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December 17, 2010
Ian Bell is confident that one bad day will not be allowed to derail England's Ashes campaign, after the tide turned dramatically on the second day at the WACA following a brilliant six-wicket haul for the man of the moment, Mitchell Johnson. By the close, Australia had built themselves a healthy 200-run lead, having reached 3 for 119 in their second innings, but Bell, who top-scored for England with 53, remained confident that there could yet be another twist to the narrative.
"The guys were disappointed today, but we knew that was going to happen at some stage," he said. "In a five-Test series you're going to have bad days, and today was a bad day for us. We're going to go back [to the hotel] tonight, recover and come back fighting tomorrow, which is what this team has done really well over the past 18 months. I'm sure Andy Flower and Straussy will be thinking about what we need to deliver tomorrow, and the bowlers will come out firing."
In their last two innings of the series, at Brisbane and at Adelaide, England had amassed vast totals of 1 for 517 and 5 for 620, a pair of performances that had left Australia bereft of options, with Johnson so out of sorts that he was dropped for the first time in his career for the second Test. But a brief spell out of the limelight, and a return to a happy hunting ground at the WACA, transformed the dynamics of the series, with Australia now favourites to square the contest at 1-1 going into the finale at Melbourne and Sydney.
Bell, however, admitted that Johnson's excellence had caught England on the hop after a series of poor Ashes performances in the previous 18 months, and challenged him to prove that there's more to his game than one exceptional spell. "Credit to Mitch, he swung the ball and had that control," said Bell. "He bowls inswing at good pace, that's going to be difficult to face, and he went at two an over which is very good bowling at the highest level.
"Maybe it took us a bit by surprise that Mitch got it swinging because he didn't do it at Brisbane, but that's not an excuse to be honest," he added. "We know he's capable of doing it. He had a fantastic day and we have to come back and deal with it a lot better. But it's one innings, and it'll be the same again for Mitch. He's got to back it up in the second innings. For us we'll concentrate on what we need to do, and they can do what they need to do."
Johnson himself admitted that the breeze at the WACA was a big part of his success, with the Fremantle Doctor aiding the inswinger that proved so deadly to so many of England's batsmen, and Bell believed that he and his team-mates would be better prepared when it came to their second innings.
"From knowing John Inverarity [former Warwickshire and WA coach] for years, swing is a massive part here because of the breeze, so we've got to recognise that and come back better," he said. "But it's one Test here at the WACA. I don't know what the MCG does, or the SCG. But it's one innings of bowling. As a batting unit we've got to come out and bat a lot better than we did first innings."
Having been so careful to avoid tempting fate in this series, Bell was adamant that complacency hadn't been a factor in England's downfall, although he did concede that they had started the day fully expecting to take command of the match. "I certainly don't think we went home last night thinking we were going to win," he said, "but we were certainly excited about what today had to offer, scoring big runs which we have done through the series.
"It's disappointing looking back that we haven't batted as well as we could have done, but there's still a lot to play for," he added. "If we can come back tomorrow morning and take some early wickets it's set up to be a fantastic Test match.
"It's an Ashes test, and both teams are desperate to win," he said. "We know our record at the WACA [one win in eleven attempts] and we're desperate to make a bit of history here. The guys are pumped up about that, and we've played some good cricket here since we've been out here. But Australia came back hard as we knew they would at some point in the series, and credit to them for that. They really needed it today and they delivered. For us we've got to do the same tomorrow."
Johnson, who rated his performance at the best of his career to date, called on his batsmen to bat out the whole of the second day, in preparation for a big victory push on days four and five. "We need to go out there in the second innings and do it again," he said. "There's a long way to go. This wicket is different to what it's been in the past. It's a bit more like a really good Gabba wicket. It's quickened up, it's got that really nice bounce in it, and hopefully it's going to favour us."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?