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Come dine with me

James Harris blogs from Perth where the England Performance Programme are coming to the end of their tour of Australia.

As we have now left Brisbane and settled into our new digs across the other side of the country in Perth, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our tour and my first experience in Australia.

We left the UK almost two and a half weeks ago, just before the weather turned really cold and, via a short stop-off in Hong Kong, the squad arrived in Brisbane.

We had an excellent stay in Brisbane, which included a match against a Queensland side at Allan Border FieldI have somehow managed to visit the majority of the major cricketing nations of the world but until this moment Australia had evaded my schedule and I was very excited at the prospect at exploring a small part of this wonderful country.

Rather than the norm of hotel living, we are all sharing two-bed apartments and this brought about one of a host of new experiences whilst on tour, namely an ECB cooking lesson or 'Come dine with me' evening.

Many people would’ve seen the press from Australia regarding the ECB recipe book. Well, this was a chance to do a bit of cooking and test out a couple of the recipes for an evening's dining.

When it was described to us it was explained in a way that suggested that we would be witnessing the cooking and then dining. As you can guess a few of the lads jumped at the chance of being cooked for.

As we quickly learned, though, we would be doing the cooking. I happen to think I’m reasonably competent in the kitchen and my pine nut crusted salmon ended up doing a pretty good job at solving the hunger of four members of the touring party that evening.

On a cricket front things went really well during our time in Brisbane.

We were based mainly at Allan Border Field, which is also the venue of the new and very impressive Australian Academy - the equivalent to the ECB’s base at Loughborough.

We couldn't have wished for more from our first few weeks. There were some very hard days based around cricket skills, strength training and some particularly brutal physical training sessions, all surrounded by excellent facilities and near perfect weather around the high-20s or more.

Our schedule for the trip is based around working very hard during the week and having the weekends off. This is due to facilities being almost impossible to come by with so much cricket being played at the weekend.

This proved to be perfect and there was plenty of time to head down the beach or squeeze in a round of golf.

It really is great to be in Australia at the same time as the Ashes and there certainly is a fantastic buzz around the place.

Myself and a couple of the other bowlers had the chance to do some bowling at the boys at the Gabba before the first Test and it was an incredible experience to witness the place come alive while the match was on. It did quieten down once the circus moved out of town.

It must be said, whist we’re on the topic, that the Aussies have definitely started the series better than we did but I’m backing the boys to come back strong and bring the Ashes back after Christmas.

Now we are in Perth, we are going to get the chance to do a little bit of exploring as well as continuing all the good cricket work that we’ve done during the first half of the trip.

We've had a full training week, a few days of match preparations, and just started a game against a Western Australian XI, which is a chance to put under pressure many of the skills that we’ve been working on.

Hopefully we will get a day or two to watch the boys at the third Test here in Perth before finally hitting the tarmac and heading home for Christmas.

I hope this reaches everyone well back in the UK and I will make sure I pack a jacket for when I get off the plane in Heathrow.

The weather has been superb since we arrived - I must remember my jacket for when we land at Heathrow

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