How our little boy lost found his way

Nick Knight, the England opener, describes the build-up to the First Test and the pain that followed pleasure
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The Independent Online
Tuesday 4 June England's new No 3 batsman is nowhere to be seen. We are all gathered at Edgbaston, scene of the First Test against India, prepared for our first practice, but Nasser Hussain has failed to arrive. The man chosen for the position which seems to have been fraught with difficulties for its incumbents in recent series has seemingly got off to the worst possible start. He has become lost on his way to the ground. A problem I understand, because it took me several attempts to find the right direction, and my flat is only two miles away.

Wednesday Full-scale practice. Fielding is a serious business under David Lloyd, the new coach, but he makes it anything but dull. The various disciplines we go through, slip catching, catching in the deep, throwing and so on, are turned into competitions. Everyone puts in a pound and those who drop the most lose their money. I'm down a couple of quid.

One of the coach's favourite pastimes is hitting a tennis ball at you. I never realised before how hard it is to catch a tennis ball. Before leaving the ground we have a look at each other's "inspiration tapes" which are videos of each one of the squad in action with a piece of their favourite music playing as background. Somehow mine doesn't work as it should. Batting and Mariah Carey singing her ballad "A Hero Comes Along" are not natural partners. The team appears to be in tears by the end.

Thursday It's odd playing in Birmingham where I live and going a different way to the ground than usual, from the team hotel. I'm apprehensive but not a complete bag of nerves. I hope I've worked them out of my system on practice days.

The team could hardly start better. We take control of the match early by making the best of the conditions. It was good to get into the game with two catches. The second gives Ronnie Irani his first Test wicket with his fifth ball and dismisses the Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin. I'm pleased with the effort but the way I catch with my right hand over my left might make it look more difficult than it felt for me at the time. I'm pleased I reacted quickly because that's why I was put in the position on the leg side; and the feeling that we have got rid of Azha is a good one. It is further evidence that Ronnie has a golden arm.

Batting goes well at the end of the day. I feel good Athers and I have given England the required start. Early night as usual.

Friday Second ball of the morning and I'm on the way to the pavilion. I'm not overjoyed with my foot movement and I didn't quite get into the correct position. But I'm not one to be morose for too long. I spend a few minutes working on what I could have done and how it can be rectified and then I'm back out.

It's a team game. And the boy who got lost on the way to the ground three days ago does his bit for the team. Nasser scores his maiden century for England, a magnificent innings which helps to ensure that we get a first innings lead. But the tail does well too and that helps the buzz in the dressing-room. Another early night after the usual queries about where the good places to eat are in Birmingham.

Saturday England are winning the Test but it is Sachin Tendulkar's day. What a batsman he is. He carved out some terrific shots and the innings is particularly admirable because of the pressure it is played under. His 122 is not enough to put India into a strong position and we know that with 121 to get we would have to play badly to lose. At close my Test match is unfortunately over but England are winning. For me, however, that isn't all.

Sunday The little finger on my left hand, hit last night, is broken. It means I will miss Warwickshire's Benson & Hedges Cup semi-final tie at Northants.

Tuesday and Wednesday Warwickshire lose. It's hard not to be playing. I'm in and out of the dressing-room between television commentary stints and we have our chances to win. The mood is sombre but we're collectively strong. My finger should recover for the Second Test. I haven't yet held a bat but I'm confident that, if selected, I'll be there.

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