'It's great to be playing Australia at last'
After all the hype it is good to get on the park and play against Australia, even if it is only in a Twenty20 game. Having grown up there and watched them as a kid it was special to be out there playing against them. Living in England feels right. I came over here in 1998 because I needed to change my life. I was working for a computer company before I sat down and thought: "Hang on, I want something a bit more than this."
Great to open the batting and be out there at the start of it all. When I hit one back at Brett Lee, the summer started for me. A lot of people said that the one-day matches would have little effect on the Ashes but they did. We took huge confidence from the way we went at them in the NatWest Series.
FIRST TEST, LORD'S
'KP tells me not to talk to him between overs'
What a morning. Walking through the Long Room and out on to the pitch was an incredible experience. When I played against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004 it was my first time in the Long Room. There were a lot of people in there then, but this was unbelievable. The roar that went up when we entered it was a defining moment.
In the morning we reversed the roles with Australia. We attacked them and I took four catches. After playing with a white ball for a month it was a funny feeling to be catching a red ball again. I did all the right practice out in the middle but my rhythm did not feel right and it felt completely different trying to catch a red ball.
The dressing-room was calm after bowling Australia out for 190. We knew we had done well but there are batsmen trying to get ready to bat and we needed a big score. But (Glenn) McGrath ruined everything. He likes playing here. The slope makes it a perfect pitch for him and he found a spot where he could get it to nip and shoot back at you.
At 21 for 5 it was a case of déjà vu for me. I went out in exactly the same circumstances in the NatWest Series final. It helped. KP (Kevin Pietersen) and I put on a bit of a partnership but it wasn't enough. KP told me that he gets in a zone when he bats, and on this occasion he was in the zone. He kept telling me not to talk to him when I walked up to him between overs. He'd say, 'Sorry, can't talk china' (as in china plate, mate). In the end, we just ended up walking towards each other, nodding and then turning round and walking back.
I got a good ball from Brett Lee. I have actually got quite a few in the series. He didn't chirp (sledge) me but Matthew Hayden did. I used to play grade cricket against him in Queensland and he'd be saying: "Come on boys, let's get rid of the Beenleigh Boy."
It was deflating to be bowled out so cheaply after knocking them over for 190. We knew it would be tough to bowl them out again and it was frustrating watching them stretch their lead. I stand behind the stumps willing an edge to come my way, so it is bloody annoying when I drop one - and I dropped two. The most upsetting thing about dropping catches is the feeling of letting the team down - the boys are trying so hard to create chances.
People say you have got to concentrate on the next ball but no matter how hard you try it is difficult. Your mind does wander and you do start thinking about what the press and the media will say. And salt was rubbed into the wounds when I pulled McGrath to mid-on as we were trying to save the game. When I got to the dressing-room I said to myself I am not going to try to pull McGrath again. I know I get runs from the shot, but back foot defence is my shot of the summer from now on.
Our dressing-room was very quiet after the defeat but Michael Vaughan told us that this game had gone, there was nothing we could do about it, and the important thing is that we get things right for Edgbaston. It helped us to write off what had taken place. I went to the Aussie dressing-room for a drink and had a chat with Adam Gilchrist. Gilly was great. We chatted about keeping and dropping catches and he kept telling me not to let it affect me.
SECOND TEST, EDGBASTON
'When I took the catch there was a huge release of tension'
I knew what was coming my way after Lord's so I did not read too much in the papers. Ashley Giles must have read a lot more than me because he reacted. The flak makes me want to show them I am good enough and prove them wrong. I use it as motivation.
I spent the week off playing golf, working on the bowling machine - practising the backward defensive - and doing some glovework.
We were aware something had happened during our warm-ups and word came across that McGrath had gone over on his ankle. We kept thinking, "he'll get up in a minute", but he never did. This gave us a huge boost. We never cheered out loud but inside everyone was probably thinking: "Right let's take it to them now."
Everybody has been waiting to see Freddie and KP bat together and they were brilliant. They get everyone in the dressing-room watching and they put on a great display of hitting. Some of the shots KP plays are staggering. It's a nightmare coming in after them. We got a good first-innings lead but Warne and Lee made it difficult for us in our second innings. The 50 partnership for the last wicket was vital. The guys down the bottom have been encouraged to work on their batting and during the past 18 months they have put on runs at the right time.
