I am available for South Africa tour

The last few weeks have been a very interesting time, with all the concerted media speculation about whether or not I should have been in the frame for selection for the final Ashes Test at the Brit Oval.

What was very disappointing to see and hear was that a small number of my former England teammates were dismissive about my claim for a place in the national side for what was always going to be a magnificent occasion.

Once again, the crux of this argument was that my supposed mental frailty, in terms of temperament, would not make me the right pick. As I have argued many times before, that is an outdated view. It is treating me as if I am the same person and cricketer as I was in 1994 or 1995, when I am not.

Since I played my last Test match for England in April 2002 I have tried to let my cricket, and the runs I have scored, do my talking. My record in domestic cricket since then, for Surrey, speaks for itself, and I feel it is most unfair when people do not recognise how much I have developed my game and what I have achieved during the time since I last played international cricket.

What, however, was very nice and very uplifting about the whole national debate surrounding my name, in the lead-up to the England selection for the Test, was that so many commentators and former and current players came out decisively in favour of picking me – even on a one-off basis because of the nature of the match and because it was taking place at my favourite ground and one where I have scored so many runs.
I was touched by the amount of goodwill and support for me, and I would have loved to have played in that Test. I felt I would have had nothing to lose and I would have relished the opportunity.

As it was, no one could be more delighted than me that England went on to win the Test – and the Ashes. Many congratulations, too, to Jonathan Trott for his brilliant debut performance and to the rest of the England team.

I must say it was quite an irony for me, though, that on the day before England’s win was completed, I found myself battling hard to score 62 as Surrey were bowled out on a turning pitch at Colchester by Danish Kaneria, Essex’s Pakistan Test leg spinner.
Kaneria is a very fine bowler, and someone who I have always enjoyed the challenge of batting against. He bowls all the deliveries and is always at you, testing your technique.

What was the harder batting challenge, I wonder: making runs against Kaneria in that County Championship game, in those conditions, or making runs against Marcus North, Australia’s part-time off spinner, at the Oval?

At Colchester, too, I had the chance of a long chat with Geoff Miller, the national selector, who came to talk with me while he was there. I appreciated that opportunity and I was able to talk through my thoughts about my enduring claim to an England batting place.

I told Geoff why I feel I have improved as a batsman, and am still improving, and that I feel fit enough to play at the top level. It is my continuing work ethic and my attitude which has led to that improvement.

I said that if he was looking for a number three batsman for this winter’s South Africa tour – or a batsman for any middle-order position indeed – that I would be available to go and would wish to be considered.

This past week, meanwhile, has also brought the official confirmation that my good friend and former Middlesex teammate Phil Tufnell is one of the contestants for his autumn’s Strictly Come Dancing show.

It is brilliant news because he is a terrific character and he will provide great entertainment. I can’t wait to see him in action, and I will be going along to lend my support.

He’s a born entertainer, who has already won one reality show (I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out

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