And the winner is...
Scroll down to check out my end-of-tour award winners and read my answers to your questions
Two words can sum up our Test series win over New Zealand, I think, 'job done'.
The sense of achievement amongst the squad is great. While it wasn’t a five-Test series or the Ashes, this was a tough tour against a good side - and to come from behind to win 2-1 was absolutely fantastic.
It’s fair to say we were caught napping in the first Test in Hamilton, and to go 1-0 down with such a poor performance was hugely disappointing.
We took a lot of stick after that match, with one or two players singled out very unfairly, but we stuck together as a squad, kept the belief and came back fighting to highlight the character and quality that runs deep in this squad.
After a great win in Wellington we got to McLean Park and, on a wicket that was so flat and true, it would’ve been easy for us to sit back, play out a draw, and come back home from the Test series unbeaten.
But that’s not what this side is about – we don’t take anything for granted and won’t settle for second best – and the way Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad bowled in the first innings allowed us to win the match and series in style.
It’d be nice to think that those who were so constructive in their criticism when things didn’t go well in Hamilton will be equally constructive in their praise now we’ve won.
Of course we have had spells in this series where we have not played such good cricket, but we are definitely heading in the right direction and are going some way to ensuring those spells become less and less frequent.
The most pleasing thing that we will take away from this tour, I’d say, is the fact that we took near enough 60 wickets in three matches and the key to that has obviously been Sidebottom who, once again, had a stunning series.
To take 24 wickets was a fabulous effort and if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, sticking it in the right areas at a fair old lick and with a bit of swing, he can be the lynchpin of this attack for many years to come.
He is one of the most consistent performers in world cricket at the moment and, while it’s hard to say where he stands among the world’s best, there are very few who know their art better than Sid.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke either. He thoroughly deserves all the plaudits heading his way and I’m stoked for him – his fame appears even to be outgrowing his hair which, let’s be honest, is saying something!
It has often been said, too, that you can judge a lot about a side when they are winning if you look at the players not involved and we have won the last two Tests with the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones on the sidelines.
Those who have come in have done brilliantly – Anderson in Wellington was superb, Broady has been brilliant in the last two, and Timmy Ambrose produced the innings of the tour in turning things around for us in the second Test.
That kind of competition for places bodes very well for the future and those in possession of the shirt know they must keep performing Test after Test because there are some huge talents waiting in the wings.
That starts with this summer. We must build on this series win and beat New Zealand at home ahead of what is sure to be a really tough series against South Africa – the talent and potential in this squad is such that we can certainly win both of those.
On a personal level, I am obviously looking forward to the one-day series against New Zealand whatever happens with the Tests and playing a big role in those.
Before that, I just have to go back to Nottinghamshire, work on my art and my consistency, and keep doing my best to remind the selectors what I can offer an England side in the Test arena.
In the meantime, I have a 26-hour flight to get through. After sitting with Liam Gallagher and chatting up Denise van Outen on the flight out, I have my best aftershave on in anticipation of whatever celebrity I’m going to meet on the way back.
I have my fingers crossed for Yasmine Bleeth. Even though I’m a taken man, as I’ve said many times before – she’s famous, so it’s allowed…
To mark our return home, I thought I’d hand out my end-of-tour awards. See what you think…
Tour Winner Monty Panesar. Whilst celebrating over a few jars with the Barmy Army following the Napier Test, Monty was called upon to give the lads a song. We all suspected he’d go into his shell and refuse but, lo and behold, he belted out a cracking rendition of the National Anthem and it went down an absolute treat. A joy to behold.
Tour Loser Jesse Ryder. After bursting onto the scene in the one-dayers and smashing us to all parts he decided the best way to celebrate was to smash his hand through a window. Nice one.
Most Improved Jimmy Anderson. On guitar. He only picked it up in Sri Lanka, but can almost do a passable ‘Wonderwall’ now.
Tour Entertainer Phil Mustard, without a doubt. He always sounds like that one out of Police Academy with the funny voice (Cadet Zed – Bobcat Goldthwait) and is forever making people laugh with how daft he is and the things he says. Top, top value.
The Socialite’s ‘Must Try Harder’ Award That’s a hard one. We’ve only two chances to go out and have a drink this tour, after the two Test wins, and let me assure you every man did his duty for Queen and country so no-one springs to mind… I can’t say anyone didn’t pull out all the stops.
The Teacher’s Pet Award Again, a tough one, but I’ll say Matthew Hoggard, for no other reason than the fact he always has to get a mention, somewhere, somehow…
The Ladies’ Choice Award Myself, obviously. *Cough*.
Unsung Hero Tim Ambrose. Although, he’s not so unsung anymore because the Barmy Army song for him is absolutely priceless… get yourselves out on tour and check it out.
The David Boon Award for Best Drinker This one can’t be given out. In this day and age of us athletes eating, drinking and living the sport the right way, sports drinks are our equivalent of beer and wine. Honest.
Most likely to win the lottery and then lose the ticket (From Annie) Haha, Phil Mustard, no question.
Let me know your suggestions below...
Thanks again for your comments and questions. Here are my answers to a selection...
Can you talk us through your 4 overthrows at Wellington? (Anthony)
One thing we talk about with the sports psychologists is making your mark and really stamping your authority on games, so I thought the best way to do that was to wing it right over the keeper’s head and cost us four runs. Ridiculously embarrassing, especially getting the mickey ripped out of me by the likes of David Lloyd afterwards and being called a rude word by Ryan Sidebottom. But, in the knowledge that we still came away with the win, blooming hilarious too. Ouch.
Who is the most romantic member of the squad and who is the least? (Sarah)
It’s between myself and Alastair Cook for the least romantic, I’d say - we’re slightly more Victorian in our outlook, I guess. Most romantic? KP throws the affection out there a lot for Jessica and has organised a few helicopter trips for her and things like that, so I guess he’s good value.
Who's got the worst habit(s) out of all the lads in the team? (Kerry)
Well, I can’t get too personal here, so I’ll say Ian Bell. Only because he’s a massive prankster and yet he keeps getting away with it, which is doubly annoying. I must be honest and say I find them highly entertaining, though…
Whilst on tour do you play on any consoles or computer games? (Craig)
Quite a few have the portable handhelds – in fact, Sid’s in a mood right now because he’s just realised he’s put his in his suitcase not his hand luggage and can’t play it on the flight home. He claims he was on level 10 of Super Mario World or something, whatever that is. Harmy’s another who won’t go out on tour without PGA golf or something so it’s all good.
Personally I rely more on the guitar to keep me occupied, but there’s space in my world for a bit of Tiger Woods golf, it’s genius.
Can you please confirm if Stuart Broad has insecurities about his legs? I noticed he is always in tracksuit bottoms, even in the unbearable heat of Sri Lanka. (Imi)
I think he must do, come to think of it. I should imagine he has ridiculously sparrow-like legs judging by the length of the fella, he’s like a golf club with ears. When we get him down to Notts we’ll pin him down and check em out, no worries. It’s the sort of thing we do down at Trent Bridge…
That’s all for now folks!
Graeme Swann was talking to Sam Lyon