Flintoff bowled magnificently. He hits the gloves hard and has upped his levels this summer. He has always had good control and pace but in this series he has tweaked it up. My hands do need a rest after a day keeping to him.
In our heads we thought we had won the Test when we walked off on Saturday evening. We were hoping it would take 15 minutes to finish them off on Sunday and then we could have a few drinks. But when we went out on the Sunday morning the first thing I heard was an Australian in the crowd saying 107 to win. And then they started counting down and I did not like the sound of it. I think most of us feared the worst when the target got into single figures.
So when I took the catch there was a huge release of tension. I don't know where my reaction came from but there was an Australian section of the crowd who had been barracking me so I thought I would get up them. It wasn't something I had thought about, it was just a natural reaction.
Great scenes. The Aussies came into our dressing-room and we spent a couple of hours socialising with them before carrying on back at the team hotel. We then had some fun on Broad Street in Birmingham as we went for a bite to eat.
THIRD TEST, OLD TRAFFORD
'Dropped another catch. Have never felt so low. Why does this keep happening to me?'
McGrath returned but Vaughan's batting was fantastic. Once he got to his hundred it looked as though he was going to hit every ball for four. It is great to see your captain do that. Vaughan does not do a lot of talking in the dressing-room but he goes out there and shows you how to do it.
Freddie and I put on some runs. We really enjoy batting together. We are both pretty relaxed and Freddie talks to me. I was disappointed to get out just before lunch. I enjoy the challenge of facing Warne but you have to try to get down the wicket to him. If you stay in your crease, he will dictate to you. You can't come haring down at every ball because he spins it so much but once I feel comfortable I will try to get him thinking.
I altered my technique slightly for Warne after practising against Merlyn (the bowling machine) and bat with my left foot slightly out of the way so that I end up playing him with my bat and not my pad. I spoke to Robert Key (a Kent team-mate of Jones) and he remembered the way Rahul Dravid (the Indian batsman) played spin, and he just used his bat. And using this technique has worked really well against him.
Dropped another catch and missed a stumping. I have never felt so low playing for England. I sat in my spot in the dressing-room in a trance feeling hugely deflated. What am I doing wrong? Why does this keep happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?
The one off Freddie was a simple chance. I lost the speed of the ball and it stuffed me up. On the way back to the hotel Straussy (Andrew Strauss) sent me a text telling me to keep my chin up. When I got back to my hotel room I thought there are two ways to approach this. I either sit in my room and sulk, or get out there and face the music. So I went dog racing at Belle Vue with Freddie and Neil Fairbrother (my agent). Freddie was instantly recognisable and it was only at the end of the night that people started working out who I was. Being out and about among people was the best thing I could have done.
So when I batted the next day I thought: "Sod it, I'm going to go out there and give it a whack." I hit McGrath for 14 runs in three balls. McGrath was chuntering, but I was pumped up and when we declared I ran off the field determined to show everyone that my keeping was up to it.
Ponting played superbly to deny us victory and stop us going 2-1 up. We went down to their dressing-room and they were celebrating the draw like it was a win. It was nice to take the catch off Strauss's thigh. Getting so close was hard to take. Vaughany called us into a huddle and told us to look at the Aussies celebrating. He said the sight of them celebrating a draw showed how far we had come as a side.
It didn't stop me sitting there wondering what might have happened if I had taken either of those chances. But ultimately it was rain that prevented us from winning the game.
FOURTH TEST, TRENT BRIDGE
'I was determined. I wanted to show why I was in the side'
Had a good week away from cricket playing golf. It's nice not being one of the most recognisable figures in the side. I enjoy the anonymity. I wear a cap and sunglasses all day and I quietly go about my business away from the Test matches.
I knew I had to do something in this game after the last Test so it was great to get 85 and put 177 on with Freddie. Bob Willis had given me a bit of spur. After the Saturday at Old Trafford he said on Sky: "Get him out of the side." I was also on Chris Read's home turf and I didn't want to let myself down there.
