At 36, I’m perhaps even more excited to play in the Ashes this summer than when I first faced Australia.
Your first Ashes series comes with an inevitable bag of nerves, but there will be no anxiety leading up to this one for me. Couldn’t be more relaxed, to be honest.
That doesn’t mean I’m not completely on or extremely competitive, it just means I’m very comfortable with what I’m doing right now.
I’ve experienced everything in the game and I’m confident in my abilities, which means if I don’t deliver one day, I will the next.
I want to impact the series, absolutely, but it doesn’t matter if it’s the first, third or fifth test match.
Stuart Broad was delighted with his five-wicket run as England warmed up for the Ashes
Ollie Pope scored a double Test hundred as England beat Ireland by 10 wickets at Lord’s
I have a history of very good performances later in the Ashes series and I have real faith in what the Hierarchy is doing, so I’ll play whenever needed confident that I’ll do the job required.
In this week’s test match against Ireland, I was sitting next to Ollie Pope in the locker room, we called for a corner and said before the start: ‘Come on, corner, let’s have a great week.’
It was good enough for both of us, with my five wickets and his 205 in the first inning. I asked him how many double hundreds he had scored in his career and when he rattled them off I was bored at the end!
It’s always nice to be on track at the start of an international summer, especially with what’s on the horizon.
Confidence is high within the group, it feels like the most talked about Ashes series since 2005 and it feels good when you have contributed to the success of the team.
I’m not someone who chases five-fors, because there’s no real difference between five and four, and my main goal, especially in an inexperienced bowling offense, is to lead by setting the tone. .
My first ball went where I wanted it – always a good sign – but I soon realized the seam would be better than the swing seam of bowling and actually took most of my wickets with swing. This adaptability told me that my awareness of the game is where it needs to be before facing the Aussies.
On any ground, I want to make life difficult for the batsman. One of the strengths of the bowling squad with England over the last 12 months has been to strike when the conditions are right and that comes down to sharing information as quickly as possible down the middle.
Fly-half Ben Duckett impressed as England went 524-4 from just 82.4 overs in their first innings
We take turns to intensify
The hitters looked pretty formidable there too at Lord’s this week. I played with Ben Duckett in Nottinghamshire for quite a while and his ability to hit good balls for four is something special. The pope is just classy.
We approached the game against Ireland focusing 90% on us rather than the opponent. This has been our mantra for the past year and there is real belief in what we do.
An example of this, and probably the strongest I can give, came in Wellington a few Tests ago when on green and green ground we were three wickets early. But I knew we were going to put points on the board, and Joe Root and Harry Brook scored hundreds.
The calm in the locker room comes from the anticipation that someone, or more specifically two people, will be delivering each day.
It’s the same philosophy the Over-50 team had from 2015 to 2019, winning this World Cup. They didn’t really mind that people were consistent on a day-to-day basis, but had good days when needed.
Promising Tongue has a pack mentality
As a senior bowler, I had a few conversations with Josh Tongue during his first game. I strongly believe in sticking to your strengths at the start of a spell and I told him to play exactly as he would for Worcestershire.
A little later, I told him that on this particular pitch, I thought the traditional seam – with the ball kissing the surface and moving laterally through the air – was the way to go. It was Josh’s very first game at Lord’s and it is a truly unique place to bowl due to the famous slope.
From the clubhouse end you can be pulled back into the stumps and it is very difficult to maintain your line outside the stump to get the ball in.
Starting from the nursery, you really need to shoot the ball in the middle so that it goes towards the keeper.
But he settled in very well, didn’t throw any balls that gently went down the side of the leg – which is so easy to do – and he showed exceptional temperament and character.
Josh Tongue looked really dangerous and was rewarded with five wickets on day two
You can be overly emotional and intimidated by international cricket, but he hit the ground very hard in his first innings, looked very dangerous throughout and got the accolades on day two for his efforts in the first innings.
You always need an X factor as a test bowler, be it pitch, pace, pinpoint accuracy or movement and he has a few of those elements so he’s another promising addition to our arsenal of bowlers.
In some bowling units it’s all about who takes the wickets, but there’s a real pack mentality among us, we’re all in this together and ultimately we need 100 Aussie wickets in the next five Tests.
With such a tight schedule, they won’t be taken by just four bowlers.