July 24, 2013

No talk of whitewashes

England were ruthless at Lord's, but against Australia, there's never any room for complacency
15

After we wrapped up victory on Sunday, we sat together as a team in the dressing room and had a few drinks. We didn't want to go straight to a restaurant or a bar or back to the hotel. Winning any Test is hard, but to win at Lord's against Australia is special and we wanted to have a bit of time to talk about what we had achieved and to enjoy it.

It's hard to describe the emotions you feel when you see your name up on the honours board at Lord's. It's a pleasure that never diminishes. It is something that will outlast us all and is a permanent reminder of your achievements in the game. Sometimes you are there for a dinner or taking friends round on a tour and you see the boards and it brings back a flood of memories. To be among the names on those boards is an incredible honour.

This was the fourth time I've made a century at Lord's. The previous ones, against Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa, have all meant a great deal but you cannot beat scoring a century in a victory against Australia.

It was particularly pleasing as, when I came in, we were under pressure. We were 28 for 3 and they were bowling fantastically well. They did the whole way through, actually, but I felt I left the ball well, played straight and forced them into third and fourth spells. Really, I was just trying to wear them down and bat for as long as I could. If you do that, you can cash in when they get tired. To Australia's credit, they kept running in. There weren't many bad balls.

I can't really explain my recent form. I'm not trying to do anything differently. I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible and batting as the match situation demands. It's when you're out of form that you end up thinking about batting more. When it's going well, you seem pretty clear-headed.

I learned after the first day's play that I had joined a distinguished list of England players who have scored centuries in three successive Tests against Australia. To achieve something that only Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Chris Broad have done previously is wonderful and feels like a small slice of history. But I think you appreciate things like that more at the end of your career.

I've experienced good times and bad against Australia. I grew up watching them beat England and I played in the 2006-07 Ashes when they won every Test. However it may seem and whatever the scoreline, there is never an easy game against Australia and any victory against them is to be cherished.

We were ruthless at Lord's. We know how hard it is to be kept in the field for session after session, to be worn down physically and mentally, and that was part of the aim in that game. On the fourth day we hoped Joe Root would reach his double-century, but we were also keen not to give them a sniff of victory. The pitch at Lord's tends not to deteriorate that much and there was a lot of time left in that game so we wanted to bat them right out of it and force them into session after session in the field.

They didn't seem dispirited. We put them under a lot of pressure in the field, but they continued to bowl very well. Australian teams tend to be like that; they are very hard to beat.

There is no talk about whitewashes in the dressing room. If there is one thing we learned from our brief period as the No.1 ranked team, it is that we can never take anything for granted. We cannot look too far ahead and we cannot lose focus on the task right in front of us. We were probably guilty of that in the past and we are not going to make the same mistake.

There were some great signs for us from Lord's. Stuart Broad bowled some excellent spells working up good pace and hitting Michael Clarke a couple of times; Graeme Swann showed everyone why he is one of the best two spinners in the world; and Tim Bresnan bowled with great discipline to build pressure on the batsmen.

We fielded really well too. That was an area we didn't quite maintain the high standards we set ourselves when we played South Africa last year, but this year we have held some great slip catches and I was pleased to hold on to a good one at short leg.

And then there's Joe Root. Clearly he has a very good technique, but the really good thing about him is his calm and maturity. It's easy to forget he's just 22. He has taken to international cricket incredibly well and has a fantastic future.

There was, I suppose, just a little bit of controversy over one moment when I was batting. I hit the ball towards gully but I wasn't 100% sure that it had carried. The umpires told me to wait, so, at that stage, things were taken out of my hands. The TV umpire gave me the benefit of the doubt and we got on with the game. There wasn't any lingering problem between the sides.

We will take a few days off now. Playing back-to-back Tests is draining mentally and physically and a few of us have a few aches and pains. It's nothing serious, but we'll have a couple of days completely away from cricket and then do some gym work later in the week before coming back to cricket.

We've had a great start to the series, but the job isn't done.

