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Boyd Rankin’s Ashes diary: My first Test was a disaster

Boyd Rankin didn't feel any different preparing for his first Test match © Getty Images
Boyd Rankin didn’t feel any different preparing for his first Test match © Getty Images

Jan 8, 2014

Excerpts from Boyd Rankin’s diary after he played his first Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

I can assure you it is a special moment to be told you will be playing in your first Test, but I actually don’t feel any different than I did last week.

I tried to treat the Sydney Test just like another match but obviously it was a massive occasion for me.

I’d worked hard for a long time to get here and, don’t forget, gave up my Ireland career, so when the team was named the day before the Test after training, it made it all worthwhile.

I must admit I didn’t sleep that night, with nerves and excitement. It also didn’t help that I had a back spasm and so I had to get it checked out on the morning of the game before getting the all-clear to play.

I was glad that we finally won the toss and we were bowling first so it was a chance to get involved straight away. I was pretty happy with my first spell although there were still a lot of nerves.

It was at lunchtime that I started getting cramps and I was fighting against it through my second spell.

I had no problem running around the outfield but as soon as I landed when bowling the first ball of my third spell, it seized up. I wanted it to disappear so badly but there was nothing I could do about it.

I have rarely suffered from cramp in the past, I think the last time was against England at the World Cup in 2007, another big occasion, so I suppose it was down to nerves and tension and, of course, I hadn’t played in a match for five weeks. You can bowl as much as you want in the nets but it doesn’t compare with a Test match.

My first thought was that I was letting the team down because the other lads had done so well, especially Ben Stokes getting six wickets.

So I gave it one more go after tea, but, again, when I landed on bowling I got the same sensation and it was just impossible to keep going, so I spent the rest of the innings in the dressing room.

Unfortunately, the batting failed again in our first innings and so when I came in we still needed two runs to avoid the follow on – not the situation I imagined for my first innings in Test cricket. Although, in a way, that helped me because I knew I had to stick around and get runs for the team, so it took the pressure away.

It was nice to face Nathan Lyon first up, rather than somebody bowling 150kph, and I was able to settle in. I have been told not only was it my highest score in international cricket, but it was also my longest and the first time I had hit two boundaries!

Once we got past the follow-on, I decided if it was in my area I would hit it and I thought the second one might even have gone for six. I was disappointed to get out when I did, because I was feeling quite comfortable but unfortunately I misjudged the line.

Mitchell Johnson (pictured) gave me a bit of a send-off – I couldn’t repeat what he said – but as soon as I came to the crease there had been sledging, so you are used to that and it’s just a case of getting on with it.

Australia had a first innings lead of 171 so yet again we were on the back foot and it allowed them to play with freedom. Chris Rogers was their anchor and the others just batted around him. That’s something we didn’t do throughout the series, we had nobody to fulfil that role.

Although I managed 12 overs’ bowling in the second innings, I never felt 100 per cent. I was still fighting through the cramp and as a result, I didn’t really have any rhythm throughout the game and it showed in terms of my speed which was down on where I normally would be.

I was told to be aggressive and bowl as quick as I can and mix up my lengths, but because I never had any rhythm I didn’t bowl as many short balls as I wanted.

I thought I was never going to take a wicket, so it was great to take the last one. It was my role to go really hard at the tailenders and I managed to pick up big Peter Siddle.

Mind you, when the umpire told him to hang on while they checked my front foot for a no-ball, I had my heart in the mouth and for 10 seconds I thought they were going to take it away from me, but it was all good.

Our second innings was probably worse than the first as we lost our last seven wickets in less than an hour and while it probably looked from the outside that we had given up, it was a case of trying to stay positive.

From early on in the match, it had been difficult on that pitch to dig in so the lower order went out and expressed themselves.

Yes, there were a few rash shots but most of the lads were playing their natural game and it didn’t come off, but it was a pretty shocking way to finish the game. Having said that, you have to give credit to the Aussie bowlers who stuck to their task and kept us under pressure.

We had a few beers in the Aussie dressing room afterwards, which was quite difficult, but it gave me a chance to have a good chat with Craig McDermott, who was the Ireland bowling coach at the World Twenty20 in 2012, my last tournament with Ireland. It was nice to catch up. Just a pity we weren’t the winning dressing room.

When I look back on the Test, the best bit was that my family was there. It was the only Test they had come out for and I think they were chuffed to see my debut.

Now that I’ve got a taste of it, I have the urge to work even harder and play a few more. The first couldn’t have gone much worse, having to come off with cramp it was a tough few days.

It was only on the last day that I felt pretty much at home but I have learnt so much from those three days in terms of what I want to do if I get another chance.

It’s just a pity there wasn’t a fourth and fifth day, but it was short and sweet and that’s the way the series has gone.

We can make up for our Ashes disappointment with successful one-day showing.

The Ashes may be done and dusted with, but for those of in the one-day squad, it’s straight into our coloured clothing and get out the white ball.

It’s been a while since I used a white ball and it’ll be a fresh start for the squad moving forward. It’s only 50 overs and hopefully it will spur us on.

Australia have named a strong squad – with all their big hitters included – and they are sure to come hard at us, so it will be a tough series. But’s it nice to get into a different format, one in which I have done well at in the last year and I think we have the squad who can win out here.

In Test match cricket, you want to be slightly fuller in length when you bowl but this is a more natural game for me. You still have to hit the deck pretty hard but it’s more my natural length.

Also, I have played a lot more ODIs (42 for Ireland and England) and I do feel comfortable playing one-day cricket. I know my role in the side which makes it easier, so I believe I’m suited to it.

My county team-mate at Warwickshire, Chris Woakes, has been called into the squad. He has played out here before so it gives us a bit more experience and it will nice to catch up with him.

It’s another bowler in the squad but we are two different types of players – he is recognised as an all-rounder – and as long as we are picking the best 11 to win the game, you can’t say too much.

We fly to Melbourne tomorrow and then we have training on Friday and Saturday before the first of the five games on Sunday.

It will be pretty full on for the next month – training, playing, travelling, training, playing and travelling, back and forward across this vast country.

It has been a tough couple of months for the Test squad, but the one-day squad will be going out to put things right and let’s hope we can come home to England at the start of February in a more positive mood.

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