New Zealand in England 2008 May 25, 2008

England are not in a comfort zone - Bell

Cricinfo staff

Ian Bell fell for 16 at Lord's © Getty Images

Ian Bell has rejected the criticism of England batsmen's apparent "cosiness", or lounging in their comfort zone, insisting that the weather has been as much as to blame in the first Test-and-a-half against New Zealand.

"It astonishes me to think that there is any question of England players being in a comfort zone," Bell wrote in his column at the Independent on Sunday. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Every single member of this team practises hard and trains hard, every single one of them knows that there is tremendous pressure on places, that there are squad players and others out in the counties desperate to play.

"Of course we're looking over our shoulders. Central contracts have been a good thing, I think all would agree. They have lent more of a team element to the England team but nobody thinks they are here by right, I can assure you, and I am disappointed that anybody thinks otherwise."

Michael Vaughan also defended his England side before this second Test, insisting there was no such thing as "cosiness". But as New Zealand took three late wickets on Saturday evening, leaving England trailing by 229, the detractors' concern of England's middle-order failings appear more than justified.

"We really do try to get two players to a hundred in the first innings," Vaughan said before the second Test. "More often than not one has gone on to get a hundred, but then we have fallen short of our 400 to 450 target. It's certainly not because of any cosiness."

Bell, who is not-out on 4 going into the third day, maintains England are working doubly hard, but the weather - which ruined the Lord's Test last week - has not helped matters.

"All goals are difficult to achieve at the moment because of the weather," he wrote. "Loads of time was lost at Lord's and the same thing is happening here. This is the only cricketing country where bad light seems to come into play during the day. It's a vexed question, as we have witnessed, and it's annoying for everybody. The spectators are not alone in feeling frustrated.

"Now I would agree there are occasions when we could play in worse light than has been the case, and if that happened I guess there would be moves afoot to play in worse light still. At Lord's I would say there was little chance of putting any player in extremis as a result of the light, but the umpires were merely following regulations."