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A tour I'll never forget

I’ve now had a couple of days to reflect on what has been just about the most incredible time in my cricket career. It’s probably only sinking in now, that we’re the world No 1 ranked test cricket team, having beaten England in their own backyard. On top of that, we did it by winning the final test at the ‘Home of Cricket’, on a pretty thrilling day of test cricket.

Monday evening’s celebrations were pretty special, and I think I’m still feeling the effects. When Vern grabbed that final wicket of Steven Finn, we just went mad, before settling down to collect our winners’ medals.

After that, we headed up to the wives' and girlfriends' box and celebrated with them until about 9:30pm. It was nice to just say thanks for all their support and I think we all had our fair share of champagne.

We also went into the England dressing room and had a drink with our opponents. The player I probably know best is Alastair Cook, as we played together at Essex earlier in the year, and I’ve been out to dinner with him before. But, generally, I was impressed by all of the guys. I’ve always said that I’m a fan of guys who are men first, and then cricketers second. Having spent some time with the England guys, I’d like to say that that is the case with them, and it was nice to get to know them in a relaxed environment, having not spent any social time with them over the past couple of months.

Thereafter, it was back to the team hotel, and then the guys headed out in London.

Reflecting on the game itself, it was a pretty high-pressured final afternoon at Lord’s, particularly when Matt Prior and Graeme Swann were going so well. It was actually a good example of how the game ebbed and flowed for the five days, as we were in trouble on day one, before England were, and so on and so on.

It was a bit of a tug-of-war, and fortunately we ended up on the right side of it. The ace up our sleeve was that new ball, and even though Prior and Swann got them close, we knew that that could be the difference.

Vern coming back into the attack and picking up those final two wickets with consecutive deliveries was pretty special. I’m also chuffed that my tour mate will have his name up on the Lord’s honours board. How it works is that the dressing-room attendant – in this case a guy called Pete – immediately puts a piece of white tape up on the board, the moment a player scores a hundred or gets five wickets. So, Vern’s name was already up there on the white tape, when he walked into the dressing room, and the proper process will, by now, have taken place.

Vern is just a wonderful bowler and enjoys the big stage. He’s been brilliant for South Africa since his debut and he thoroughly deserves his success. I also thought the wicket suited him, as I found facing the new ball really challenging.

I’ve also had time to reflect on the series as a whole. If you had offered me an average of over 60 for the series, before it started, I would have grabbed it with both hands. But, I’m never satisfied, and even though I got the big hundred at Headingley, I would have liked to have contributed more. I think that will always be the case with me.

From a team point of view, it’s a special feeling claiming that No 1 ranking from England. I thought that everyone contributed at some stage, and it was a great team effort.

If you look at the batters, all of the top four scored hundreds – AB was the only one to miss out – and Jacques Rudolph got an important 69 when we needed it, when I was injured. The bowlers also contributed with the bat – and with the ball, well, they were sensational. In a close series, all of those contributions were crucial. Most importantly, though, when we were under pressure, we responded strongly.

Off the field, I thought we got the right balance between resting and doing stuff away from cricket, like the golf we played.

It was just an amazing series and tour – and one that I’ll never forget.

I’m now in London and still have a few more days here, before heading to Europe for a bit, and then returning to South Africa. I’m going to be doing some work with SuperSport for the one-day series, and then I have my Alviro Petersen High Performance Camp at the Wanderers, which I’m really looking forward to.

See you all back in SA.

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