Ian Bell was speaking to George Dobell

A fixture in England's middle order for almost a decade, Ian Bell has played in three Ashes-winning sides

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jackthelad on July 24, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    A very good piece from Ian Bell, and he comes across as being a genuinely level-headed and unpretentious man - as well as a most beautiful batsman. He's had his ups and downs, and knows well that fortune is a fickle dame; it's nice to see him duly acknowledging this, while never slipping into cringe-making false modesty. A batsman who deserves the success he is currently achieving - a few others could take some tips from his balanced analysis and lack of self-glorification.

  • jackiethepen on July 25, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    I think Bell is right to be cautious. I have been very uneasy about the Hubris in the media. It's good to know the England team are taking a more balanced view. We're 2-0 ahead so it might be easy to think about resting on laurels. Australia have a good set of bowlers. It is interesting that Bell gave them a great deal of credit. If they did get England out cheaply, their batsmen might find themselves in better form and better order. Games of cricket can swing alarmingly. Our top order haven't been batting well either. Bell has done a lot of his batting with the lower order. I think this signifies that the bowlers on both sides are doing well. Australia will surely put together a score at some stage though? Same applies to our top order.

  • 2.14istherunrate on July 24, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    Do not think your work is done yet,Ian. More centuries ,please.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on July 24, 2013, 19:21 GMT

    Awesome batting in the series Belly, keep bringing home the goods out in the middle. Keep scoring those beautifully crafted runs for England.

  • on July 24, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    Ian Bell Batting is a treat to watch. Stylish. Cant forget his punch of the backfoot or the square cut. This guy is always in the forefront rescuing his team. Reminds in so many ways of VVS. Andyes like VVS , Bell is also more often than not is overshadowed by his mates

  • on July 24, 2013, 13:56 GMT

    @cricket24: Rangana Herath. Swann is no 2. Good on Bell for making an exquisite contribution. Kudos

  • Cricket24 on July 24, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    Great article, But i wonder who the second best spinner in the world is right now?

  • Speng on July 24, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Really good to see Bell getting back into form because coming into the series England appeared to have a bit of a top order logjam with Root moving up and KP coming back into the side and Bell was probably the weakest link based on recent form. Would really love to see Trott convert his form into some big innings as I reckon they would be the types you'd tell you grandkids about.

  • Praxis on July 24, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    I like that Root's getting all the attention from media, not Bell. This man has probably the most attractive style of batting, only after Amla & Sangakara among current test players in my view. I'd love to see him play a few more vital innings in this marathon series, he'll eventually get the recognition he deserves.

  • milepost on July 24, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    He's a very good player and comes across as a likeable guy. I'd like to see better quality cricket in the rest of the series, it hasn't been great viewing though Bell and Anderson have been really good. England's batting does look a little creaky at the minute but obviously no where near as poor as Australia's!

  • jackthelad on July 24, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    A very good piece from Ian Bell, and he comes across as being a genuinely level-headed and unpretentious man - as well as a most beautiful batsman. He's had his ups and downs, and knows well that fortune is a fickle dame; it's nice to see him duly acknowledging this, while never slipping into cringe-making false modesty. A batsman who deserves the success he is currently achieving - a few others could take some tips from his balanced analysis and lack of self-glorification.

  • jackiethepen on July 25, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    I think Bell is right to be cautious. I have been very uneasy about the Hubris in the media. It's good to know the England team are taking a more balanced view. We're 2-0 ahead so it might be easy to think about resting on laurels. Australia have a good set of bowlers. It is interesting that Bell gave them a great deal of credit. If they did get England out cheaply, their batsmen might find themselves in better form and better order. Games of cricket can swing alarmingly. Our top order haven't been batting well either. Bell has done a lot of his batting with the lower order. I think this signifies that the bowlers on both sides are doing well. Australia will surely put together a score at some stage though? Same applies to our top order.

  • 2.14istherunrate on July 24, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    Do not think your work is done yet,Ian. More centuries ,please.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on July 24, 2013, 19:21 GMT

    Awesome batting in the series Belly, keep bringing home the goods out in the middle. Keep scoring those beautifully crafted runs for England.

