Team Effort shines through in win at Sussex

Winning is one thing but to win in a fashion that reflects the individuals and ethos of a team is quite another. At Somerset this pre-season, we have worked tirelessly to alter and shift some old behaviours. There has been a true collective effort to improve the culture, and it was brilliant to see the results of our work in our victory against Sussex this week. Beating Sussex by the sea is no mean feat, I've certainly left their county borders feeling downbeat over the years, but winning by an innings was one of the sweetest victories I have had in my career. The return to form of Marcus, our captain, was nothing short of inspirational.

Batting on the first evening, when most of the day had been washed out, offered some of the toughest first class conditions both Marcus and I have ever faced. The new ball duo of Magoffin and Jordan bowled with good pace, swing and accuracy. It was a pleasure to experience that sort of intensity, and to experience it while watching one of England's best batsmen on the other end provided twice the rush.

Marcus left the ball with such watchful ease and defended like his life depended on it. Magoffin, their spearhead, attacked the stumps regularly, with the odd ball going on straight - making the art of choosing which ball to play, and which one to leave, a difficult job.

Marcus has always been one of the best watchers of a cricket ball. Between the overs he will often point out to me on what side of the ball the bowler is holding it, and exactly what he is trying to do with it. Whereas most of us watch the ball and react, Marcus can often tell which way it is going to swing.

At Sussex, he watched the ball onto the bat like a hawk. His judgment was impeccable. It was truly motivating for me to watch, and it felt good to build a solid partnership.

Lewis Gregory has so far been the real find of the season. While it's early days, his skill with the ball and his ability to score 50s while coming in as far down as 11 is so vital. He had this amazing ability to produce wicket-taking deliveries from nowhere, and I was, and am, really chuffed for him.

Ed Joyce, who is a good mate from my playing days at Middlesex, fought valiantly. He really is a joy to play. Classy and tough as nails it was hard to keep him down, and when he played onto Gregory I knew the game was ours.

We move on to the next game in high spirits, with a beer on the bus and some of Alfonso's dj-ing in the background, these are truly moments to savour - a real team effort.

New Zealand Tour with England 2013

A Great Feeling

It’s an amazing feeling to arrive in Wellington after scoring my maiden test century. Definitely a moment I have dreamt about since I was a little boy watching my heroes do the same. To actually do it though is surreal and to have my father their was even better. I could see him on the boundary sitting there and I regular looked over after each over which helped me to keep my focus and push on. I think he was slightly embarrassed when he realised the TV cameras were regularly filming him during my 'nervous 90s' but that is what parents are for, they feel their children’s every feeling and that’s not just the good ones which is why it meant so much for me to do that for him.

So here we are this morning; the beautiful ground at the Basin Reserve. The sun is out although it is a bit windy which apparently it always is but the outfield is not too dissimilar to Lords, which always makes it a pleasure to play cricket. So far I’ve been really impressed with New Zealand as a country. Apart from the obvious beauty the people have been very friendly and its; just a really chilled out country to visit with plenty of activities to do. 

The nets this morning were bouncy and quicker than they were in Dunedin so it was good to have a practice today against Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions. Cooky and I batted in the nets together; he's been a great inspiration over the last few months having had the opportunity to bat with him at the other end. His calming influence and focus is something that sets him apart.

Hopefully we can start better than we did in the last test. Catch up soon

A Tough start

Well yes not the best start to an international tour, losing our first game to a good competitive New Zealand XI, however it was good to get back into game mode having been out of it since my last test against India in December. Apart from Ian Bell and Matt Prior who both batted beautifully in the two innings, everyone was a little under par. Belly played as fluidly and elegantly as I've seen and Matt is always a joy to watch. I had a chat to him the other night about his batting and he said to me “There is only so much pressure one can absorb until you have to hit back. The harder they come, the harder you can go" which would probably explain why he's become one of the best keeper batsmen in the world right now.

Aside from the cricket the Queenstown Cricket Ground was officially the most beautiful I’ve played on. Only Newlands in Cape Town can really compare for aesthetic beauty, towering mountains, surrounding both ends of the ground and helicopters and airplanes passing overhead, no wonder I didn’t see the ball very well! Jokes aside it has been a great place to visit and somewhere I would bring a family tomorrow.

I got a bit of flack for pulling out of the canyon swing, a large swing similar to a bungee jump except you swing instead of bounce at the end. Having talked up doing all the activities, my excuse of falling asleep and not waking up in time for the bus didn’t go down very well. Fair play though to the guys who've been showing their action videos. Cooky definitely takes the medal for action junky supremo... Even the helicopter rides have been a bit hair-raising. At one time we flew off a mountain, instead of just cruising back to the airport the pilot decided to do one of those moves most only see in an action film and nosed dived parallel to the 6000 foot cliff face. It took a few hours before my stomach, which I clearly left on the mountain-top returned to me. I must be honest two feet on the ground and I'm a much happier bunny.

