Left home in Llanelli around lunchtime to meet Matthew Maynard - the England assistant coach - in Cardiff. Enjoyed the time at home after Old Trafford, and it was good to catch up with the family after two weeks on the road. We all needed a good break because back-to-back Test matches are knackering and these were the toughest two games I have ever played in. It was nice to get away from cricket and get back to reality after a stressful couple of weeks. Also good to have a few beers and see a few mates.
One of the good things about living in Wales is that cricketers don't get recognised that much. Rugby has always been the No 1 sport and they are the stars here; I get noticed more when I travel to England. Some of the other England players can't go out without getting hassled. I can't imagine what it must be like being David Beckham.
I follow Matt up to Nottingham, but we stop in Birmingham to drop his son off at cricket. Tom Maynard chooses to travel with me rather rather than his dad and we chat on the way. He is a talented young cricketer and he is playing for Glamorgan Under-17s.
After dropping Tom off I have some time to myself. I stick a CD in and start to think about the coming week, and what it might have in store for me. The nerves and the sense of anticipation begin to grow.
Check in at hotel and meet up with a few of the boys at the bar. It's good to see them again and we talk about what we have been up to over a quiet beer. Fred (Andrew Flintoff) has been to France for a few days and KP (Kevin Pietersen) has been to the V Festival, so we listen to stories of what he has been up to. It sounds a lot more glamorous than my week, but I couldn't care less.
I always want to get to the ground early so that I can get a good place in the dressing-room. Players are very superstitious and they want to change in the same spot as they did when they scored runs or took wickets. I find a good little corner and fortunately nobody boots me out of it. I hate getting here late because then you have to squash yourself in between two other players. I like my own space so that I can lay my kit out and get organised. Tuesday is always a tough practice day. After a gentle warm-up and a stretch I look to have a good bowl in the nets. I then bowl in the middle so that I get used to the slope of the ground and what it feels like at either end. I have played a couple of games here for Glamorgan but not yet for England.
It is my turn to talk to the media. The press ask me about reverse swing and whether I have any extra motivation because I injured my knee against Australia. The reverse swing is coming along nicely. I first started tinkering with it during my winter in Adelaide at the National Academy and my action obviously helps. Performing against the best in the world and proving I can do it against Australia is the only extra incentive I get from playing against them.
In the afternoon I did an interview and a photo shoot with Front, a men's magazine that is a bit smuttier thanFHM. I was a bit disappointed because they were supposed to be bringing a young blonde along for the shoot, but she didn't pitch up because she had food poisoning.
It's been a busy, pretty chaotic day and I feel a bit weary. Had a room service meal before meeting up with KP, Matthew Hoggard and Ian Bell in the hotel bar. Had a couple of soft drinks - I don't touch alcohol from two days before the game starts.
It rained heavily overnight and the forecast is dreadful today so we go down to the National Academy in Loughborough for practice. Woke at 8am and left at 9am. I'm a little superstitious and I want to go through the same routine as I have in the past so Kirk Russell (the physiotherapist) gives me a quick rub before he straps my ankles.
Had a gentle workout before returning to the hotel. Once back there the nerves start to build. No matter how hard you try it is difficult to take your mind off the the cricket. It's horrible. I took seven wickets in the last Test but I don't know whether I am going to get nought for plenty or five for nothing.
Gather in the team room for a team meeting at 6.30pm. Duncan Fletcher runs it. We watch clips of what we have done in the previous games, highlighting the positives and the things we have done well. It's nice to watch yourself taking wickets. At times it is hard to believe it is me out there doing these things.
We then go through the Australian batting order, discussing what we did in the last game and how well we put our plans into practice. We talk about whether we should do anything different in this match and then do the same with their bowlers.
Vaughny (Michael Vaughan) makes a speech at the end. He is very positive and talks about how well we have done in the past two Tests, and asks to play with the same attitude over the next week. The side is not announced until tomorrow morning, although I feel I've got a pretty good chance of playing.
Went to the Living Room in Nottingham for a meal with KP and Chris Tremlett. Shane Warne and Michael Clarke are there and we have a quick chat with them but we eat at different tables. The Aussies are a good bunch of lads and we get on well with them.
The incident with Matthew Hayden during the one-day series seems a long time ago know, and I had a good chat with him after the Edgbaston Test. We now have a healthy respect for each other.
Back to the hotel and into my room at about 9.30pm. I make a couple of phone calls and try to get to sleep but it's a bloody nightmare. The nerves are there and it is hard to switch off.
