ON THE way up the M1 I go past Nottingham and feel like popping in for a bit more of last week. Drop off my bags at the ground, which is empty and peaceful apart from a few people putting the finishing touches, and sit in the stand for five minutes collecting my thoughts.
This match gives a few of us the opportunity to achieve something we have so far not done in our careers - win a five-match series against one of the major sides. At our session with Steve Bull, our sports psychologist, we reiterate the things we have been saying most of the summer. To me, the most important is that we need to play with the same intensity as Trent Bridge and make it happen, not rest on our laurels.
Team dinner at a local restaurant, which is very pleasant. Judging from the raucous laughter from the other table, where Goughy is holding court, he appears to be in good form.
After a week off, apart from a couple of net sessions over the weekend, I needed a lengthy bowl and slip into a good rhythm straight away. Not sure what the make-up of our side will be, although I feel easier about my place this week.
Lunch in Leeds with a few of the lads, then a walk around town wasting some time. Feel a bit more affluent this week for some strange reason and buy a couple of shirts, though they are in the sales.
In bed by 8.45, trying to repeat my preparations of last week, not that I'm superstitious. Watch Surrey get stuffed by Derbyshire in a day/night game in front of a crowd of 10,000, which is excellent. Friends phone up for last-minute tickets. Because of last week's exploits, people seem to be expecting a great performance. I can't guarantee that, only the same amount of effort.
Sleep well but wake up nervous. The importance of this game has eventually got to me. Light breakfast as I don't feel that hungry, then listen to CDs in the car to get me going. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but U2 does the job for me.
We keep the same side and will bat if we win the toss. This we do, so I can put my feet up and relax. I think the South Africans feel the pitch will suit the quicker bowlers as they have picked six of them.
Well played, Mark Butcher. A maiden Test hundred and we are all thrilled for him, a true team man. Sadly, his good work is wasted by the rest of us as we collapse from 181 for three to 230 all out. At tea time I was planning fish and chips for my evening meal but now I will have to have something healthier as tomorrow is an enormous day for us.
Why do I always wake up feeling weary when I have the prospect of a day in the field ahead of me? I hope it's nerves. It should be as I've had 10 days off.
Well, I certainly seem to have the Midas touch at the moment. I can't do anything wrong other than the odd terrible piece of fielding at fine leg. Five for 42, who would have believed it? Not me, for sure.
More importantly, the 'Dream Team' bowl well as a unit today. Corky is magnificent either side of tea and deserves more than two wickets. When those catches go down, I think of Thorpey's drop here last year and how it changed that series but we have managed to stay in this game.
This is not a wicket on which you can force the pace, batting or bowling. You need to be disciplined and patient. Bowlers have to make the most of the new ball as when it gets soft things do get more comfortable. For batsmen, it is a pitch you can't totally trust so you're never really in and have to be careful and wait for the bad balls.
Glad to get off the field. Muggy day and I am knackered by the end. I may not show it on the field with a Gough-like smile but I do enjoy these moments. Come on, boys, bat well now.
Have a massage and shower then talk the press through my exploits. Over to the Cornhill tent to meet my dad, then back to the hotel for a pint, a feed, and bed. I'm 33 tomorrow. That's too old to go gallivanting.
Thirty-three, and I feel it this morning. My consolation is that I know the South African bowlers will be feeling the same way and they have to bowl today. Receive the usual stick from team-mates as I have grabbed the headlines again in the papers.
Athers tells me to relax while he does the hard work. The sad thing is, though, that he goes first ball but Nass and Butch do a great job repairing the damage.
I'm sorry, Dean Riddle, (our fitness adviser), I know it's not the way Steve Redgrave prepares but you can't spend a week in Leeds without going to Bryan's. Haddock, chips, mushy peas, potato scallop and a can of pop. Can't beat it. Back on the pasta tomorrow.