Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane November 20, 2013

We'll have first-morning nerves

After more than three weeks in Australia, England are desperate for the Ashes to begin and it will be down to the top order to lay the foundations

It's time to get down to business. We've been in Australia a month now and we've enjoyed an excellent preparation period. But that's done now. All anyone wants to do is get on with the cricket.

These are moments you dream about. It is always a privilege to represent your country and travel the world playing Test cricket, but there is nothing more exciting than the first morning of an Ashes series. It really is as good as it gets.

There will be some very nervous cricketers taking the field in Brisbane on Thursday. It doesn't matter if it is your tenth game or your 100th, the first Test of an Ashes series is as special as any you can imagine and every person taking the field will be struggling to conceal the nerves.

There is a fantastic atmosphere at the Gabba. I've played two Tests there and endured a tough first day in both of them. When Australia are on top, the noise there is quite something and, after Peter Siddle took his hat-trick in 2010, there was an unbelievable sound in the ground.

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of the starts we've had in Brisbane in the past. Of course, you want to start well, but people make too much of these things, really. In 2010, we had a poor first day and conceded more than 200 in the first innings, but we still went on to win the series. This team has shown, not least in India a year or so ago, that we bounce back well and that we are at our best with our backs against the wall.

Our preparation has been good. While there has been a fair bit of rain around, we've still had the time for four of the top five to register centuries and all the bowlers to get some overs in their legs. It's not ideal that our vice-captain, Matt Prior, is still something of an injury doubt, but it might prove helpful that Jonny Bairstow has enjoyed some time in the middle. If he ends up coming into the side halfway through the series, he will be well prepared.

The only other selection issue concerns the final fast-bowling spot. I've really no idea which way the selectors will go, but I can guarantee that whoever plays will have the full backing of the rest of the team. As a batsman, I find dealing with the extra bounce of tall fast bowlers the most difficult proposition in cricket, so to have three giants vying for the last spot in our side bodes very well for us.

It was a good idea to start our tour in Perth. The nets there are very fast and it gave everyone an opportunity to get to grips with the conditions can be like in Australia. The pitches will generally offer more pace and bounce and, in some ways, the conditions require more adaptation than any other tour.

Australia's record at home is excellent and their record in Brisbane is daunting. We are expecting them to come at us hard in the first Tests

The core principles don't change. You still have to score large first-innings totals, you still have to leave the ball well. So it's not as if you make any technical changes. It's just you have to be aware that there is a bit more bounce and pace. To be honest, once you are well set, there's nowhere better to bat than Australia. I consider it the No. 1 tour in world cricket: great facilities, fantastic weather, wonderful cities and countryside and tough, competitive cricket. It's such a cricket-loving nation that we tend to be recognised when we're out more often than we are at home, but the people are so friendly that it has never been a problem.

Our record over the last few years has instilled a confidence in the squad, but there is no lack of respect for the Australian team. If we are to win this series, it is essential our top three or four get through the first 20 overs with the new ball. It is by far the toughest time to bat in Australia but, if you can get through it, life does become a bit more straightforward.

Australia's record at home is excellent and their record in Brisbane is daunting. We are expecting them to come at us hard in the first Test.

We all know there has been some talk in the papers over here about us, but we really don't take any notice. You expect these things ahead of an Ashes series and one of the fundamental policies of our team is that we don't allow talk about such things to enter the dressing room. The news about our diet plans clearly surprised one or two, but we're always looking to improve and searching for 1% here and there, and good nutrition can play a part in that. I'd be amazed if the Australia squad don't a similar approach.

This will be a particularly special game for Kevin Pietersen. Playing 100 Tests is an incredible achievement and testament to his quality, his fitness and his determination. He has already enjoyed a wonderful career and he remains a quality player and arguably the only guy on either side who can turn the game on its head in a few hours. This milestone will mean a lot to him and he deserves to be proud of it.

We know Australia are going to come at us hard in the next few days. We know they are an improving side and we are hugely respectful of their excellent record at the Gabba. But we know what to expect, we're prepared and we are confident that we can overcome. We are ready.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge: I would be surprised if Clarke doesn't have a third man in position for when Bell bats. Bell is very good at the late cut and got a lot of important runs in that position. Of course he has played very good innings before where that scoring area wasn't available, but nonetheless Australia need to try to force him to play in other areas, probably on the cover drive, which he is liable to edge to slip.

  • W on November 20, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Bell is good, I hope we have worked out a way to get him out!

  • Art on November 20, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    It's funny how so many people now regard Bell as England's best batsman. He is an extremely good batsman, but Cook, Pietersen and Trott haven't gone away just because Bell dominated the last Ashes series! Any of the four can make himself look like England's best batsman on his day. It's hard to pick between them, and England are lucky to have them all.

  • Izmi on November 20, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    No doubt Ian Bell is suffering from morning nerves already hoping he could expect to repeat his fine performance with the bat as in the last ashes series in England notching up three consequtive centuries which helped England win the series. England was in a spot of bother when he walked into bat everytime and managed to hold the side together with the help of the batsmen to follow. Bell scored most of his runs on the offside thanks to captain Clarke who left it virtually vacant hoping that he would make a mistake and gave away easy runs which helped England get out of jail everytime. Hope Clarke won't make the same mistake once again and put Bell under immense pressure right from the start so that eventually he would throw away his wicket in frustration and would also help to cut down the England scoring rate. Hope Clarke has already done his homework on Ian Bell who is their best batsman and their most cosistent run scorer.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    England has got a better side than Australia. But we cannot predict the outcome of the Test so soon because the match is played on Australian soil.

  • Murray on November 20, 2013, 3:05 GMT

    IF (and I don't believe you Ian) you have first morning nerves, I hope your skipper wins the toss and bats. Hopefully those nerves will have you 7/60 at lunch ...... lol that's why I don't believe you !