Philip Tufnell and I had just been to the gym as England prepared for the first Test of the 1990-91 Ashes series. We were relaxing in a hot tub on the top of the Terrace Hotel in Adelaide. The view over the city is stunning. We both agreed that this was the life.
Realising that things could not get much better, we vowed to do whatever we could to make these sort of experiences last forever. Tuffers failed to step foot in a gym again in Australia and following this tour I spent the next 30 months out of the game injured. Our intentions that evening were good.
As a tour, Australia was always the one to be selected for. It still is considered the ultimate trip for an England cricketer. What can beat being well paid to play a game you love for your country in a place like this? You stay in five-star hotels and receive good expenses that allow you to enjoy the best this wonderful country has to offer. From the moment you leave British soil you are spoilt rotten. It is only when the cricket starts that the problems begin.
Playing against Australia has always been special to me probably because, like any cricket-mad teenager, I used to lie in bed and listen to the radio commentary of England taking on the Aussies during the middle of the night. I would fall asleep dreaming of one day playing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
England against Australia were the biggest games I played in, even if they supplied me with more agony than ecstasy. I made my debut against them in 1989 at Edgbaston and played my last Test at the MCG in 1998. During that time I pitted my wits against the men with baggy green caps in 12 Test matches, three of which England won. Unfortunately, we lost five, drew four and never held the Ashes.
Matches against Australia have been the most stressful and nerve- wracking I have had as a cricketer and even though playing Down Under was the toughest cricket I have played it was also the most rewarding. Because if you could do it here in Australia you could do it anywhere.
I thought playing in front of full houses at Lord's and in the Caribbean would have conditioned me well for Australia but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of a Boxing Day Test match at the MCG. On the tour of all tours this was supposed to be the game of all games. Full, it can hold over 100,000 and standing in the middle is like being in the Colosseum. The deep roar that follows Australia hitting a boundary or taking a wicket is deafening and a captain can only change the field through hand signals. Shouting is a waste of time.
For me the 1990 Test match was the most fraught five days of my fledgling Test career. In looking forward to the occasion I had built this match up so much that I could hardly watch the cricket once the game had started. Rather than cheering on England's batsmen from the balcony, I was to be found lying on the floor of our dressing room, which is situated in the bowels of one of the huge stands that tower over the ground, listening to my personal stereo.
England lost that Melbourne Test but there are things about it, other than the nerves, that I will never forget. I took six wickets in Australia's first innings - Bruce Reid took 13 in the match - and there was a huge hole at one end of the ground where the Great Southern Stand now sits. This new stand holds 42,000 people but the gap thankfully meant that the notorious Bay 13 section of the crowd could not get at me on this occasion.
While fielding in front of this famous area of seating it is advantageous to have eyes in the back of your head. Tinnies (beer cans), bottles, fruit, pies, golf balls and little balloons full of urine fly in your direction when you are not looking, as well as a non-stop tirade of abuse. Eight years later, however, there was no escape!
There are benefits of fielding in such positions, though. …