Going back to my roots
Posted in England team blog
It's great to be back in Ireland. I played a lot of cricket in Belfast so it has been nice seeing some familiar faces.
Although I grew up playing cricket in Dublin, the national team use Stormont as their home ground so I know all about playing there.
I was given a nice welcome when we trained there on Wednesday morning. The people I spoke to were really pleased for me and wished me well.
It will certainly be a different experience if I play on Thursday, turning out for England against my old team on my old ground, but one I am looking forward to. I have a lot of friends and family coming to watch.
It's a good wicket for batting although it can be a bit slow, which is what I expect with all the recent wet weather.
Cricket was always my number one sport when I was growing up although we played Gaelic football, rugby, tennis and hurling too. Dad was the driving force behind us six kids - I have three brothers and two sisters - playing cricket. We were always the family playing in the street. Dad was an average cricketer though.
I realised that I might make a career in the game when I was about 14 or 15. I was playing for Ireland age group sides against English counties - we were always underdogs - when I went for a two-week trial at Middlesex.
It was then that I thought that playing cricket for a living would be a great job. I was offered a contract the following year.
It was quite hard at first - it was my first time living away from home, a completely different environment - but they were a great set of lads at Middlesex. It was also my first time at Lord's.
It was a great honour to play for Ireland. I was the youngest player ever to represent my country when I made my debut at 16.
The 2007 World Cup was an awesome experience. It was the best eight weeks of my life as the team did so well against the odds, beating Pakistan and Bangladesh. Being Irish I'm used to being an underdog.
By this time we all knew each other so well, so it was like playing with your best mates.
While it was the best time of my life, it was also the hardest as I didn't score any runs. I had a flaw in my technique which was really frustrating as I put myself under pressure to do well.
But growing up I knew I wanted to play for England. I used to watch all the games on TV and seeing the likes of Graham Thorpe, Graham Gooch and Nasser Hussain I knew that was where I wanted to be.
Ed Joyce played for Ireland and England - he led the way and I followed.
It was brilliant being included in the squad for the World Twenty20 earlier this summer. It was a priceless few weeks.
It was a frustrating tournament for England though. We managed to beat India and Pakistan but lost to Holland. That's just how Twenty20 cricket goes.
Limited overs cricket and Twenty20 is my favourite part of cricket. It's more my game than the longer form. When I was growing up in Ireland all we used to play were 50-over matches. There was not a four-day competition.
When I started playing one-day cricket and Twenty20s for Middlesex I found that I didn't have the power to hit the boundaries at Lord's - I still don't - so I needed to find a way to score quickly. It meant I needed to improvise. I won't be ignoring the basics though.
I watched the majority of the Ashes and I was optimistic early on we would win with the players we had and the form Australia showed in the World Twenty20. Australia will want to prove a lot of people wrong when we play them in the NatWest Series.