It’s been such a great past few weeks over here in New Zealand and great to see Papua New Guinea qualify for the Super Sixes.
The guys have worked really hard to get to where they are and I feel really honoured to be part of something special with a great bunch of guys.
On the way over, I stopped to see the family in Australia and spent a few days catching up with everyone, which was really nice.
I thought there was no point travelling all this way without seeing them, so four days on the sunshine coast was really good.
It was also nice to catch up with both Fabian Cowdrey and Calum Haggett as they’re playing their cricket over there.
Calum physically looked like he had matured and has obviously been working hard in the gym, but was a little frustrated that he hadn’t taken too many wickets, but that’s part of the learning curve of bowling on flat Australian wickets.
Fabian said that Calum had been bowling well, but the batters had been playing and missing. He’s been bowling his overs and not going for many runs and that’s the kind of bowler that Calum will be.
As for Fabian, he has been just batting and batting and I told him we know what he can do in the one day games, but he needs to bat long periods to force his way into the four day team.
It’s good for the guys to spend some time out there with Daniel Bell-Drummond about a good hour down the road from the boys with Brendan Nash.
I believe the guys need to spend their time wisely out there in Australia and to make sure they use their time for preparation for when they get back to England.
Before I left home, all the talk was about how England had lost the Ashes 5-0. I must admit I was a little disappointed with the selection and I was surprised Nick Compton wasn’t given more of a go.
They had major troubles with Jonathan Trott leaving, but they had three tall, quick bowlers and then didn’t utilise them. I think they played Tremlett on his form from the last tour.
I was again surprised they left out Graham Onions. What more has a guy like that got to do?
Looking at it, they probably tried to play it a bit safe and it probably backfired on them.
I know he goes for some runs, but I would have gone for Steven Finn as he will always take you wickets. That’s invaluable on those kinds of wickets.
Every Test match was the same and they had Australia in trouble virtually every match, but the likes of Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson took it away from them.
You can’t prepare in the nets for facing someone like Johnson and it can be hard in the middle.
For me, they need to stick with the nucleus of the side and work out where Joe Root will bat in the long term. If they’re not going to stick with Carberry, they maybe need to open with him.
There is a lot of talk about the whole KP situation and I don’t know what is going on there.
Spin is still an issue for them now that Graeme Swann has retired. Like I tweeted, I don’t know why they flew Treddy out and then didn’t play him, and especially not to play him in the first ODI.
They know what Treddy can do and he’s a solid performer. There’s no point flying him around the world just to mix the drinks.
Another selection issue for me is the wicketkeeper position, and without doubt I personally think they ought to go back to Matt Prior.
He will have gone away and been refreshed. Back in the summer I was impressed with an article I read about him, and I believe he will come back into the side.
One of the big positives for me was the form of Ben Stokes and he has shown that he is the future, alongside Anderson and Broad.
Over here in New Zealand, it was a slow start to the tour for me as I got two ducks to start with, but we’d just the one net session, and after Christmas I hadn’t held a bat much.
The first warm up game against Scotland we looked really rusty in every department, but the team played so much better against Hong Kong.
I had a good catch up with Simon Cook as he is their bowling coach.
I think looking back at it, we managed to peak at the right time and the results have pretty much gone our way since.
We got a great reception when we got to New Plymouth and got the traditional welcome.
The pressing of the noses and the haka was something really special at the airport.
Our captain, Chris accepted an offering and in return our boys sang a song, but as they were coming to the end a plane came in to land and drowned them out!
They are the sorts of things that I love about touring as you learn about new cultures.
Whilst we were in New Plymouth, we had a great time both on and off the pitch, spending some time out on the bikes and taking a run out down to the coast.
One of the highlights of the tour so far has to have been seeing one of the guys (our wicketkeeper) going off down the road on his bike with a pot noodle in one hand, water in the other, hit the front break and went over the handlebars!There was pot noodle all over the pavement!
We also went to see the Festival of Lights, and it’s always nice to get out and be away from the hotels for a while. The days go really quickly if you keep yourselves busy.
All of the boys settled into the tournament really well and the guys have stepped up to the mark when we have needed it.
To progress to the Super Sixes is a massive achievement for all of the guys and we will take a lot of confidence going forward.
After our opening wins against Kenya, by 8 wickets and Uganda by 9 wickets, we came a little bit unstuck against a very good Netherlands side, who beat us.
We went into this last game against Namibia knowing we needed to win and having moved down country to Mount Maunganui , we gave it our all.
Bowling them out for just 163 was a superb effort from all of our bowlers, and we managed to knock the runs off using just half of the overs.
Our opening batsman, Lega Siaka was in superb form with the bat as he smashed an unbeaten 112 off only 82 balls and it was nice to be out there at the end with him as we came home winners by 8 wickets.
The win sees us top Group B and we’ll now go on to face Scotland, Hong Kong and the UAE in the Super Sixes, taking the maximum six points with us.
We have got to believe that we can make the final and secure ourselves a place at the World Cup, but we shouldn’t underestimate the achievement we have made so far and there was plenty of singing on the bus after this game!
Momentum is massive, with our batsmen hitting good runs and our bowlers are really starting to show what we are capable of.
Getting to the Super Sixes is massive for the country as they get the extra funding for getting there and it should see the guys turn into professional cricketers.
Like the old football cliché, we will take it one game at a time!
Being away, it is a bit harder to keep up with the family, but Skype keeps us in touch even though there is a thirteen hour time difference.
It means I have to get up early and have a chat with them all.
Rhys got a globe for Christmas, so he knows where his dad is, whilst Tom is generally more interested in his toys.
I know I have got to use this trip to prepare for when I am back in Kent as I have got a big summer ahead and want to nail down my spot in that four day team.
Whilst I am out here, we have been chatting about my future and there are lots of opportunities for me to be involved with PNG in the future, whether that be playing or coaching.
In the meantime, we have got some big games coming up in the next few weeks and hopefully by the next time I blog, there will be more success for the side.
Until the next blog.