England move out of the fog for Test series
So after eight days of preparation in East London, England's cricketers head back to Johannesburg ready for Wednesday's eagerly anticipated opening Test at nearby Centurion Park.
Although the quality of practice in the warm-up games was debatable, playing a moderate South African Invitational side on a slow pitch, to be honest England were probably pleased just to get out on the field following a hugely frustrating period which saw them play only three days cricket in three weeks due to bad weather across the country.
When we arrived on the south coast, the prospects did not look great with a mixed weather forecast and a sodden Buffalo Park. When you looked down the East London Esplanade it looked more like a scene from John Carpenter's "The Fog" than a holiday destination with the sea mist enveloping the hotels by the edge of the beach.
Heavy rain at the start of the week left the players seeking out alternative forms of amusing themselves. East London was described to us by one local as a "nine to five kind of place, where nothing is more than 10 minutes away". One British journalist was rather more harsh, labelling the city as "grim"... which earned a rebuke in the local paper the Daily Dispatch.
England's preparations for the Test series have been affected by the weather
But the players seemed to find things to do as the rain fell. Several made their way to the cinema where the disaster movie "2012" was a favourite , the nearby indoor gym was in regular use and we would often catch up with a member of the squad topping up supplies in the local supermarket.
However I don't think many sought out East London's most famous attractions which are housed in the Natural History Museum. A stuffed fish and an old egg may not seem very exciting, but the fish concerned is the famous "coelacanth" caught off the waters here in 1938 which evolutionists believe provided the missing link between water and land animals, while the egg is the only surviving dodo egg believed to exist in the world.
I also believe the players managed to resist the temptation to see the East London pantomime which opened this week... "Snow White and the Seven Dofs" at the Guild Theatre. According to the shows publicity, "keeping you in stitches playing Dame Dolla the Palace Nanny is Byron Mountford". I assume Byron is no relation of mine but to be honest I never went along to the Guild Theatre to find out.
Fortunately the weather improved by the middle of the week and we could all concentrate on matters on the field. Obviously practice at altitude ahead of a Highveld Test would have been better than down on the coast... although coach Andy Flower and wicketkeeping coach Bruce French did manage to reach the heights on the final day in East London when they scaled one of the floodlight pylons at Buffalo Park, much to the amusement of the players as they walked off the field at lunch. The former Nottinghamshire keeper is a massive climbing enthusiast.
In terms of lessons learned from the week of practice, it has just fuelled the speculation about the make-up of England's team for the first Test, with as many questions as answers.
Has James Anderson proved his fitness ahead of the Test? Do the five wickets for Ryan Sidebottom put him in contention for a recall? Has Luke Wright got a genuine chance of making his Test debut in Pretoria? Will Ian Bell keep his place with all six specialist batsman included?
As you would expect the England captain and management are keeping the final XI for Centurion close to their chest - and it will be fascinating to find out the line-up on Wednesday.
As for our line-up for the first Test - Jonathan Agnew will be joined by Simon Mann and popular South African broadcaster Gerald De Kock, with expert analysis from Michael Vaughan, Geoff Boycott and Vic Marks.
Vaughan, England's most successful captain of all time, is making his TMS debut in the game. He of course made his Test debut here in South Africa 10 years ago, led England to a series win on their last tour here in 2004/05 and played his final Test against South Africa before his tearful resignation as captain last summer. We will also hear regularly from former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock throughout the series.
During the lunch interval on Wednesday at 1030 GMT, we will be trying to cut through the jargon to explain how the controversial new umpire referral system works, including hearing from one of the boffins who helped develop the Hawk-Eye system which is being used to help make decisions. As always if you have any questions or observations then you can contact us via the TMS blog, e-mail email@example.com or text us on 84040.
Also during the Test we'll be focusing on the latest situation over in Zimbabwe and discuss if cricket is recovering enough for them to return to playing Tests. Guests will include Zimbabwe's minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart and former Zimbabwe player Pommie Mbangwa.
With Makhaya Ntini expected to play his 100th Test in Pretoria we will be assessing his contribution to South Africa cricket. We'll hear from TMS summariser turned England batting coach Graham Gooch, from selector Ashley Giles who also played in England's victory here five years ago and from England cricket's managing director Hugh Morris.
We will also begin a series looking at "Cricket's Decade", focusing at how the game has changed over the last 10 years with themes including match-fixing, the rise of Twenty20 cricket and the strength of the English game a decade after they plummeted to the bottom of the ICC Test rankings table. And we'll be catching up with Oli Broom who is "Cycling to the Ashes" to help raise money for the Lord's Taverners. Oli has got as far as Istanbul on his incredible quest to ride to Brisbane in time for next year's series with Australia.
It all gets underway on Wednesday morning with BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra on air from 0815 GMT. For the first couple of days BBC Radio 4's Long Wave listeners will join the commentary just before 0900 following "Yesterday in Parliament", but you will also be able to listen online - details at bbc.co.uk/cricket.