  • on July 24, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    Ian Bell Batting is a treat to watch. Stylish. Cant forget his punch of the backfoot or the square cut. This guy is always in the forefront rescuing his team. Reminds in so many ways of VVS. Andyes like VVS , Bell is also more often than not is overshadowed by his mates

  • on July 24, 2013, 13:56 GMT

    @cricket24: Rangana Herath. Swann is no 2. Good on Bell for making an exquisite contribution. Kudos

  • Cricket24 on July 24, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    Great article, But i wonder who the second best spinner in the world is right now?

  • Speng on July 24, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Really good to see Bell getting back into form because coming into the series England appeared to have a bit of a top order logjam with Root moving up and KP coming back into the side and Bell was probably the weakest link based on recent form. Would really love to see Trott convert his form into some big innings as I reckon they would be the types you'd tell you grandkids about.

  • Praxis on July 24, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    I like that Root's getting all the attention from media, not Bell. This man has probably the most attractive style of batting, only after Amla & Sangakara among current test players in my view. I'd love to see him play a few more vital innings in this marathon series, he'll eventually get the recognition he deserves.

  • milepost on July 24, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    He's a very good player and comes across as a likeable guy. I'd like to see better quality cricket in the rest of the series, it hasn't been great viewing though Bell and Anderson have been really good. England's batting does look a little creaky at the minute but obviously no where near as poor as Australia's!

  • shillingsworth on July 24, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    Another innings when Bell got a hundred and no one else got close. What contrived statistic will his detractors come up with next?

  • whoster on July 24, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    Ian Bell is a classic example of the England selectors identifying a talent and standing by them. I remember how Bell looked like a spare-part in the 2005 Ashes - and how he was tormented by Warne and McGrath. Still, he was hardly unique in that respect. When Bell returned to the England side halfway through the 09 Ashes, he started with a crucial 50 under pressure at Edgbaston, and then played a solid knock in the must-win game at the Oval. That winter, he displayed real tenacity to help England draw away to SA, and he was on the way to becoming a truly world class batsman. Leading up to this series, Bell had a lean time, and the old 'he never gets runs under pressure' brigade were at it again. His centuries in these opening two Tests were made under pressure when England were wobbling, and they've both been innings of character and class. England are a tough side with quality and resolve, and Bell typifies that as well as anyone.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 24, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    Re. the arguments about Root getting Man-of-the-match instead of Bell: I think the two wickets by Root (the set Clarke and Khawaja) swung it towards Root, otherwise the knock by Bell was much more 'match-significant'. I've always believed there should be two (or maybe even three!) Man-of-the-match awards in tests: one for batting + one for bowling (and the third one would be for outstanding fielding and/or champagne moments?). Swann's 9 wickets for example deserved something... (and I don't mean just getting his name on the honours board for his 5-fer, fitting as that may be).

    I agree with jmcilhinney about Broad: you simply look at the scorecard and it's easy to assume he struggled/didn't bowl so well; but those of us that actually watched/listened to the play know he was bowling beautifully, and on another day it could easily have been him amongst the wickets. I'm a notorious 'Broad-basher' by the way...

  • jmcilhinney on July 24, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    I had no issue with England not enforcing the follow-on or batting on into day 4. I think that a rest for Anderson in particular after his Trent Bridge heroics was the best option. I think making Australia field before being able to concentrate on batting on day 4 was also a good option, even apart from Root maybe getting to 200. My one issue was that Bairstow and Prior should have been looking to score singles and get Root on strike as much as possible. If Root has been able to get to 200 then it would have taken long enough to get Australia fully into fielding mode before having to switch to batting mode.

    It's good that Bell mentioned Broad too. Some people have been suggesting that he didn't have a very good game but they presumably checked the scorecard without actually watching any play. Broad bowled well and was probably unlucky not to end with more wickets. His pace is right up there and he looks to be as over that heel injury as he possible could be, given its chronic nature.

