always tastes better after a win! It was great to venture out for an evening as the boys have been very focused in the last two weeks and it seems like we have hardly been outside the hotel apart from travelling to matches or practice.

Although it feels good to be 1-0 up, we all know it's a long tour and we still have two Tests left. We're determined not to fade away as the tour goes on. There is a real hunger to win in the UK. We'll be working hard in the next three weeks to achieve exactly that.

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