I realise I would not be the bowler I am today without the experiences, positive and negative, that I have had in Australia down the years. This will be my last Test in Australia, unless there is a random game organised here in the next couple of years, and I will try to soak up the Sydney experience, an amazing ground to play on.
I am delighted with my form and feel like I have bowled as well here as I did in 2010-11. But the wickets are a lot flatter this time, slow and lifeless apart from Adelaide under the lights.
There will be stiffness in the body after bowling 59 overs in Melbourne and then getting on a flight the day after the game finished. It was only a short one to Sydney from Melbourne but getting out of the seat at the other end was a bit tricky. Mainly it is just about managing my shoulder. Bowling actually loosens it up. It is getting a balance between bowling enough to loosen it but not too much to cause a problem.
It can affect me in normal life. Sometimes it hurts brushing my teeth or putting on a T-shirt in the morning, or anything else that gets me into an awkward position. It is just about working with the physio and doing exercises with a rubber band to keep the joint loose and the muscles around the shoulder strong.
There have not been many occasions when I have bowled pain free and generally you are not 100 per cent. I think I have got a decent pain threshold. That helps. But the first ball of a spell late in the day can be tricky. I knew at the MCG, the first ball of my last spell was going to really, really hurt. I just had to get through it.
Out here, my ankles have been barking because the footholes are so hard and unforgiving. In England it is fine. We have softer footholes. But here they roll them in and it is brutal. I don’t know anyone who is not wearing strapping on their ankles.
Instinctively, I know the difference between general pain from bowling and pain caused by a specific problem. At the start of my career I would not say anything if I had a niggle because I didn’t want to miss a game, which meant that I tried to play through the pain most of the time. Potentially that makes things worse.
Now, I can pick out when there is something serious or just regular cricket aches and pains. It is a skill in itself for a bowler to figure out their own bodies. You get some people who go to the physio for every little thing. You have to work that out yourself. On bowling days, I will take ‘Ibuprofen.’ I try to stay away from them at other times, which does not always happen. The doctors are good at putting your welfare first, and are always on the cautious side with medication and injuries. You put your trust in them.
It is hard work to bowl fast and the question when you see a young fast bowler for the first time is can they get through a full season of county cricket? I bowled 90mph my first year of county cricket but did not play one-day cricket. I only played 12 first-class games. Lancashire managed me pretty well and that is very important if we are going to produce young fast bowlers who can sustain a career over a period of time.
When I played against Chris Woakes in county cricket a few years ago, he was bowling low 80s and swinging it both ways. But once he got a central contract he became fitter, stronger and able to bowl a bit quicker. Maybe that was because his workload was managed more carefully and he could then throw himself into bowling that touch quicker. It is very difficult but it is something we need to solve if we are going to produce the quick bowlers we need to win in Australia.
There are no such thing as ‘dead rubbers’ and it would mean everything to win here in Sydney. It is a Test at the SCG against Australia. Both sides play with the same intensity regardless of the series situation. You feel pride representing your country and it is a great opportunity for us to build on the good things we did in Melbourne.
We made a conscious effort in Melbourne to bowl fuller with the new ball. I did that and went at four runs an over. So was that right? In Adelaide we went at two an over and thought we had done a good job. We beat the bat and had control. At the end of the day, we saw the stats that told us how few balls were actually hitting the stumps, so in the second innings we bowled fuller. It was easier because the ball was swinging.
Since then we have tried to look for opportunities to do it again but, on a flat wicket, it is so marginal. In Melbourne you had a very small margin of error. Good-length balls were made to look like half-volleys because the bounce was so true. It is a fine line and we have to try to judge it correctly in Sydney.