Woken by the `zz' in Dazzler

Nick Knight, the England batsman, says he is rooming with a big noise
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Every few seconds the unmistakable sound pierced the Harare night air. It was no more than a gentle rumbling but it was disconcerting, particularly since it came from just yards away. I could only shift uneasily in my bed and wonder if the whole tour was to be like this.

The next morning I asked Darren Gough if he always snored. He assured me that it was caused purely by the long journey and a slight cold. I await developments anxiously.

"Dazzler" and I are room-mates for the first part of the tour - it is customary to change at each destination. Although we have played in only one-day internationals together for England, and never yet in a Test, we know each other well from our junior representative days. I don't remember his snoring then. Living in hotels is an integral part of being a cricketer. You get accustomed to it on the County circuit and I've never had much problem with it.

Whoever you share with, it is natural to confide in each other and talk about the game. Apart from the fact that Goughy is a smashing chap, it is also useful to have his company as a fast bowler. We can discuss potential strengths and weaknesses in our game and the likely state of the Zimbabwean pitches.

Slow seems a possible answer to the latter question from our limited experience in practice so far, though Alistair Campbell, the Zimbabwe captain, has suggested the pitch for the First Test in Bulawayo will have some bounce. So far, we have encountered a bit of turn and Phil Tufnell, Robert Croft and John Emburey have all been wheeling away, all looking in extremely good form. Embers is still a superb bowler. The initial nets went well. Only once might I have been out, leg before. Gough was the bowler.

These are still bedding-in days for the squad. This is England's first senior tour here, so we don't quite know what to expect. Nor do you feel the tour has started until you have played a game. This team will want for nothing in terms of fitness in the field. Players need rest but, with the winter in mind, the whole party has kept in trim. I have had a couple of indoor nets a week since September and have maintained fitness training, tending largely to consist of repeated short sprints which replicate what you have to do in cricket. I'm never going to be the world's strongest man but I've also increased my weight training.

It was delightful to hear the other day that I had been voted as fielder of the year in a readers' poll organised by Wisden Cricket Monthly. Nasser Hussain was second and I'm not sure Trevor Penney, my Warwickshire colleague, will entirely appreciate coming behind me in third place. I look forward to mentioning it to him next April.

Fielding here, perhaps like batting, may also require a slight adjustment. I got the impression during early catching practice that it tended to come through the air a bit quicker than in England. A couple were on me more rapidly than I expected. Maybe, however, it is ring rustiness, something to do with getting acclimatised to the game again as well as to playing it in a new country.

It has been impossible so far to see much of Zimbabwe but its beauty is obvious and I don't intend to restrict the visit here only to cricket pitch and hotel. Jack Russell and I have already talked of where and when we might be able to go painting together. This is a country conducive to landscape painting.

Jack, of course, has established a reputation as an accomplished artist. I make no claims to be in that category but it is a tremendous way of relaxing and utterly absorbing. There will be times over the next three or four months when it will be important to have a break from a cricket for a while. Painting provides it.

The tour's first game was yesterday and the trip will gather momentum with the first four-day game, which starts on Tuesday. Alistair Campbell said the other day that his team may be inspired by England's failure to back their attempt to be elevated to full Test status four years ago. But nobody in the England side is taking Zimbabwe lightly. Of course, I may yet have to invest in ear plugs to complete my preparation.

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