Wake up knackered after a dreadful night's sleep. Set the alarm for 7.30am but I didn't need it. Miss breakfast at the hotel and leave for the ground at about 8 o'clock. KP and Ian Bell jump in my car. We all try and avoid talking about the cricket and chat about what we are going to do at the end of the series.
Arrive at the ground at 8.15 and have breakfast. There is loads of food on the tables but I ask for a couple of bacon rolls. There's a shop over the road and when I'm here with Glamorgan I go over there for a bite to eat. But the crowds are already gathering around the gate so I stay in the dressing-room.
We have to be on the park at 9.0 for warm-ups and when we meet the team is announced. There were times when we gathered that I didn't know whether I would be in the side. It was horrible, especially when Jimmy (Anderson) was in the squad. We are best mates and we always knew one of us would miss out.
We play a little game of American football/rugby to get loose then have a stretch and go through our fielding drills. I have a few bowl throughs.
I hate the toss. I can't watch it; I get too nervous. I always hope we bat first so that I can put my feet up and chill out all day. I am not a very good watcher and as soon as the game starts I try to fall asleep. But every noise wakes me up - I can never tell whether it's a wicket or runs.
Tres (Marcus Trescothick) and Straussy (Andrew Strauss) gave us an excellent start before Straussy got out. How unlucky is that? Cricket's a strange game, there are so many good balls that could get you out and you get out out like that, bottom edging one on to your boot.
At lunch we are 129 for 1 and I now feel brave enough to start watching the cricket. We were going well until the rain came along. It disrupted our momentum. It was a shock when Punter (Ricky Ponting) got Vaughny out but he's a bit better than he looks. He got up to 80mph for a few balls, that's quicker than Colly (Paul Collingwood).
Had a shower, back to the hotel, then out for a meal with KP and Matthew Hoggard. We went for a Japanese. I'm not a fan of it but we couldn't get in anywhere else because Nottingham is heaving. Hoggy got me to try some of that sushi stuff but I'm not too impressed.
I will sleep better tonight because the game's taking shape. Once you know what is happening I can prepare myself mentally.
ENGLAND 229 FOR 4. PIETERSEN 33 NOT OUT, FLINTOFF 8 NOT OUT.
A better night's sleep, helped by the fact that we batted well yesterday. Had a team chat before the start of play where the players who had done well on Thursday were congratulated. But the main focus was on what we needed to do today.
Great fun watching Fred score his hundred. He is an awesome cricketer, one of the best in the world. He is a mentor to a lot of the players, including myself. We look at him and see his attitude and his work ethic, and it rubs off on people. We love watching Fred and KP bat because they are explosive players who make things happen. When you watch Fred bat like this you think, "Thank God I'm not bowling at him."
We all enjoyed watching Geraint (Jones) score runs too. He is a class player. He's dropped a couple but this happens. Adam Gilchrist made a lot of mistakes in the last Test too, but he didn't get as much stick as Geraint. He is a strong character and he showed this during his innings of 85.
I enjoy my batting, although I do get a bit nervous when I see Brett Lee legging it in and bowling at 95mph. It's a challenge but it's good fun batting with someone like Hoggy. We try and have some fun. But Duncan Fletcher is always telling us that he wants our lower-order batsmen to add 40 or 50 runs to the total, and we tend to do it more often than not.
Chuffed to get 477 on the board. It is a good total, a score we back ourselves to defend every time. We are confident that we can take 20 wickets.
Vaughny got me on early, which I'm happy about. Getting involved helps settle the nerves. In the past I have not been used that much but I am enjoying my role now. I slipped into a good rhythm. The ball was coming out OK with decent wheels - 86-88mph - but some days it comes out quicker than others. It is just a question of timing.
I got the ball in the right areas, which was the way to bowl on this pitch. I will never stop learning, and I am getting better at assessing pitches and situations. When the pitch is slow it is often better to get the ball in the right area and swing it rather than just bowl flat out. At times you've got to use your noddle.
Everyone's happy Hoggy got some wickets. He's got a big heart and he will run in all day for you.
There was a hell of a feeling when we got to the dressing-room, especially after Harmy (Stephen Harmison) had got Michael Clarke out. The last session really knocked them on the back foot. Five good balls in the morning and we are away. The follow-on is an issue, but I don't bother myself with it. That decision is up to Vaughny and Fletch. Quiet night. Need to keep the body fresh for tomorrow.
