It was all a bit rushed. Having to rebook my plane from Toco to Leeds in a flash wasn't easy - neither was meeting up with my Yorkshire "mates", who seemed to think that my version of English sounded too Lancastrian to bother with. So the only one I could talk normally to during the first training session was the fellow European, John Blain, who told me that Yorkies did this to every new player. He showed me what county cricket was like by bowling with fearsome swing - and given the way I bat, I blocked everything. This repeated itself about twenty times before John made an offer. "Listen mate, I'm bored of trying to beat your block, hit this one out of the nets and I'll buy ya a round! Given that a Scot had just offered to buy me something, I felt that I had to take the opportunity, and it seemed like an obnoxious half-volley too...so I tried to smack it and somehow got a top edge into Wakefield, by the looks of it.
John was impressed - though I certainly wasn't - and things were looking up. We had a bit of a chat at the pub afterwards, solving the problems of European cricket and generally telling about our own countries, and by the sound of it, I'd already gained a mate in Leeds.
There wasn't a lot of time for chatting, however - the next day, we were on our way to Chelmsford, for the feared Essexians. Everyone kept talking about the Essex bug - someone even faked a "vaccination" so that we wouldn't catch it and become like them.
However, we had come there to play, not to joke (if you could get that into Silverwood's head). Andy Flower won the toss and chose the immigrant side to bat - few sides had probably fielded more foreigners, with one Aussie, two Zimbabweans, one Pakistani, one Yorkie and one Cleethorpesian - a wise choice on a flat patch. Dropping Alistair Cook on six did wonders for my confidence too...he went on to be the rock of the innings with 82 at the top of the order, showing why he was lauded to be batting for England in the not-too-distant future. My mate Johnny was, sadly, having an off-day - he served up too many pies to Grant Flower and Cook, and finished with an economy rate nearing six. He did get Grant in the end, though, being caught at mid off by Matt Wood. Still, Essex made 384 and were in control.
The Yorkies all made starts, but were stopped in our tracks - I made 77 for the first with Michael Vaughan for the first wicket before skying one to Jefferson, and we were all out for 232 after the worst piece of sledging I've ever seen from Pickup, Goughie and Kennett. Somehow, leading by 152 was enough to make us follow-on (mental note: check Wisden for four-day follow-on rules) and even less likely, I started slogging. Only way to describe it. Century up in 236 balls - making partnerships along the way like I usually do for Reds - and carrying the team to 373 all out, a lead of 221. Thanks to Johnny - who grabbed 3 for 30, including Irani, Grant Flower and Stephenson - we had them 92 for 9, only to let Pickup (!!!!!) and Andy Flower slip up with a last wicket partnership of 33, the Ginger scoring what must be a career-best 13 before being caught by yours truly.
Somehow, the man of the match officiator must have been in the same pub as me and Johnny - he certainly smelled of very bad beer when he handed me the award, which probably should have gone to someone else (Silverwood or Johnny, maybe...couldn't have done without that spell of bowling)