Ashes 2013-14: Ian Bell - The top six got in and again didn’t go on

England's top order once again collapsed after they looked set to build towards a good score with Kevin Pietersen the only one to push on past 50
  • @stephenbrenkley

For a few moments yesterday, Kevin Pietersen was the man who swallowed a fly. He went down on both knees and seemed to be gagging.

The commentariat were convinced of what had happened after Pietersen’s ferocious pull against Ryan Harris was put down at short mid-wicket. It turned out that Pietersen was feeling mildly nauseous, probably in shock after at last being the recipient of some luck in the series.

He went on to reach his third half-century of the series after also surviving a catching chance on six when Nathan Coulter-Nile, the substitute fielder, underestimated how close to the boundary rope he was as he carried over the ball after completing the catch.

Without Pietersen’s fortune, England’s position would have been considerably worse. They exhibited all their recent peccadilloes, failing to make the most of decent starts, which is the greatest of all batting crimes.

“It was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t get the scoring rate up a bit more but it was more disappointing the way the top six got in and didn’t go on which is the way it has been for a while now,” said Ian Bell, England’s new vice-captain.

Bell has been elevated ahead of Pietersen and Stuart Broad after the official tour deputy, Matt Prior was dropped after playing 60 consecutive Test matches. Prior’s batting has been in trouble for a few months and there was clear evidence in the last Test at Perth that his wicketkeeping was suffering too.

If there was no other option but to give him a break, the batsmen who have been so short of runs for so long can consider themselves fortunate to have survived. However, there really is no one else and those calling for mass change are missing the point.

Bell said: “Your intent has got to be to score runs, not to survive. If you try and survive you’re going to get one at some point. You have to try to put pressure on the bowlers, But Australia did very well in bowling in partnerships, which is what good teams do, and you have to earn the right to score.

“Australia have been outstanding and they have worked really well. They must be full of confidence and they deserve to be. They have outplayed us in all three disciplines. For us it’s a real scrap. As a group we have got to be improving and make sure when it comes round again in 2015 we’re a lot better side.”

They may be a different side, of course, if the selectors decide that this team are going only one way. Bell was among those who got in and got out yesterday, though it took a smart delivery from Ryan Harris to ensnare him.

England have been getting in and getting out for the best part of a year. Bell is only 31 and has at least three years of top-class cricket left in him. But England these days are not even flattering to deceive. However, there were no flies on Pietersen. We should have known.