Alastair Cook will not have slept well on Sunday night. The emotion and relief after such a draining match with a tense finish leaves the brain clicking over every decision you made when you finally get to bed. The match at Trent Bridge is the closest I have seen to the Test we won against Australia by two runs in 2005 at Edgbaston.
I know from my experience that the closer Australia got to their target on Sunday a sense of panic would have been welling up inside Cook. He hid it well behind those sunglasses. I did the same. But like me he will have been absolutely panicking, blaming himself for decisions he made and thinking: "We will never get these guys out." I have always said that you have to be a good actor to be the England captain and Cook did well on Sunday by hiding his emotions. He sent a calm, positive message to the rest of the team. Inside it would have been very different.
The comparisons with Edgbaston 2005 hit me on Sunday when Australia trimmed the target to 100 with two wickets in hand. That was the number they required on the start of the Sunday at Edgbaston. When he took that brilliant catch at slip off Peter Siddle, Cook will have breathed a huge sigh of relief. He would have looked at James Pattinson and sized him up against Graeme Swann and James Anderson and thought it would be all over in a few minutes. You start planning how you are going to celebrate. Will I go mad and jump all over the place or act cool?
You think: "Great we are going 1-0 up." He then turned to Steven Finn. Cook must have thought he would give him a boost by taking the winning wicket. Finn then goes to Lord's happy and everything is right in the team. But as soon as the Australians went after Finn, Cook would have thought: "What have I done?" He made a decision out of sentiment. He tried to give a boost to a struggling young kid. I like that because it is important to look after your players but Cook did the right thing by hauling him off. He brought back Stuart Broad but the runs were being chipped away and that is when he will have experienced that sick feeling I had in 2005. It is horrible to think you are going to lose such a historic match from a massive position of strength.
As captain you are the one who will take the blame. He would have thought: Did I keep Jimmy going for too long and ruin him for the next Test? Alternatively, should I have kept Jimmy on for longer to get the last wicket? Was Finn's catch in the deep our last opportunity? Should I have put a different fielder there? Have I got enough slips? Should I put a man on the drive? Help. The one thing I realised on Sunday is that it is a lot easier being out in the middle. I found commentating on a close finish much more nerve-racking than playing. I asked Mark Nicholas if this is what it felt like in 2005. He said it was worse. How did we cope?
It is amazing that players produce their skills under such pressure. But they are so focused. They do not hear the crowd. They concentrate on each ball as a moment in time. Cook will have been praying: "Just let the ball hit a crack in the pitch, play a horror shot. Give us something."
Every time Pattinson played a forward defensive with such a straight bat he would have thought: "We're done here." You never see that vital wicket until it happens. In 2005 I could not see how we would get Brett Lee or Michael Kasprowicz out. They were playing well and the ball was not moving. In the end we were a little lucky. The same on Sunday: Haddin was caught behind off an inside edge. It is not often they go to the keeper. The lunch break came at the right time. The Edgbaston match was over before lunch but England had that little breather. It slowed the game down and it was at that point Australia realised how close they were to winning. Cook had to turn to his best two bowlers after lunch. Swann and Anderson were not going to bowl any pies. Australia had to work for their runs. All of a sudden 20 runs felt like 200 to the last pair. When you are miles from a target you play with freedom. When you get within touching distance the pressure starts to weigh.
One mistake loses the game. The big difference to 2005 was that if we had lost that match we would have been 2-0 down and dead and buried. England only played in third gear at Trent Bridge. They can move up to new levels. In 2005 when we lost the opening Test at Lord's we took the positives out of it: we bowled Australia out twice, none of them made a hundred, KP was good on debut and we were proactive. Australia have to do the same. The question from Trent Bridge will be how much damage has it done to Australia?
Lose at Lord's and they are 2-0 down. There is no coming back from that. Cook will have been thinking over all these things lying awake on Sunday night. He will have been looking ahead to Thursday. Which team do we pick? How do I improve my field settings for each bowler?
Can we improve our plans to the Aussie batters? He will see the team analyst today who will help with those things but I think a captain has to write it all down himself. It triggers the mind and is a reference book for later. Anyone can come up with new tricks but a captain only learns by committing it to paper.