A three hour bus journey to Dunedin where the serious business starts, glacial troughs, snow capped mountains and pasturelands made the time pass quickly. Its now two days of preparation and into the series we go, it should be a goodie!

Onto Training...

Well Queenstown is not failing to impress. Our mornings have been taken up by intense training sessions taking what's left of the jet lag out and getting used to the wickets, which I must say have been excellent. Hard, good bounce with a lot of grass but actually it plays true. It's hard not to enjoy being back to hard graft with the backdrop that you can see in the picture to the right.

The rest of the one-day boys joined up with us yesterday evening and we were entertained at a BBQ at an amazing house with a garden and a view to die for. Going to some of these functions can be tedious at times but this was nothing short of fun with a good driving range, clay pigeon shooting and yeah believe it or not… sheep herding. Running after sheep like a sheep dog would and getting them back into the pen is certainly hilarious to watch and do! The food was great too. We had a day off today which me and “Bunny Onions” spent on the cable car, taking in the most amazing views of Queenstown. Then we came down for a Ferg Burger - the most renowned burger in NZ! It actually was incredible.

I managed to jump back on the bike in the evening and now I'm shattered but ready for our pre-match practice which starts on Wednesday.

A Long journey

30 hours on a plane to get to New Zealand was about my breaking point. That door in the exit row was looking more like an escape from the confines of this cabin than something to avoid.

However having arrived in Queenstown for the first time I immediately realised that the moans and groans of a long journey were well worth it. This place is beautiful and reminds me a little of Vancouver in Canada’s west coast mixed in with some Cape Town. Snow capped mountains in the distance, a large lake and a cable car to the top of a mountain makes it a real holidaymakers dream.

The first night was spent trying to come to terms with the 13 hour time difference so we did our best to stay awake. I won't say that a bottle of the finest cloudy bay didn't come into good use though as we discussed the alarming news of Oscar Pistorius and his fall from grace. I can't help being reminded of Hansie Cronje and his plight as a South African national hero!

Today though was a little more upbeat, spent with a light session in the pool and the first look at the ground in Queenstown, which incidentally, is alongside the airport. Kevin Pietersen as we all found out today, has a real fascination with airplanes so watching him peering out the window counting as the planes flew over head was quite amusing.

The town is quaint and full of adventure tours doing anything from Bungee jumping and sky diving to white water rafting. Literally they have it all here...

Matt Prior who spent three days with Team Sky in the winter brought his bike on tour, which is one of the more random articles to bring on a cricket tour. I can understand the golf clubs but his Team Sky road bike was no less impressive. It looks like something that could cycle to space and I wouldn't be surprised if it had some inboard computer that peddled for you the way he was powering up the hills on our team cycle yesterday evening.

I must say the view was spectacular around the lake. Andy Flower and KP hired bikes in town. Buying padded shorts was high on the priority list but it will be interesting to see how everyone has pulled up this morning. The batting stance might have to be altered somewhat!

It's been great acclimatising and spending time with some of the guys. Monty Panesar has been no less amusing although we were unable to get him on a bike I think watching him do the jet boating could be quite amusing.

Anyway just got back from a steak and a beer and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I’m looking forward to our first day of training tomorrow and a look at the Kiwi conditions. Update more in the next edition.

More photo's of my time in NZ can be seen in my photo gallery, by clicking here. Ciao

Published March 2013

End of the Road...

"Well that's it folks - all done and dusted for the year, and all good things must come to an end. This time it was on a very sweaty Saturday night in Chennai having lost to the 'not so mighty Mumbai Indians'.

Dark day: It was a dark day for English sport with the rugby side succumbing to the French in the Rugby World Cup, always a hard pill to swallow, and then of course bowing out of the Champions League Twenty20. It's without doubt been a long old road but my word what a journey and finishing it in India, the cricketing mecca, puts a small cherry on the top. Spending three weeks with all the boys and staff out here has been a treat. Everyone from the support staff, to the security, to the hotels has been first class and definitely makes it worthwhile. Looking at the game it was very disappointing, all those ifs and buts, especially the Jos Buttler rifle that cannoned into Craig Kieswetter at the end. If that had gone for four who knows what would have happened. Ultimately though it’s these opportunities, this awareness that makes better players and having just had this experience has given us all a huge boost and belief going into next year.

Exceeding expectations: We probably exceeded ours and everyone’s expectations and can return with heads held high at the thought of coming so far. On behalf of Somerset I want to say a huge thanks to our supporters. All the tweets and Facebook messages have made a huge difference, in particular the Somerset fans who by all accounts have been right behind us all the way. Onwards and upwards. Until next year have a great winter all… look forward to more success next year."

Published 10 October 2011