T20 Cricket World Cup: "Well, I didn't see that coming... whatever next?"
Wembley-in all her glory on FA Cup finals day, view from our seats.
Where do I begin?
The last few weeks have been as frantic as a shortened Twenty20 game.
As I sit writing this, Netherlands are on the verge of beating England in the opening game of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup.
That pretty much sums up this great form of the game, exciting, unpredictable and never over.
Our first few weeks training at Wormsley Estate in Oxford were calm and deliberate. Planned to the minute, the schedule was relentless, with many of the players falling into bed at night exhausted and dreading the alarm clock going off the next morning. The picturesque setting provided exceptional facilities, with opportunities to practice match scenarios in the middle and big hitting in the nets.
My time there was action packed from the start.
On the first morning, only an hour into fielding training, I received a fairly nasty knock on the finger. I knew immediately it was pretty badly damaged but was adamant I was not going to let it end my World Cup campaign before it began. I continued to train with it strapped up, occasionally getting it knocked, but in general getting by, without it affecting my performance.
The rest of the week was reasonably uneventful until I attempted a paddle sweep off Ian Butler. Next thing I knew my grill was pushed into my face and blood was streaming from my chin. I knew I had all my teeth, but I could see the grills' welding had failed and was fortunate not too have suffered a more serious injury.
Once the ringing in my ears stopped, I made a pact with myself to advance some ideas I have had for how to improve helmets. It is the only piece of equipment I use that is not designed by Aero, so it is frustrating to have to place my safety in the hands of another manufacturer, knowing the poor safety standards some companies regard as acceptable.
So off to the hospital I went, 5 stitches and an x-ray later, I returned with a mended chin and confirmation of a busted finger. Mere war wounds that will hopefully, be reminders of a memorable and successful tournament both personally and for the team. Here's hoping...
New Zealand has a great chance of winning this tournament, with natural ball strikers throughout the order and specialist death bowlers. There was no way I was going to miss this chance and it was made quite clear to me that I was going to have to prove that the injuries would not affect my performance. A quick 35 off 35 balls against Bangladesh and putting in a tidy performance behind the stumps eased not only my concerns, but the coach and captains too.
This, my first tour with the Black Caps, has already been the trip of a lifetime.
One such memory was when, on arriving in London, a handful of us rushed off to the FA Cup final at Wembley. What an unbelievable occasion. I have always dreamt of going to an English football match so for my first one to be an FA Cup final was surreal. I am a Liverpool supporter so, admittedly, there was some disappointment at my two choices for whom to support. Everton, archrivals, or Chelsea... well, enough said.
The whole experience was inspiring though. To attend such a major sporting event, on the eve of my own biggest sporting experience, will provide motivation and inspiration throughout the tournament. As a professional athlete it is important to be reminded sometimes of who pays the bills, and to see the fans of Chelsea celebrating afterwards reminded me of the fans back home and the people who are following our results.
When named in the original squad I was realistic about my chances of selection in the final playing eleven. Brendon McCullum is one of the best Keeper-Batsmen in the world so I would have to excel at every opportunity just to be contemplated as a starter.
I missed out on the starting line-up versus India at Lords but still enjoyed the experience of getting out on the field during warm-ups and soaked up the atmosphere. The disappointment on missing that game was forgotten when I was told I was playing against Australia at the Oval the following day.
At 21-5 when I walked out to bat versus Australia, things were pretty dire. Andy Moles, Black Caps coach, had only minutes earlier said to me, as I waited to bat, "Well, this is a great opportunity for you, Pete."
Ever the optimist is Moler.
So, with nothing to lose, I strolled out to face every Kiwi's nemesis, Australia. With a side including Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting; you could be forgiven for using a Liverpool-Everton comparison to the Australia-Black Caps line-ups. Scott Styris and I faced a huge battle to come back against the star-studded side, but fight back we did.
Fortunately for me my opening few overs were against the spinners and I managed to get a few reverse sweeps away before anyone noticed me. Sure enough it did not take long before the nasty fastys started lining up to take a crack at the new boy. After ducking the first bouncer I decided to fight fire with fire and a few balls later shimmied down the track to paddle sweep Peter Siddle expecting it to be full. He whacked it in and as it whizzed towards my already battered chin, I managed to swivel and pull it over fine leg into the crowd.
A few attempted sweeps off the seamers later, and frustration was building. "What's wrong with a bloody cover drive?!?", screamed the fielder at cover. Funnily enough, we are staying at the same hotel as the Australian team but I have not seen that fielder since Wednesday. Maybe my innings really got to him...
Anyway, next thing I know I am walking off for 49 off 35 balls, after trying to clear the rope once too often. I really enjoyed the opportunity, gained a huge amount of confidence from it and now look forward to the tournament starting officially for us tomorrow.
So back to that England Netherlands game... There could not be a better warning to the test playing nations that the Twenty20 format is a great leveler and the developing nations need to be respected. We certainly are not taking Scotland lightly and have done exactly the same scouting process we would any other side.
This is going to be a great tournament and I really hope everyone around the world enjoys watching it as much as I hope to enjoy playing in it.
Sit back and enjoy the fireworks, because I am sure that will not be the last result to raise an eyebrow or two in the next few weeks.