A lot has happened since my last column.
I’ve become a dad for the first time, I’ve played Test cricket for the first time in almost a year and now I’m with the England Twenty20 squad getting ready for three matches in South Africa.
I’m going to tell you about how we turned the Test series against the Proteas around, what’s been going on behind the scenes while I’ve been away from international cricket, and why these T20 matches are the start of our bid to do the ‘double’.
At the start of the Test series, we were wondering if it was going to be one of those frustrating trips where everything would be against us.
Cast your mind back to Christmas, around the first Test, when so many of the squad were going down ill.
It was one guy, after another, after another. One man would come down in the morning and say “my stomach feels a bit dodgy” and they were sent straight to quarantine. Another would say that he was starting to feel fluey and they were gone too.
We tried so hard to contain everything. We were cleaning door handles, carrying wipes and gels everywhere. Each man would have his name on a water bottle so as to only drink out of that one.
Even then, it still spread. The doctor was tearing her hair out.
Things started to turn in the second Test. Even though we lost Rory Burns, James Anderson and Jack Leach from the squad, we were roared on by the Barmy Army, who were as loud as I’ve ever heard them.
I knew before the tour began I wasn’t going to play early on – I was still recovering from my side injury – but when the time came to prepare for the third Test, there was a spot available in the team because of the injury to Jimmy.
Sometimes, you get a little indication as to the how the captain is thinking by how the nets are set up. On the whiteboard, it was me, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer to bowl first, so that suggested it was the three of us competing for one place.
I charged in, gave it my all, trying to prove I was ready to go. After I got the nod from Joe Root, I spent the night before the match watching videos on my phone of my last Test, against West Indies almost a year earlier, to remind myself of what I was capable of.
It helped that I was able to smack a few with the bat before I came to bowl. With 42 from 23 balls, I was actually on for the fastest half-century by an England batsman in Tests. If I’d known that, I might have made sure I got it.
That knock, and getting some more runs in the fourth Test, meant I was getting messages on Instagram off people calling me the ‘Durham De Villiers’. I’ll take that.
The runs were scored with a bat I call The Blade of Justice, one that I got from Joe. We have the same sponsor, and during the summer he saw one of mine that he wanted, and you can’t really say no when one of the world’s best batsmen wants your bat.
He gave me one in return, which he now wants back. He’s got no chance.
The batting gave me real confidence going into my bowling, and the wickets that I took were reward for all of the rehab, the dark days and the wondering if I’d ever play cricket for England again.
I try to play my cricket as if every match is my last. It’s my job to bring energy to the team, either in the dressing room, with the ball or the bat. That is what I’ll try to keep doing.
Woody the dad
I can’t mention my batting without talking about the help I’ve had from my dad and my wife, Sarah. It got a lot of attention in the press when I revealed they had been feeding the bowling machine for me back at Newcastle Cricket Centre.
In Sarah’s case, it was while she was heavily pregnant. She likes her cricket, probably encouraged because of what I do for a living. She even plays for a local team, so she thinks she can give me some tips.
When it comes to feeding the machine, Sarah doesn’t raise her arm to let me know the ball is coming, she just wangs it in. I had to say ‘Sarah, just give me a minute to have a look’. She was keener to tell me to get in line.
Our little boy was born in October, and I left home to do some fitness work in Spain at the end of November, so I was away for a long time.
It was hard because I was thinking about leaving Sarah with everything to do, but also for the times when you’re alone in a hotel room, missing him growing up.
You get through it by wanting to make him proud and hoping that you’re doing this so that his life is better in the future.
Because I sat out the one-day series, I travelled back home from the Tests with a different feeling than normal. Often I’ve left tours feeling disappointed because of an injury, but this time I had so many good memories.
It’s been absolutely brilliant to get back, have a cuddle with him and spend some time at home.
Whereas before it was about getting fit, being on the exercise bike in the house or doing sprints in a freezing cold park, now it has been about switching off from cricket and changing some nappies.
Is it harder being a dad, or taking wickets for England? I actually pride myself on my nappies. Once you get that flap around, nice and smooth, you’re away. It’s easier than trying to bowl fast.
Eyes on the double
Now I’m back in South Africa, looking to earn my place in the squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in the autumn.
Whereas once our focus was on the 50-over World Cup, now we want to become the first men’s team to hold both trophies at the same time.
Eoin Morgan runs such a tight ship with the white-ball teams, and he will be looking for the same sort of cricket that has been so successful in the past couple of years.
He will want us on the front foot, being aggressive. When I bowl, I’ll always be looking for wickets, taking the positive option.
There will be so much competition for the places in the final World Cup squad. Everyone knows that they will have to be contributing, bringing something to the team if they are to earn a seat on the plane.
I did text Eoin after my batting in the Tests, telling him that if I’d been up the order in the World Cup final, we wouldn’t have had to go through that super over nonsense.
However, jokes aside, it will be serious business in this series and the rest of the T20s we play this year. People think of T20 as a bit of fun, a lighter version of the game that’s over nice and quick. That’s not the case when there is a World Cup up for grabs.
We want to do the double, and how amazing would it be if we do just that?
Article courtesy of BBC Sport