As England prepare for the deciding game of the Ashes next week, Ian Bell, England's No. 4, has said his side will not be concerned if Glenn McGrath returns from injury. McGrath, 35, has missed two of the four Ashes Tests this summer, including the last match at Trent Bridge. Such is England's buoyant confidence after brilliant performances in the Tests since Lord's that they are hoping to prove a point or two to their decade-long nemesis.
"I believe that's the feeling in the changing room," Bell told Sporting Life. "It doesn't matter what XI is on the park, and in a way it would be nice to see Glenn McGrath playing at The Oval."
Errol Alcott, the Australia physio, told the Courier-Mail he was unable to predict whether McGrath's injured elbow would last the Test even if he was passed fit. "It's very hard to imitate those stresses," he told the paper. "Unless you can put them into first-class cricket to play a game and subject them to similar forces out in the middle, it's very hard to know with any certainty."
Alcott said McGrath's condition was improving and he wasn't feeling much pain in everyday activities. "Now we just need to step up to the next level of stress and that's out in the middle," he said.
England sides of the 1990s might have wilted under pressure at the prospect of McGrath returning for such a crucial match, but Bell says this team will be inspired by his presence. "If we can regain the Ashes and their best team is on the park that's the best thing for us. That would be fantastic. Whichever XI is out on the field we'll go and out play good cricket like we have done all series."
The bullish talk is indicative of an England side who now expect to perform well against Australia. Bell, 23, said he has revelled in his first taste of Ashes cricket. "Playing in this Ashes has made me realise what I need to do to become a better player. I've enjoyed every minute of this and I'm looking forward to having a good game at The Oval to finish it off. You are testing [yourself] under pressure, more mentally really rather than technically."
Indeed, it was McGrath who reminded Bell of his brilliance at Lord's, bowling him for just 6 in a remarkable spell which reduced England to 21 for 5. He struggled in England's win at Edgbaston too, but two patient fifties in the third Test at Old Trafford boosted his confidence.
"That's what I've learnt in this series: every ball is going at 100mph and you've got to be switched on all the time. In future I hope - because of this experience - to play situations in a slightly better way."
Bell has been released by England to play in Warwickshire's C&G final on Saturday against Hampshire at Lord's as he and England gear themselves up for one final fling at Australia. "I wouldn't argue if it rained all week but I'm pretty sure, the way these last three Test matches have gone, there's something else in store," said Bell. "I'm pretty sure it will be a nail-biter again."