Ian Bell
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England middle-order batsman

The Ashes 2013-14

Unfair to blame the coaching staff

Andy Flower has created an excellent environment and any criticism of him and the set-up is missing the mark. It's the players who have failed

Ian Bell

December 11, 2013

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson leaps in celebration of removing Alastair Cook, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, December 6, 2013
It's time for England's top-order batsmen to deal with Mitchell Johnson © PA Photos

There was a sombre atmosphere in the dressing room in Adelaide after our defeat. We let ourselves down. We didn't play anywhere near to the standard we can and we have made life very difficult for ourselves.

I was as guilty as anyone. In the second innings, on a very good wicket, I hit a full toss to mid-on. It was a hugely disappointing way to go and was pretty hard to take for a while. But one of the things you learn is that you have to let that go and prepare for the next innings with a clear mind. I actually feel in good form. I feel a big score is just around the corner.

I have absolute confidence in my team-mates too. Kevin Pietersen, who has proved himself a great player, did really well in the second innings and is just finding his best form, while Alastair Cook is probably the best run-scorer I've played alongside. He is in a little dip in form at the moment - the sort of thing that we have all experienced as part of the natural cycle of the game - but you know with him that big runs are only ever just around the corner. Joe Root was fantastic in Brisbane and showed what a fine player he is going to be for many years, and Michael Carberry has also done really well. Matt Prior looked back in form by the end too. We just need to perform together.

It went wrong for us before we batted, though. The bowlers performed well again but we failed to take our chances, and instead of us bowling them out for 350, they ended up with 570. That changed the whole dynamic when we batted: they could keep attacking fields and you go into your innings under that bit more pressure. Spending the best part of two days in the field doesn't help either.

Then we batted poorly. Mitchell Johnson is quick and he is bowling well. But he is no quicker than he used to be and not as quick as Shaun Tait, Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar. He is difficult for the tail, but us top-order batsmen have to find a better way of dealing with him. We shouldn't be putting the tail in the position where we are reliant upon them for runs.

So we had a long talk after the game. There was no talk for the sake of it; it was an honest appraisal of where we've gone wrong and what we have to do to put it right. And yes, there were some strong feelings. The batsmen haven't been giving the bowlers a chance.

Of course the confidence has taken a blow. But we believe in ourselves and in each other and, hand on heart, I know we can come back into this series.

Mitchell Johnson is quick and he is bowling well. But he is no quicker than he used to be and not as quick as Shaun Tait, Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar

I'd be disappointed if everyone in the room didn't feel the same way. Playing for England is a privilege that should never be taken lightly, and if you are not, at the very least, prepared to fight and put your body on the line, you should not be in the shirt. You'll see no shortage of fight in Perth.

The margins are never quite as big as they seem. Even after we beat Australia at Lord's by what seemed like a crushing margin, we knew we had been in a hell of a scrap. They showed they can turn things around and now we have to do the same. Test cricket is never easy and we know that if we get them batting under pressure and keep them out in the field for longer, we can still win this.

It is natural that when things go wrong, people go looking for answers and people to blame. Well, the people to blame are the players. We are the ones who step over the white line and we are the ones who missed our chances in the field and failed to bat well enough.

It's most unfair to blame the coaching and back-room staff. I have played in a lot of England teams and I can guarantee that the present set-up is the best I've seen and as good as it gets. My own batting has improved hugely since Graham Gooch became involved in the set-up, and we have access to all the help and advice we could ever want or need.

I've never found the dressing-room atmosphere particularly intense. It is never the happiest place when you have just lost, but Andy Flower has created an excellent environment and any criticism of him and the set-up is missing the mark. It's the players who have failed.

But we have an opportunity. If we retain the Ashes from this position, it will be the greatest triumph that any of us have experienced. It would be a special achievement and something of which we can be hugely proud.

We have been down before. We were beaten in the UAE, we were beaten by South Africa and we lost a big game in India.

We have shown we have what it takes to fight back before and I truly believe we can do it again.

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

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Posted by   on (December 12, 2013, 19:06 GMT)

if u rate johnson not as quickest as lee, tait, akhtar then u guys could had played him easily... let I'll see howmuch u'll score in Perth ( Johnson's homegtound& toughest pplace to bat on the planet).....

