Ian Bell: Diary of an Ashes tourist

An absolute hammering, the worst of defeats. It is completely gutting


SUNDAY

It pours down in Melbourne. And it's cold. We practise in the indoor school at the MCG. The session has a lot of fielding. We talk beforehand of Perth and the Ashes and of how there is a lot still to play for in the last two Tests.

CHRISTMAS DAY

After a light training session the team lunch is an extremely pleasant affair. It is packed but not every player attends. There are good reasons for this: family and friends in the case of Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood, and in the case of Sajid Mahmood and Monty Panesar the fact that they do not celebrate Christmas.

I guess it would have been nice for everybody to be there. We are a team on tour and have just been heavily beaten and lost the Ashes. Looking from the outside, I can see how people would think it is odd.

BOXING DAY

The start of the Test. It is a disaster. We win one of those tosses it might have been better to lose. Nobody disagrees with the decision to bat but it is hard out there. It is moving, and it is moving late.

I get an lbw verdict which might not have been given on another day but it's out all right. The ball moves very late. But from 101 for 2 it all goes wrong.

The story of the day inevitably is Shane Warne. On his home ground he becomes the first man in history to take 700 wickets. Everything else is overshadowed. The ground is in raptures at the moment it happens, a leg break which goes through Strauss's bat and pad. Murali will follow him soon but after that there will be a huge gap. This is a phenomenal achievement.

The length their seamers bowled makes it very difficult. But the team know we should not have been bowled out by a leg spinner on the first day. It is completely gutting.

WEDNESDAY

England hit back. Australia 84 for 5. Game on. But again the door is closed. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds each score big centuries.

They might both have been out but decisions do not go our way. The pair play extremely well. The bowling is a fraction short but the batsmen changed their plans well.

Symonds hits a drive at head height about five yards away from me. He looked at himself, and from then on anything in his arc he threw the kitchen sank at, hitting over the top. The thing that goes through your mind is that we could have these guys seven down for not very many.

England's bowling plans go missing and there is a big hoo-hah. We're not very happy about it but there's not exactly a lot we can do considering they are being broadcast by the ABC people.

THURSDAY

Defeat. A bad one. This is hard to take. The thing that builds it up is that it is worse in context. We were already 3-0 down and it makes it a lot worse than if it was a one-off game.

I am leg before again. I might have hit it, it might have been too high. That's cricket but there were so many decisions that didn't go our way. These things are out of your control. Damn it.

Kevin Pietersen goes up to No 4 in the order. Although he follows me, I know nothing of this. I get out of the dressing room in time to see him batting and wonder if we have lost another wicket for a minute.

This is an absolute hammering, the worst of the defeats. They have knocked the stuffing out of us. You don't want to lose in three days and not by that margin. The disappointment is massive. I don't know how to explain playing that badly.

FRIDAY

A morose day, spent taking stock. You have to reflect on things, learn. It is a balance, isn't it? You have to realise that it is just a game, yet at the moment it is more than just a game. There are more important things to life than cricket but it is your job as well.

I look at this tour and see guys who could have years ahead of them. The planning for those years is now.

In the evening Lucy and I go to the pictures to see The Holiday. Some light relief at last.

SATURDAY

To Sydney. On Tuesday we meet our destiny. We have to come out fighting. Each and every one has to do his bit.

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