  • Ninety9 on July 24, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    Ian Bell is a very humble and hard working cricketer. He reminds me of Rahul Dravid, who had a similar temperament and reactions to victory or defeat. Such gentlemen never fail to praise their opposition. Well done, Ian Bell. I wish you all the best.

  • Ninety9 on July 24, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    Ian Bell is a very humble and hard working cricketer. He reminds me of Rahul Dravid, who had a similar temperament and reactions to victory or defeat. Such gentlemen never fail to praise their opposition. Well done, Ian Bell. I wish you all the best.

  • jmcilhinney on July 24, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    I had no issue with England not enforcing the follow-on or batting on into day 4. I think that a rest for Anderson in particular after his Trent Bridge heroics was the best option. I think making Australia field before being able to concentrate on batting on day 4 was also a good option, even apart from Root maybe getting to 200. My one issue was that Bairstow and Prior should have been looking to score singles and get Root on strike as much as possible. If Root has been able to get to 200 then it would have taken long enough to get Australia fully into fielding mode before having to switch to batting mode.

    It's good that Bell mentioned Broad too. Some people have been suggesting that he didn't have a very good game but they presumably checked the scorecard without actually watching any play. Broad bowled well and was probably unlucky not to end with more wickets. His pace is right up there and he looks to be as over that heel injury as he possible could be, given its chronic nature.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 24, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    Re. the arguments about Root getting Man-of-the-match instead of Bell: I think the two wickets by Root (the set Clarke and Khawaja) swung it towards Root, otherwise the knock by Bell was much more 'match-significant'. I've always believed there should be two (or maybe even three!) Man-of-the-match awards in tests: one for batting + one for bowling (and the third one would be for outstanding fielding and/or champagne moments?). Swann's 9 wickets for example deserved something... (and I don't mean just getting his name on the honours board for his 5-fer, fitting as that may be).

    I agree with jmcilhinney about Broad: you simply look at the scorecard and it's easy to assume he struggled/didn't bowl so well; but those of us that actually watched/listened to the play know he was bowling beautifully, and on another day it could easily have been him amongst the wickets. I'm a notorious 'Broad-basher' by the way...

  • whoster on July 24, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    Ian Bell is a classic example of the England selectors identifying a talent and standing by them. I remember how Bell looked like a spare-part in the 2005 Ashes - and how he was tormented by Warne and McGrath. Still, he was hardly unique in that respect. When Bell returned to the England side halfway through the 09 Ashes, he started with a crucial 50 under pressure at Edgbaston, and then played a solid knock in the must-win game at the Oval. That winter, he displayed real tenacity to help England draw away to SA, and he was on the way to becoming a truly world class batsman. Leading up to this series, Bell had a lean time, and the old 'he never gets runs under pressure' brigade were at it again. His centuries in these opening two Tests were made under pressure when England were wobbling, and they've both been innings of character and class. England are a tough side with quality and resolve, and Bell typifies that as well as anyone.

  • shillingsworth on July 24, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    Another innings when Bell got a hundred and no one else got close. What contrived statistic will his detractors come up with next?

  • milepost on July 24, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    He's a very good player and comes across as a likeable guy. I'd like to see better quality cricket in the rest of the series, it hasn't been great viewing though Bell and Anderson have been really good. England's batting does look a little creaky at the minute but obviously no where near as poor as Australia's!

  • Praxis on July 24, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    I like that Root's getting all the attention from media, not Bell. This man has probably the most attractive style of batting, only after Amla & Sangakara among current test players in my view. I'd love to see him play a few more vital innings in this marathon series, he'll eventually get the recognition he deserves.

  • Speng on July 24, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Really good to see Bell getting back into form because coming into the series England appeared to have a bit of a top order logjam with Root moving up and KP coming back into the side and Bell was probably the weakest link based on recent form. Would really love to see Trott convert his form into some big innings as I reckon they would be the types you'd tell you grandkids about.

  • Cricket24 on July 24, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    Great article, But i wonder who the second best spinner in the world is right now?

  • on July 24, 2013, 13:56 GMT

    @cricket24: Rangana Herath. Swann is no 2. Good on Bell for making an exquisite contribution. Kudos