Ashes Diary: The wait is over but there's plenty of talking to come
Wednesday 24 November 2010
Brisbane. 25th November, 2010. Tomorrow. Here at last. I have waited all my life for this. When I was a little boy the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne did everything for me. It was what I dreamed of.
But for now it's Brisbane. Yesterday, I sat on The Gabba outfield with Bruce French, England's wicketkeeping coach, and tried to soak up the atmosphere. We talked a bit of nonsense, a bit about keeping and a bit about what it would be like on Thursday morning.
Since arriving in Brisbane the atmosphere has changed. Walking through town in the past few days the air is charged, possibly helped by the gathering of England fans. The Barmy Army is here.
They are not, apparently, everybody's cup of tea. But the England team loves them. They can lift the team, their support is invaluable. A joke or a chant from the Barmy Army can rejuvenate the joviality on the pitch. They really are worth having.
The build-up for England could hardly have been better. Two wins and a draw in the warm-up games, the bowlers taking wickets, the batsmen scoring runs. There is an unmistakable sense that we have, partially at least, earned the respect of the Aussie public.
Four years ago, when I was here with the England A team squad, we were based in Perth. We trained on the beach in the morning and got sledged most days.
I expected when we got here that the taxi drivers would sledge us, the guy next to you in the lift would have a go and that the hotel concierge might join in. It has not been like that at all. They seem glad to have us here and happy that we're performing well. Having said that, I'm not expecting them to turn up tomorrow morning waving union jacks and cheering on good old England.
When you play Australia, much is made of the sledging that might occur. Too much probably. It has been reported in some quarters that I intend to take a vow of silence in this series. It was a slight misinterpretation.
I want to leave my mark by scoring a hundred, or making the winning runs, or taking a game-changing catch. The guys you're playing against are top international sportsmen. Talking to them is not going to have any effect, they have heard it all before.
But there are bound to be some incidents in the series, moments when it might be necessary to have a word or two. As keeper I see myself as the fielding captain. I cajole and enthuse, make sure the ball is returned properly from the field. That little thing helps in so many ways, ensuring fielders keep their arms loose, making sure the ball is dead and just being good for the image of a well-drilled fielding side.
Things could not have gone better. But nobody is kidding themselves. When we go out on to The Gabba tomorrow it's 0-0 and all to play for against an Australian side that will not give anything up easily. All I can promise is that the way England play will bring limitless passion to the cause.
I won't be alone in dreaming dreams of what might happen, about whether we bat or bowl, about what occurs after that. But tomorrow there will be no more imagining. We'll be doing it in Australia for the Ashes, for real, and I can't wait.
Matt Prior supports NatWest CricketForce, the largest volunteering initiative in UK sport and registrations are now open for 2011. For more info, visit www.natwest.com/cricket and sign up to this month's bulletin
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