LOSING the Ashes series has come as a huge disappointment to all the England lads, especially as we have done so inside just three Test matches.
Things just haven’t gone to plan against an Australian side that has played some good cricket.
It was a blow to lose the first Test like we did in Brisbane but we were still confident of bouncing back in both Adelaide and Perth.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t proved possible and now we go into the final two Tests needing to wrestle back the momentum in this series from the Australians.
To be fair, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
We had gone into the series in excellent spirits and all the lads felt very confident we could again retain the urn.
Back in the summer, we had won 3-0 against Australia at home to continue what had been, more or less, four years of successful Test cricket.
During that time, we hadn’t tasted defeat on too many occasions and winning had become something of a habit, albeit one that we didn’t take for granted in any way.
We might have lost the odd match along the way or maybe a one-day series.
But, in Test cricket, we had done well and, obviously, the plan was to keep that good run going out here.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case and the Ashes were lost in Perth.
Now, though, those defeats are gone and the priority is sending out some form of positive message in the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
I don’t just mean in terms of rediscovering a sense of pride in this series. We also need to build a platform to push on from in 2014, when we again have a very busy calendar of cricket.
As I said earlier, winning can become a habit in sport and we had got into that habit.
Now, we want it back. And we can only do that if we wrestle back the momentum, starting on Boxing Day at the MCG.
Along with being 3-0 down, maybe the most disappointing aspect of the series so far is how Australia have outplayed us in every department.
They have asked a lot of questions of us that, unfortunately, we have so far not been able to answer.
As a result, that has meant Australia playing the better cricket in those first three Tests and deserving their victories, which have helped them reclaim the Ashes.
No-one knows more than us that the scoreline doesn’t look good from our point of view right now. Just as it didn’t for Australia at the end of the summer.
But the margins between winning and losing at this level are much smaller than those two 3-0 scorelines suggest.
A bad hour’s play can lose you a game in Test cricket. Or, on the flipside, a really good hour can ensure you win.
We saw that last summer when we capitalised on getting the better of some crucial periods of play in matches that had otherwise been quite tight.
Unfortunately, the opposite has been true in Australia and the upshot is the Ashes have already been lost. The challenge now is to make sure that in the final two Tests it is us who seize the initiative when the game is in the balance.
With the tour party being in Melbourne for Christmas, it is difficult not to think back to our last visit in 2010.
That first day – when we bowled Australia out for 98 and were then 157 without loss at the close – has to go down as one of our best in Test cricket.
It was also an example of what I meant earlier when I wrote how a Test match can turn on just an hour’s play.
We got into Australia during the morning session and never looked back, going on to win by an innings and 157 runs inside four days.
A repeat this time around would be very nice!
The Boxing Day Test at Melbourne is one of those special sporting occasions.
The MCG is so huge that there can be 90,000-plus inside and the noise the crowd creates is incredible.
There are so many fans trying to get inside the ground that it isn’t until about half-an-hour into the day’s play that the stands properly fill up.
Suddenly, you look up during a drinks break or whatever, and the place is rammed.
It is quite a thing to see after coming from Perth, when there are about 30,000 in the WACA every day.
The good thing from our point of view is that we tend to have a lot of support in both Melbourne and Sydney.
The Barmy Army, who are a phenomenal bunch, always turn out in big numbers and are a big help.
As has been seen already on this tour, they get behind the team whether we win or lose and the lads always appreciate that support. It makes a difference, too.
Speaking personally, I have often felt I’ve managed to get an extra couple of overs out of myself because of that encouragement from the fans. They are worth their weight in gold.
I should also say that the Aussie public have been good with us, too. Okay, we have had our fair share of banter when fielding down at fine leg or third man.
But it has been good banter, as it has been in the street when the locals have come up to say a few words.
The odd one or two might take things too far, sometimes, but I have to say I’ve had a lot worse when fielding on the boundary edge for Yorkshire against Lancashire at Old Trafford!
Obviously, Christmas arrives tomorrow. We are fortunate out here that all the families have now arrived. My wife Hannah and son Max came out ahead of the Perth Test and it has been brilliant to be together again as a family.
Touring can be tough, at times, with all the travelling and time spent away from loved ones. So, it is great to have Hannah and Max with me for Christmas.
We are having Christmas lunch with Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale and his family. Galey is out here for the winter, playing for a local club that are based around 25 minutes from us.
So, after I have finished practice with the rest of the England lads in the morning, we will be heading out to see Galey and enjoy Christmas lunch together. We are all looking forward to it a lot.
With that in mind, I would also like to finish today’s column by wishing everyone back home a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Interview: Richard Sutcliffe.