Graeme Swann's latest diary for All Out Cricket gives the inside track on winning the Man of the Match Award in the first Test against West Indies at Lord's.
BACK END OF APRIL
It was always going to be a rush to be fit for the first Test of the summer. And I am happy to report that I have come through the last fitness assessment, this being a County Championship game against Lancashire at Old Trafford. My elbow is in one piece, indeed it feels as strong as it ever has, and so it is a happy off-spinner who packs the car and heads back towards Nottingham with giant seamer Luke Fletcher for company. Our journey is an absolute belter, as big Fletch takes over the iPod and pumps out some dance classics that have us rocking all the way home, fuelled by a bag of pick-n-mix and a bottle of Fanta. E-number heaven for the Bulwell Bomber!
Off to London this afternoon to report to the team hotel for a six o’clock team meeting. I am making a strong effort to be as organised as possible this year and so take extra care and diligence in packing my bags, ensuring I have the correct suit, number twos, shoes and even a belt. It is only an hour into my journey that I realise I have left my playing kit languishing on the floor of my front room next to two bemused kittens. Cursing my stupidity, I do a cheeky u-turn and console myself with the knowledge that I have plenty of time spare in case of any such eventualities. Four hours later I am desperately weaving through the streets of north London, screaming obscenities at taxi drivers and breaking virtually every rule of the highway to make it on time.
It is always a pleasure to be at Lord’s, even for training days, and today is no exception. The whole place has a vibrancy and atmosphere that no other ground in the world comes even close to replicating, which is why 95 per cent of players worldwide state the home of cricket as their favourite ground. I am no exception, and even though a couple of grounds come a close second (Leicester, Bristol, Derby) it is still St John’s Wood that holds the number one spot. Training goes well, with Broad and Swann once again combining to create an impenetrable defence in the football warm-up. New boys Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions are obviously blinded by such an emphatic performance from this aforementioned pair of Notts stalwarts and fall well below the required standard of play, and will have to pull their fingers out quickly in order to survive at this, the very top level of three-touch football magic.
I choose to take the 10-minute stroll into training this morning instead of adding to the destruction of the planet. And am pleasantly surprised to be bombarded by autograph hunters upon leaving via the back door of the hotel. About 50 eager collectors swarm round myself and Alastair Cook, clambering to get our scribble. Or at least this is what we assumed. But then it dawned on the pair of us that Manchester United are also staying in our hotel. And when the massed ranks realised we weren’t Cristiano Ronaldo and Nemanda Vidic, they dispersed quicker than you could say a pair of f***ing nobodies, and we were on our way. Progress untroubled.
The first day of the Test, and Captain Strauss becomes every bowler’s best friend as he wins the toss and elects to bat first. This means that provided the top order can do their job and see off the new ball, then the best lunch in world cricket can be fully enjoyed by this troop of whites-wearing Neanderthals. I make no bones about getting in to the dining room 10 minutes early, obviously to ease the congestion once all the fielders leave the field This tactic is viewed, however, by some others as merely getting the finest cuts of food, and so I am castigated as a greedy tw*t for the next couple of hours by the otherwise placid Stuart Broad. The day goes fairly well and I’m required to bat out for the last half hour with the exceptional Ravi Bopara who chalks up a century on his home debut. An early night beckons as I prepare for my hundred in the morning.
After another bracing 10-minute stroll to the ground and my third match-winning centre-half performance of the week in the football, it is out to enjoy myself with the bat. I swing merrily away and manage to get a few off the middle as we post a fairly decent 377, which is good going considering we were 200-5. It is then into the field, where Graham Onions, on debut, claims a magnificent five-wicket haul to help bowl out the Windies for 150. I manage to pick up three in the middle order, off only six overs, which in my book is just about the perfect day, especially once a couple of slip catches are thrown in for good measure.
Another great day for us as we wrap up the game in the last session by 10 wickets to end the dismal run of 14 series without a first Test victory. We are delighted with this result, especially after losing the series a few weeks back in the West Indies where we could never quite take the 20 wickets required. I am delighted that my mum, dad, brother and sister-in-law all travelled to Lord’s today, so I join them for a feed before meeting up with the rest of the lads for a few celebratory drinks. The highlight for me occurs during the cab ride on the way to the hotel with Cooky, when all of a sudden we both appeared on Cabvision, the TV service inside London black cabs, featured in an advert for Vodafone we had both completely forgotten about. After an enjoyable evening toasting our victory and having the benefit of a couple of snifters on board, it made for a surreal, but highly entertaining journey home.
Test match Saturday, but with no Test match cricket. Instead, a full 90-minute game of football for the lads to warm down from the exertions of the last few days. Once again an epic display at the back by yours truly brings out ‘Bresnan’s Superstars’ as winners, despite numerous penalty requests and displays of petulance from Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions. I once again turn down the chance to walk away with the matchball, concerned about the lack of space on my games room trophy shelf.
A great week is topped off as I stop in to my old club, Northampton Saints, to show some support for their early-season rise to the top of the league.
I also enjoy the chance to watch my brother have a bat whenever I can, so I’m delighted to arrive just minutes before he takes to the field, the Saints chasing a gettable 212. Two balls later and I get the chance to discuss his innings in detail as he is castled by a raw left-arm seamer. My brother is grounded enough to laugh it off and put it down to good bowling. After only 30 minutes of smashing up the changing room, calling himself every name under the sun and repeatedly asking himself: “Why do I f***ing bother?” Brilliant.
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