Batsmen offer honest response

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The Independent Online

England's players, it was revealed yesterday, called a team meeting before the second Test. Well, you would wouldn't you? The opposition had just scored 804 while losing only 10 wickets and you had lost by a mountainous amount of runs.

There was plenty to talk about and not a shred of it was going to be along the lines of how well it had all gone. But it seems the chaps looked deep into their souls and came clean. They had been rubbish.

"Only the players spoke," said Ian Bell, the England batsman after close of play on the first day of the Second Test. "There was no management, it all came from the team. There was a bit of honesty, saying we weren't good enough at Brisbane and that came from everyone. You can do two things, settle for mediocrity or be honest and say you weren't good enough.

"All the players said how important today was and whether we were batting or bowling we had to do it really well and every one of us had to stand up and be counted. That was what we did."

Not all of them stood up too far actually. Two wickets down with 45 on the board seemed an ideal platform for a reprise. Neither of the openers, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, will reflect on their shots and think that they selected wisely. Or if they do, it is time for another meeting.

Bell himself will also not be dining out on the shot that ended his second half-century of the series and may instead consider a spot of self-flagellation.

"It was disappointing again to get out on 60 and not go on," he said. "I was possibly caught in two minds. I'd possibly got into a little bit of hit mode after hitting the first two balls of the over for four. When the ball is banged in it doesn't quite go through and you have a split second to decide whether to have a bit of a dip at it. I possibly should have played under it as I had for the previous three hours or so."

A bit of a dip? Possibly? This was simply not up to the mark in the honesty stakes. Having displayed enviable self-denial and been in a complete tizz against Shane Warne early on, Bell had gone the hard yards, refusing to be embarrassed out. But then after 148 balls he essayed a hook-cum-pull against Brett Lee that was going anywhere but the place he intended. He ought to have been having a one-man player's meeting last night.

His partner, Paul Collingwood, with whom he shared a stand of 113 for the third wicket was still there at the close on a sleep-depriving 98. If it had not been quite as fluent as his second innings in Brisbane it was constructed on identical foundations, Durham bloody-mindedness and economy of movement.

He must have craved the 26th century by an Englishman at Adelaide before the close but he must have been mindful, too, of what happened at the Gabba when he charged Warne. "He's a gutsy player," said Bell.

"He's a very good player who knows his game," said Australia's underused bowler Stuart Clark.

Clark bowled only 15 overs on the first day. "Ricky went down a different path," he said. "You can't get them out if you're down at fine leg and it can be pretty boring down there." That was honesty worthy of an airing at an England team meeting.