England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 4th day June 23, 2014

Bell defends Cook captaincy


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England performance 'absolutely gutting' - Bell

Ian Bell has rejected the suggestion Alastair Cook is on the brink of resigning the England captaincy and said it was the performance of the players rather than any tactical shortcomings that have cost the side in Leeds.

Bell, England's unofficial vice-captain and the man most likely to be appointed captain should Cook step down, was one of the batsmen dismissed on the fourth evening of the second Test as England finished on 57 for 5 chasing an improbable 350 for victory.

While Bell praised the century by Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews as "one of the best" innings of its type he had witnessed, he also accepted that England had "failed to execute their skills" or take their chances in allowing their opposition back into the game. In particular, he conceded that England's bowlers had pitched too short and the fielders had failed to cling on to a succession of opportunities.

"It looks like we're going to lose this Test," Bell said. "And that is absolutely gutting. But there is absolutely no doubt [that Cook will continue as captain]. I don't think the tactics were wrong. I don't think he could have done anything more.

"Our plans were to get the ball full and we didn't quite do that. I don't think the bowlers will sit there and say they got it right. It felt the kind of wicket that, with anything short, you wanted to make the most of it.

"And we, as batsman, had an opportunity with the bat to bury them in the first innings. We didn't take it and I think they showed what good teams do: when people are down, you have to keep them down.

"We had chances in the field and we put them down. You can't do that with good teams. You can't give those world-class players opportunities or they will hurt you. They've been outstanding today, but we've been really disappointing. We've been outplayed. They recognised today was a massive day and they've won it.

"As a group, we've got to help him [Cook]. We've got to get right behind him and start performing as a team. He's got more hundreds than anyone in an England shirt and he's been one of the best batsmen I've ever played with. Form is temporary. One innings and he'll be flying again. So I'm not worried about his batting at all."

Bell offered warm praise for Mathews' century, but admitted that England had erred tactically in giving him singles in the hope of attacking his lower-order partners. Instead, Bell, suggested, they should also have attempted to dismiss Mathews.

"Hats off to him," Bell said. "It was an incredible knock. He's played arguably one of the best knocks we've seen against us, certainly shepherding the tail. I can't remember one, since I've been playing, that was better than that towards the back end, the way he has played with the bowlers.

"But you look back with hindsight and I think if you want to stop someone like that scoring runs you get them out, don't you? You don't just try to stop them scoring. But I hope tomorrow that we've got five guys who can show what it means to wear an England shirt and come out with some pride and at least do something.

"We've been working really well and there's this one really bad day we've had in the last eight or nine. In a two-match series, you can have one bad day and lose it. If this was a five-match series, we could fight our way back in, but we can't."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roshan on June 24, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    @Garry Powell - You make a good point saying that Broad should be captain. However it's difficult for a bowler to be captain, so I doub that will happen. Surely Cook should either resign or be sacked and Bell, who may not be a great performer under pressure, would surely do better than Cook. In the future I think it will be either Stokes or Buttler that becomes the Test captain as they are a little bit daring and they have charisma - that is assuming that they have the tactical intelligence to succeed.

  • James on June 24, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    The English cricket authorities have never explained the dropping of Pietersen in terms of his form. This has left the sense of an organisation that does not believe in promoting the obvious and popular. It has a secret science for success of a mysterious kind that the public cannot identify with. So the English team would deep down feel it was to an important degree playing a charade. It is no longer playing to the public. The absence of so many spectators from the stands reflects the fact that the public has been demeaned and is in protest. We cannot expect the English performance to be much good until, as George Dobell has put it, it gets a new public. So dismal is the hope of getting a new and natural form of selection and captaincy.

  • Dummy on June 24, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    Eng. Captain refused to call upon Moheen Ali early to bowl. MICHEAL Vaugn did the same thing to Ravi Bapora ion his Debut

  • Dave on June 24, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    Regardless of his batting history, something has to be done about Cook as captain. Perhaps the appropriate thing is to make Bell captain, and let Cook concentrate on his batting. His recent average of ~20-25 is just not good enough.

    However, I do see an issue with the way Cook is getting out, time after time. Once the opposition bowlers see that he is susceptible to the full length delivery just outside his off stump, guess how they are going to bowl!! I haven't checked his recent history, however personal recollection tells me that he has been put out by edging to keeper/slip on at least 20 times in the last 30 innings (all formats).

    Once that gets into his mind, its hard to break out. Maybe move in down to 3 or 4 so that he is not facing the new ball. Hard to say.

  • Girish on June 24, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Why is Bell already saying that it looks like England is losing the game? sounds negative even for an unofficial vice-captain. Just saying that we need to perform better doesn't mean that performance will improve. The old players are the ones not performing like Cook, Bell, Anderson and Prior. Like others, I say get KP back! Eventually things will turn around but until then, England prefer to keep losing rather than bringing KP back and wining a few.

  • Shabbir on June 24, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    How Angelo Mathews does over time, how he juggles captaincy and his form, that has to be seen over time. Cook handled it well initially too, but that was a happy time for England. Cook was rather naive at that time, still learning, and he had few brave men like KP, Swan & Trott to guard him against all challenges and adversaries, so that he could focus on his own game. Let's accept it, Cook's focus and/or form is not going to get any better at this situation, particularly when there are doubts and a general sense of Macbethian guilt and culpability in the England dressing room. Cook and his masters in ECB are also likely to loose the series against India, who are also very keen to avail this rare opportunity of winning an away series in England. The only way to wash the blood off the hands, and help Cook and these new young cricketers in Roots, Robson, Balance, Jordan and Ali is get to KP back. KP is also lost and purposeless without the team. The team needs his bravery and influence.

  • Dummy4 on June 24, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Bury the EGOS. Get KP back, runs will flow for England again. Believe me..

  • Jon on June 24, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    It's sad to say but I see no positives about English cricket right now. I can't see any end in sight because we have no spinners coming through and you can't play cricket in this age without them. Our batsmen in turn will not be learning how to play against good spin and we are going to lose against Bangladesh and the WI as soon as we play in their back yard. Cook is a huge short term worry. he has been found out tecnically and his captaincy is the worst in world cricket. Aus could whitewash us again next year by an even greater margin. We are really that bad right now. There needs to be an inquest into why we are just not producing good quality young cricketers. IMO too much stall is payed to academy development rather than letting guys learn the craft on their own by playing good level club cricket for 2 years.

  • Rohan on June 24, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    I loved to watch Cook as a batsmen in the past.He is a re-active captain, not a pro-active one.....I hope England get their wrongs righted before their great cricket loving public abandons them!

  • Mashuq on June 24, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    Sack Cook as skipper and replace him with Broad. Bell doesn't have the nous for the job. Broad is not lovable but just possibly he might effect a turn-around. Worth a try sooner rather than later.

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