I didn't get any real stick from the crowd. There were a few 'Read-y' chants but I get them all around the country. My 85 was a really determined innings. I wanted to show people why I was in the side. I didn't nick the ball on 34, I clipped the ground with my bat. I tend to have a guilty face when I edge one. It would have been great to get to 100 with my Dad in the crowd but I made a conscious decision to be positive once Freddie had gone and it didn't come off.
Simon Jones was brilliant again for us. He is a big, strong, aggressive bugger. He's stepped up a gear in this series and when you have four guys up around the 90mph mark it makes life hard for the opposition. Good to get three catches and a stumping. Hopefully, it will keep people quieter for a little longer.
I did not for one minute think that chasing 129 would be easy. I knew it would be tough because it was all or nothing for them and they could throw everything at us. When I was waiting to bat I had my cap down tight over my eyes with my head close to the balcony railings. I was looking through a sort of letter-box at the cricket. I was very nervous when I got to the crease, I almost felt I was going to be sick. It was the first time this has ever happened to me.
People criticised my shot but the reasoning was right. We were a couple of shots away from winning. The balcony erupted when Ashley (Giles) clipped Warne for two, and when you win a game like this you have to enjoy it.
FIFTH TEST, THE OVAL
'It wasn't until KP got close to his 150 that I thought we were safe'
There was lots of talk about the draw and the rain before the Test but my thought process was that we go out there and win it. But the closer it got the more I did have half an eye on the weather. Strauss was superb. He cops a bit of flak for being posh but he gives as good as he gets. We talked about players going out there and scoring hundreds and that is just what he did.
I was getting a bit worried when Hayden and Justin Langer put on 180 for the first wicket. They haven't done it all summer and you start thinking that this may be the time. I was expecting to have the gloves on for a long time.
We were surprised they came off for bad light because I thought they would rub our noses in it. By coming off the Australians showed they are wary of us. I pick the papers up and generally just waste time when we are off. Hoggy (Matthew Hoggard) makes a nuisance of himself playing stump cricket, and tennis balls flying around tends to get on people's nerves after a while.
KP was unbelievable. If you consider the situation, it is the best innings I have ever seen. The way he played and the way he took Lee on after lunch. We knew that when Lee was steaming in and he was taking him on things would happen quickly. And we were thinking that if this comes off our lead will be pretty decent soon. And it was.
Did I enjoy it? It felt pretty awful for a lot of the day, especially when I was bowled by Tait. I walked off fearing the worst. You sit there counting the overs down, watching the runs go up and constantly working out the equation of what run-rate they need. There are a lot of "what ifs" and if we can bat to this many overs they will need this.
It wasn't until KP got close to his 150 that I thought we were safe and once there I thought wouldn't it be great if we could walk out on to the ground as a team before the end of the game.
The Australians coming off for bad light and the confusion that followed meant it was a slightly flat way for it to finish. But we were in a huddle in the dressing-room with our arms around each other while Vaughany chatted to the umpires in the players' dining room. And then the door at the back of the dressing-room opened and Vaughany walked in and the whole place erupted.
It was then chaos. After 20 minutes of bumping about, blokes sat down and started taking in what had happened. A few were in tears. We went to the presentation, did a lap of honour, which was absolutely brilliant. My memory is not great but this is something that will stick in there.
When we were sat down at the end of it all Matthew Maynard (England's assistant coach) said: "Well done but our number one goal is to be the best side in the world by 2007." What has happened has been incredible but we are not quite there yet.
'Fred was struggling. I went to bed at 3.30am, but he had no sleep at all'
What an amazing sight. We hoped there would be a few people on our bus route, it would have been embarrassing if there were only a handful, but we never dreamt there would be so many. There were people hanging out of windows, standing on roofs and running to street corners as our open-top bus went along. I kept looking at my fiancée, Jenny, and we just kept shaking our heads.
KP was as shy and retiring as usual, spraying everyone with champagne and running around with his arms in the air, lapping it up. Fred was struggling. I went to bed at 3.30am but he had no sleep on Monday night, and he sat at the front of the bus holding his daughter, Holly.
After doing some interviews at Trafalgar Square we went to Downing Street, where the Prime Minister met us. From there to Lord's for a do in the Long Room with our sponsors, Vodafone. I suppose it is fitting it finishes here. It is where it all started on 21 July.Reuse content