Posted by   on (December 12, 2013, 14:15 GMT)

@Ian Bell: Whatever you may say, overbearing coaches cut through the psyche of the players, in a very negative way. Just liik at OZ now under Lehman; and almost the same team under Mickey Arther. ( Of course, your loyalty is laudable)

Posted by drlimpel on (December 12, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

@SurlyClinic I'll admit that was a bit of an exaggeration, but like you said all three were much more consistent with their pace, especially Tait and Akhtar, who I felt always went flat out, something which ended up shortening their careers as well. Its probably not the wisest thing to do for that reason but at the same time the least you can do is keep the mantle of being the "fastest ever" with them LOL. Oh and just to reiterate my point, the fastest delivery Steyn has ever bowled is a good five clicks below Lee, Akhtar and Tait's best. I have always felt he is much more comparable to a healthy, fit and firing Shane Bond in terms of both pace and skill.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 12, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

@drlimpel: I agree that those three were the quickest of recent times, but to say they 'barely got down to the 140s in their spells' is exaggerating just as much. I remember seeing the likes of Lee and Akhtar in the high 130s at the end of a long day. Everyone gets tired. And as bowlers get older they pace themselves and ramp up to full pace more seldom, like Steyn does now. When he first started he just bowled flat out, now he bowls within himself when the ball swings them ramps it up later in the day to break a partnership if the ball is old.

Steyn's fastest balls recorded are right up there, but Lee, Tait and Akhtar were the consistently fastest bowlers of recent times.

Posted by drlimpel on (December 12, 2013, 7:29 GMT)

@pretoria no that's because neither dale steyn nor morne morkel are anywhere near Lee, Akhtar and Tait in terms of pace. They are incredibly crafty bowlers, especially Steyn but they are not the fastest ever by any stretch of imagination. I can't understand for the life of me why people keep saying otherwise; the former trio barely ever got down into the 140's during their spells, Steyn and Morkel rarely go beyond that mark, the difference is as clear as night and day.

Posted by pretoria on (December 12, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

Forgive me, but I cannot help to point out that Mr Bell mentions everybody bowling over 140 clicks but do not mention Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Have the scars of two series defeats in England not yet healed? Is his experince at the Wanderers still a gaping wound?

Posted by brisCricFan on (December 12, 2013, 3:06 GMT)

This article from Bell sounds a little like the desperate calls at half time in a football match when your side is 3-0 down and hasn't made it into the attacking half after they kicked off... yes, it is possible to turn it around but the question is more are your boys up to it after the first half's punishment...

Where the coach has to take the blame is in the preparation, knowing the pitch conditions and getting his players conditioned to what they are going to be coming up against... And lets face it, Brisbane played as the Gabba has done for the last 30 years that I have been going there, Adelaide (surprisingly given the first drop in pitch) played just like the Adelaide of old, and I can bet you pounds to pennies that the WACA will play with all the pace and bounce it always has. One thing they should have known about in advance was how these pitches would play - and there aren't too many grounds in the world you can be guaranteed of that. That just leaves then the players!

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (December 12, 2013, 2:23 GMT)

Perth is a 'test' of England's depth and selectors mettle. Let the tall timber loose with the ball and bench Swann & Panesar, neither of whom have shown any form. Even when the Aussie bats were being subdued in England, the bowlers were giving them half a chance. The Poms have been comprehensively out played here because the bowling is insipid. Sure the bats have only made one score over 200, but the bowlers are using the same wicket and the Aussie bats haven't suddenly become world beaters. England has to win 2 of 3 to retain, that has to start now, but is unlikely to as history suggests England count on predictability.

Posted by Buggsy on (December 12, 2013, 1:49 GMT)

Not sure why people keep on about Root being at no. 3. He's by far one of the most technically correct batsman in the team, has a great attitude and plenty of talent. He's completely wasted down at 6.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (December 11, 2013, 22:41 GMT)

Bell played some great shots in his first innings @ Adelaide and was really enjoyable to watch.

But I think the crux of their problem is summarised here "We have shown we have what it takes to fight back before and I truly believe we can do it again."

It's like their subconscious is wanting to hang onto the past and previous glory which is contrasted to the Australians attitude of we need to do whatever we can to improve to get to where we want to be in the future. One teams mental image is in the past the other is in the future. So far mentally projecting forward seems to be more effective.

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