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Retaining the Ashes in 14 days was an outstanding effort by us, but we are fully focused on the remaining two Tests
August 7, 2013
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If there was a subdued element to our celebrations after retaining the Ashes, it was because we know our job is not completed.
We set out to win the Ashes. Retaining them is great and retaining them in 14 days - the quickest time for nearly 100 years - is even better. But we set out to win this series and win it well and we have two big games coming up. We will celebrate properly when the job is done.
We were in a slightly awkward situation at the end of the game. We didn't want to go over the top in our celebrations, but we did want to show our gratitude to all those supporters who had paid for tickets and waited in the rain for hours. So we signed some autographs and spent some time talking with them. I think we got the balance about right.
Australia played well at Old Trafford, but that really wasn't a surprise. We have always respected them and we always knew that this series was going to be a challenge. They won an important toss and Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke batted beautifully when the pitch was at its best, to take advantage. When we batted, the pitch was just starting to crack and it had deteriorated quite a lot by the last day. Ryan Harris is an outstanding bowler, for whom we have a lot of respect, and he performed very well.
It sets up the next two games nicely. Momentum is a big thing in sport, and with another Ashes series to follow in Australia, the next two Tests remain vital. We don't want to scrape to a win; we want to win decisively and go into the next series with the confidence and momentum.
The biggest positive to come out of that match from our perspective was the performance of Kevin Pietersen. I've known Kevin a long time. I first played against him when he was an offspinner for Cannock in the Birmingham League - he got me out when I tried to reverse-sweep him; something he never tires of reminding me of - and he had a trial with Warwickshire in 2000 after he was recommended by the TV presenter Nick Owen.
At the time, Kev was a very aggressive batsman. The only thing that stuck in the mind was that he loved to give the ball a whack. He was confident and he hit the ball hard, but I don't remember too much more than that.
It probably wasn't until 2005 that I realised he was a special player. He had played some great limited-overs innings, but he came into the Test side at pretty much the same time as me and produced against a great attack, under pressure, and kept on playing the same way. His innings at The Oval to ensure we won the Ashes series that summer remains among the best I've seen.
Actually, he's played a fair few of the greatest innings I've seen. He is, without doubt, one of the best I've played with and one of those very rare batsmen who can change a game in two or three hours.
We're lucky in that we have another great batsman in the side in Alastair Cook. It's hard to compare them as their strengths are so different: Kev blasts it and has a technique that works for him, but in India, Cook produced some of the best batting I've ever seen, with his patience and his shot selection. Those skills maybe aren't quite as eye-catching as Kev's but they're just as important. We're lucky to have two such good, so different players in our side.
Kev is fantastic to bat with and I think we present a tricky problem for bowlers. They can bowl us the same balls and he'll hit it for four on the leg side and I'll play it on the off side. He cuts, I pull. He flicks it, I drive it.
I think the records show I've put on more runs with him than any other player - 2755 at an average of 56.22 a time - with nine century- and seven half-century stands. He's very calm, he's very good at pinpointing the areas the bowlers are going to target and he's very good at working as a pair to build the partnership.
Whatever the issues were last year - and we don't need to revisit that - Kev has been fantastic on and off the pitch since. One of the nicest things about this summer has been the close-knit feel of the squad, and we are all spending time together and enjoying each others' successes and each others' company.
I felt as fluent with the bat at Old Trafford as I have done all series. I feel great at the moment, pretty much as I did in 2011. But I'm trying not to focus on that; I'm trying to remain in the moment and keep doing the basic things well. That is what has brought me my success.
It's not long ago that I was struggling a bit. I felt okay, but I was failing to go on and register decisive scores. When that happens you can become introspective and focus on your technique too closely. You end up chasing your tail.
So I know what it's like for my old friend Jonathan Trott at the moment. He has had one quiet Test, really, and is just in that dip where he is having no luck at all. It is a horrible situation to be in as an individual, but I can guarantee every single person in the team and among the support staff has the fullest confidence in him. He has been an incredibly valuable player over a long time and he will bounce back.
Sadly the series has been overshadowed a bit by the DRS issues. As players, we have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the on-field umpires. We understand what a tough job they have and we understand that they, just like us, will make mistakes. The problem comes when mistakes are made by the TV umpire. Once you have access to the replays and the slow motions and all the rest of the technology, the expectation we have is that the decision will be right. That hasn't happened and has left us confused. Hot Spot, in particular, just hasn't worked on a few occasions.
The meetings over what has gone wrong and what we can do about it have already started. As players we have to remain above that and not let it distract us. But it has created confusion and it is an issue that requires resolution.
A fixture in England's middle order for almost a decade, Ian Bell has played in three Ashes-winning sidesFeeds: Ian Bell
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