July 31, 2008

Win some, bowl some, eat some

Paul Harris
A memorable victory, a bit of bowling out in the middle, and a braai with old mates



'Nella' will have a crucial role at Edgbaston, filling in for Dale Steyn © Getty Images

One of the great things about playing cricket in the Midlands is the passionate support of the Warwickshire fans, who help make any game there so atmospheric. It was great to come back to a ground that I'm very fond of after spending time there during 2006 and 2007, and seeing some old friends. I really enjoyed my time at Warwickshire and would love to play some more cricket here in the future, and learn under the new coach Ashley Giles, who like me was a left-arm twirler.

As far as the team goes, we have been on a high ever since the Test win at Headingley. We do, however, realise that we have to keep working hard and not start celebrating too early - there is still a big job to be done.

We had a warm-up game against the Bangladesh A side at Worcester, which, putting it politely, perhaps wasn't the best opposition in the world, but it was a good outing as our batsmen got some more time in the middle and our bowlers got a few overs under their belts.

Andre Nel, in particular, is bowling well and that is encouraging for us as he will be replacing Dale [Steyn] at Edgbaston after he broke his thumb. It's great that we have a bowler as good and whole-hearted as Nella in our squad; it shows that we have the strength in depth that all top sides require when you lose one of your top players. It is a bit unfortunate for Dale as he is a class performer for us and I know he dearly wanted to play here - especially because, like me, he also played for Warwickshire - but we do know that Nella is more than capable of filling Dale's shoes.

Personally I had a mixed week: I managed to slip in the bath and hurt my right wrist before we left Leeds. Maybe it will be added to those lists of freak accidents by sportspeople! I was relieved when I was told that it was only a minor injury and that I would be fine. I suppose you fear the worst initially and wonder whether it might be serious, but I was okay, thankfully.

I also got a few more overs in at Worcester, which was important. I wasn't really needed in the last Test - I had to do more of a holding job than be an attacking bowler. It was good to have the practice match and to keep bowling in the middle.

It has also been useful having Jeremy Snape with the squad. He has been a great help not only with my bowling but also with my fielding. I spent a couple of hours with him on Tuesday while the guys were taking indoor nets, and hopefully the extra fielding practice will pay off.

 
 
I'm looking forward to bowling at Edgbaston: there will be some turn for the spin bowlers in the game and normally some good bounce, especially towards the latter part of the match, which is what you want
 

I'm looking forward to bowling at Edgbaston: there will be some turn for the spin bowlers in the game and normally some good bounce, especially towards the latter part of the match, which is what you want.

On the social front, the boys have been enjoying the various restaurants that are on offer. The Mail Box complex near our hotel has been the favourite venue as there are many different types of food on offer. I was very happy to see that there is a Nandos very close to the hotel; it is one of my favourites. It was also good to get in a good South African-style braai with my old Warwickshire mates and guys I know from Cape Town, Jonathan Trott and Neil Carter, who treated me to a bit of boerewors and some good steak. Felt like I was back at home again.

We realise as a team that this is a huge test for us. We are aware of our history of not managing to finish series off in England in recent times. If we manage to win this one, we would achieve something that a South African team hasn't done for a long time. The boys are up for the challenge.

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