IT’S been nice to get away with the family to Portugal for four or five days to forget about cricket for a while.

But now I’m back and the batteries have been recharged, it’s been great getting back in training with the Notts boys this week as I recover from the thigh injury that ended my tour of Bangladesh with England.

It has been interesting to see who has kept in the best shape over the winter – and anyone slightly lagging behind soon won’t be!

We will have two weeks of intensive work and practice and then the friendly matches start rolling in.

For me, they can’t come soon enough and I’m hoping to play in a number of them with the aim of proving my fitness to make myself available for England for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

Our first County Championship game is against Kent at home on April 15, which I have my eye on playing in.

That will be a big game and there is nothing better than getting the season off to a flying start if you can – it helps to build momentum and confidence.

If you don’t start well, then you are playing catch-up from the word go, so we all know the importance of being ready for the off.

We also have Somerset early on who are used to playing on flat wickets, so hopefully there will be a bit in it for us bowlers at Trent Bridge.

All I want to do now is get some games of cricket under my belt – I have had enough of spending time in the gym!

In the last 14 months I have only played something like 23 matches, which for me, over the course of my career, is not a lot.

You can play that many games in about two months if you play lots of Twenty20 games close together.

The treadmill is certainly no substitute for getting out there on the pitch in my eyes and there is nothing better than bowling.

If you bowl and field for 90 overs then you know about it – and it is as good as any work-out.

This week I have personally been confined to light training but I will be raising the intensity and hopefully by the end of next week I will be firing on all cylinders.

After plenty of rest to give the injury time to mend, I certainly feel fresh and ready to go.

I’ll be ready for the dressing room pranks, too – and so will director of cricket Mick Newell.

We always like to nick his towel when he’s lathered up with soap in the shower, but he’s getting wise to it now!

It all helps when you go out on the field, I think, helping to settle the nerves.

A few decent early-season performances would definitely help as well.


IT’S pretty obvious now I’m unlikely to be on Celebrity Masterchef anytime soon.

I tired to cook a meal for my wife Kate as part of the Mother’s Day celebrations and I don’t think my home economics teacher at school would have been too proud.

All I had to do back in the day was set a chocolate mousse and I didn’t have too many problems with that.

But cooking a roast dinner is an entirely different proposition and it didn’t quite go to plan, with some bits of the beef undercooked and some a little burnt.

The most important thing, though, was that I didn’t forget the Mother’s Day card. That really would have landed me in trouble.

But it’s safe to say I won’t be encouraged to get back in the kitchen for a while.

Since getting back from Bangladesh I’ve also had the chance to visit my good friend Mark Ealham down in Kent for a couple of days following his retirement from playing.

And you might know that I’ve heard from Swanny, even though he’s still on tour.

While I was in Portugal I got a text from him saying, simply ‘Wolves.’

He was referring to the fact that Warrington Wolves beat my team, Bradford Bulls, in rugby’s Super League, knowing full well I would be watching it on television and suffering. Talk about rubbing it in.

The run up to my black tie opening dinner at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel is on with Michael Vaughan OBE and Kevin Connelly as special guests. It is something that’s been taking up a lot of my time over the past few days.

There have been the usual meetings and I’ve been ringing around everyone so much that my mouth’s a bit dry and I’m not used to it.

The only time that normally happens from talking is out on the pitch when there’s a bit of sledging going on.

Perhaps the most tortuous part of it, though, has been trudging around while Kate has been trying to find the right dress.

It seems like I have seen around 20,000 outfits – it’s an absolute nightmare!


IF England can wrap up the series against Bangladesh by beating them in the second Test which started in Dhaka today, I think they deserve a huge amount of credit.

Because they are playing a team who are bottom of the Test and one-day rankings, they are automatically expected to secure thumping victories each and every time.

But Bangladesh are an improving side and have some very good players who are no mugs. It is a potential banana skin and you are very much on a hiding to nothing.

If England can win this last game, they will have won all senior matches on the tour – and you can’t get much better than that.

It would also keep intact their record of being the only Test-playing nation never to have lost a competitive match to Bangladesh.

Coming off the back of a successful tour of South Africa, that represents quite an achievement in my eyes.

Yet again, Graeme Swann has played a big part for the team, becoming the first English spinner to take ten wickets in a Test since Jim Laker in 1956.

That performance in the first Test at Chittagong underlines how he has grown into the role at international level, even though the pitch was not that helpful.

It’s also ensured that his head just keeps getting bigger and bigger with all the praise he is getting!

But I don’t mind that so long as he keeps doing the business.

What his rise proves is that there are good players in county cricket waiting to make the step up to international level.

He has learned his trade on the circuit and then made the step up with great success.

County cricket sometimes gets a bad rap, but where else are we going to get our England players from?

We have good lads like Ajmal Shazhad, Steven Finn and Michael Carberry coming through the system, who have all be involved on this tour and done themselves no harm.

I have heard a few of the Aussie guys have come over to England expecting it to be easy and soon realised it isn’t with the amount of games we play.

A lot of the criticism stems from when the former England coach, Duncan Fletcher, who said that county cricket wasn’t the greatest.

But it can’t be too bad because it provided him with the team that beat the Aussies for the first time in years in 2005.

They all started playing the county game. Everyone has to start somewhere.

I actually think it has got stronger in recent years with two divisions of the Championship and the advent of Twenty20 cricket – and long may that continue.