ENGLAND 477. AUSTRALIA 99-5.
We only began talking about the follow-on when we started taking wickets. Delighted to get my third five-wicket haul for England. The ball came out nicely again - up to 90mph. The ball was swinging too and the one I got Michael Kasprowicz out with was one of the best I have bowled. It shaped late and I was really happy with it.
I have been working on my grip with Duncan and Troy Cooley (the England bowling coach) and that ball showed it has been working. The wicket of Simon Katich was a nice one too, because it was part of our plan. He is strong off his legs and our aim is to hang the ball out there to create some pressure, to see if he will chase one. He did. Well caught Straussy. It was great to get Warnie out next ball because he is a dangerous bugger and when he is slogging he is hard to bowl at.
I have no idea why I keep getting wickets in my first over but its becoming a habit. It's not a bad habit to have, mind.
The ankle was a little bit sore during the morning session but it wasn't unbearable. It wasn't the reason why I looked subdued when I took a wicket, as someone said. I am trying to control my emotions a little bit more after what happened at Edgbaston (Jones was fined for giving an Australian batsman a send-off when he had dismissed him). This is such a big Test, and such a big series that your emotions can sometimes run high and you need to be careful.
We all agreed that we should enforce the follow-on. I saw Kirk (the physiotherapist) between the innings and bowled the first couple of overs in the second innings, but my ankle started to get worse so I had to rest it.
It was terrible watching from the balcony; one of the worst experiences I have had for a long time. It is so frustrating because I feel useless and I want to be out there helping the boys. It is not a nice feeling to be sat up on the balcony while the boys are toiling away, bowling my overs.
I had to got to the hospital for a scan to get it checked out. Getting injured is part of being a fast bowler, but it doesn't get any easier. I made sure I was in the dressing-room when the boys walked off to say well done.
ENGLAND 477. AUSTRALIA 218 & 222-4. 37 BEHIND.
Knew the foot wasn't right so didn't join in in the morning, but watching was no easier today than it was yesterday. I feel just as useless. But we now have a world-class bowling attack and I was backing our boys to nail them. It was a slow pitch, but we have a lot of experience and they know how to be patient. I knew we were going to bowl them out and then knock the runs off. Well, I thought we were, anyway.
It was our plan to be positive. 129 in 40 overs was always gettable. It looked OK whilst Tres and Straussy were there, but things then started to happen. They bowled well and the pressure grew.
I couldn't watch, especially when the wickets started tumbling. I was in one of the back rooms having treatment before I had to get my kit on, and then I hid in the other back room. Whenever there was a roar one of the boys ran to the balcony to tell me, Vaughny and the boys what was going on.
When Geraint was out I had to get my pads on. Straussy was going to run for me, he is the only sane one in the dressing-room. At times it was too much for the other boys to watch. I was backing us until Hoggy went in but then I thought, "Shit, here we go". There were only two of us left after in him, and I was thinking, "Bloody hell, this could be hard work, I'm one of them".
I was crapping my pants as I waited to bat, but Harmy was worse than me because he was next in. It was an unbelievably nerve-racking time, one I don't want to relive.
Bloody hell. Hoggy's just driven Lee through extra cover. Go on the ball, get over the line. What a top shot. To nail him through the covers when he's bowling at 95 mph was great. It took us to within four of victory. Surely now we must get home.
The boys went mad when Ash clipped Warnie for two. Great scenes in the dressing-room with everybody hugging each other and cheering on the balcony. Thank God it's over. We are 2-1 up; yes, 2-1 up against Australia.
The boys cracked open the beer, wine and champagne, although I am not drinking. I'm on a drinking ban for a week to give my ankle the best chance of recovery. The majority of the Aussies came up to our dressing-room and I had a chat with Hayden, Lee, Kasprowicz and Pigeon (Glenn McGrath). They are a smashing bunch of lads and we get on well. I get on well with Lee even though he slogged me out of the ground.
We went to the Living Room in Nottingham. A good time was had by all.
Up early and off down to London. Follow Kirk, who takes me to an oxygen chamber to increase my chances of getting fit for the final Test. I sit in there for an hour at a time and I will be doing this twice a day for the next few days.
I will be doing everything I can to get in that side for the fifth Test. Everything is on this game. A win or a draw and the Ashes are ours. We want them, we haven't had them for a while and they are going to be ours.Reuse content