The Ashes 2013-14 December 25, 2013

The beginning of a new journey

We will all miss Graeme Swann, but I want to play for another five years and I'm sure we have the talent to bounce back

Well, this isn't how any of us hoped things would be by the time we reached Melbourne. We always knew we were in for a fight, we always respected Australia, but I don't think anyone expected the series to be over so quickly.

We have to be honest: we haven't come close to matching Australia. They have out-played us with the bat, with the ball and in the field. It hasn't even been close.

The key to our success in the series in England was that we won the key sessions. But there have hardly been any key sessions here. We haven't gone close to earning any. They have improved in all areas since the previous summer and we have failed to do ourselves justice in any.

We can't hide behind excuses. We can't say we are weary or that we have kept losing the toss or anything like that. We have to face the truth, individually and collectively, and admit that we have fallen far below the standards we set ourselves. We have to do better.

The frustration is that we know we can play so much better. I know people are saying 'the wheels have come off' this tour, but it doesn't feel like that on the inside. We are still working hard, we still believe in each other and, personally, I feel as if I'm playing as well as if I ever have. I know I haven't scored the runs I would have liked this series, but it feels as if they are just around the corner. I know a few of the other guys feel the same way about their games.

But, with the Ashes gone and Graeme Swann having announced his retirement, there is a sense that we are at the beginning of a new journey. We need to rebuild, to refresh and to come again. We still have a spine of experience in the side - the likes of me, Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook - but we will also need fresher faces to come in and move the side forward. The success of the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes is very encouraging in that regard. They are going to be important players for England for many years.

The retirement of Swanny certainly took me by surprise and it probably will change the way we play. The beauty of Swann was that he allowed us to play a four-man attack. He had the skill to play a holding role for us in the first innings and attack in the second. The drift he got on the ball would draw batsmen out of position and he got so many revs on the ball that his spin or his arm-ball were always dangerous.

To left-handers, in particular, he would drift the ball in so it landed in line and then either turn it to take the outside edge or push it on with the arm to hit the pads. He is right up there with the best spinners I've faced, though I do think I have the odd distinction of having got both him and his brother, Alec, out to my bowling but never been out to him.

While everyone watching at home will have seen the world-class spin bowling, they won't have seen his sense of humour in the dressing room. Swanny had a massive influence in lightening the tension when we were under pressure and reminding us all what a privilege and joy it is to play cricket for your country. Even on bad days, you were never far from a smile and a joke with Swanny and that will be missed. He has had a great career and it's been a pleasure to play alongside him.

Clearly the tour has not gone as any of us would have wanted. Of course confidence levels have dropped and of course the mood is not as happy as it was last time when we were winning. But there is no lack of hunger or fight or determination. We have been beaten, yes, but not for lack of effort.

We're still excited to be going into this Test. Any time you pull on an England shirt is a genuine thrill and I can guarantee everyone in the England side feels the same way. You dream of playing in Ashes Tests from your earliest days, so there is no sense at all that anyone wants to get home or put this tour behind us. You very rarely have the chance to play in front of around 100,000 people so there will be no problems whatsoever with motivation or anything like that.

But this is a new start. Now is the time to draw a line behind what has happened and build a new phase in England cricket. The Ashes are gone and this is the start of a new age in English cricket.

I aim to play for another four or five years at this level - and then a few more back at Warwickshire - and I'm very confident that with the talent we have, we can help get the side back to the top of the rankings long before then. It's been a disappointing few weeks, but we'll be back.

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

  • adeel on December 26, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    Ian, i hope you read readers comments too :D

    eng only won first day at gabba that was it. i think cook needs to be a bit more hard on the bowlers when they go astray and they have done it plenty of times in this series. cook needs to be in the ear of the bowler and take them off straight away when they start bowling away from the set plan. this will be a good learning series for cook as the captain.

    as for swan, he deserted the ship when he was needed most. eng may and i think will lose 5-0 (sorry!) but at least everyone else is still in it trying to win a test. swan just packed up and left. not what was expected of the worlds 'best' spinner.and you can let him read this comment too!

  • Patrick on December 26, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    If yesterday was anything to go by, Eng are going to need to draw a lot more lines before things improve. Bairstow was not test class, Bell regressed to an earlier incarnation of himself as potential test class while KP thumbed his nose as if to say "see what happens when I don't play however I like". To be fair (which no-one at home or abroad was on Aust) rebuilding takes years, 4 years on and Aust have a first rate bowling squad with far from proven batting, all up enough to challenge any team but hardly world beaters yet.

  • disco on December 26, 2013, 22:18 GMT

    I thought the key to their success in the home Ashes was due to doctoring their pitches to nullify the Australian fast bowling threat and aid Swanny. However it is true that England played better cricket when it mattered.

  • Ski on December 26, 2013, 20:43 GMT

    Even as a yorkshire supporter I like the fact Bell plans to play for Warwickshire after his international career is over and give back to the county that made him. Hope more do the same

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Life is all about rebuilding again and again. I have the Indian Cricket Team go thru the same. Questions were asked, doubts were raised. They will soon again. But the spirit of competing and striving to be the best will continue. Andy Flower and his cadets did make England a team, to be one of the best, this spirit, this belief will help them move on from Swann and Trott and the Ashes defeat. Yes, they will return like everyone else someday soon ....

  • John on December 26, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    I'm with you Belly! Gonna enjoy the rebuilding ride. There will be a few bumps here and there but with the new kids coming up, no reason Eng can't have renewed success a few years down the road. It's been a hell of a ride the last 4-5 years and hoping you guys get back to playing the brand of cricket that brought joy and happiness to us all England fans! GL!

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