Ian Bell: Diary of an Ashes tourist

This wasn't the kind of history we had in mind
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The Independent Online

Sunday

New Year's Eve, and a heavy training session is followed by a party in the evening. It is thrown by the England and Wales Cricket Board - everybody in Sydney seems to be there. I find it strange playing cricket at this time of the year. It is something new to me, and preparations are somehow different.

Monday

A lighter net, as is the usual way the day before a match. We are staring 5-0 in the face, and while we know what Australia are going to bring to the match we have to find something in ourselves to resist them. We talk about how personal achievements will be good for the team.

Tuesday

In the dressing room the mood is still determined. I haven't noticed any anger or fractiousness. We're disappointed with what has happened but we're still together. It is inevitable in any team that you will be closer to some players than others - age and personality come into it - but there has been no sense of discord.

Flintoff wins the toss. As at Melbourne, he wouldn't have minded losing. The openers put on the highest stand of the series but I'm still in by the 15th over. In some ways going in early is much better than sitting around in your pads until the middle of the afternoon. But then life can be harder going in to face the new ball.

That's the nature of No 3, I guess. Anyway, the ball is nibbling around a bit, just like it was at Melbourne. But the crucial difference is that there is more bounce, so it is possible to leave with more certainty. The Aussies bowl as they have all series. They do not give anything to hit. The outfield is also slow. The bowling has been relentless, with Warne at one end and the three others more or less rotating at the other. Brett Lee has started to bowl well.

It's hard work. But I remember talking once to Mark Ramprakash - before he was Strictly Come Dancing champ - and he said that there would be occasions like this and you do not have to mind batting ugly. I reach 71, my fourth half-century of the series, and for the fourth time I fail to go on to a century. It is a good ball from McGrath which nips back off the seam. That is no consolation.

Wednesday

Fred bats really well for his 89. But we're short, well short of what we want. The top order do not get enough, nor do the lower order. We have to find a way of scrapping our way to the sort of totals we have in mind. We have not done that. Everything starts well when Australia bat. Jimmy Anderson is accurate, they can hardly score off him. But as a unit something is lacking.

Thursday

Oh dear me. Australia get too many. Warne's reputation as a bowler goes before him, but his batting should never be under-estimated. He knows what he intends to do.

The early wickets in the morning are followed by their defiance late on. Our reply this time is disastrous. I'm in early again and although I get in, I'm one of five out before the close.

Again Australia bowl ball after ball that is difficult to score from without taking a risk. There is a balance to achieve. I get a wide one and think there is a chance of cutting it. But it bounces and ends up as a bad shot.

The relentless nature of their bowling has got to me, but I feel I had to try to score. There is a slender chance by the close. Pietersen is still there. If he can get a century tomorrow and we can lead by 150 or 160, who knows?

Friday

Three balls into the day McGrath bowls another of those balls he has been bowling all his life. Pietersen reaches for it, like so many before him have done, and edges to the keeper.

That's it. The end is inevitable. It comes before lunch. We form a guard of honour for Justin Langer when he comes out to bat. He and Hayden waste no time in dashing home. Australia win by 10 wickets. The series is lost 5-0. This isn't the kind of history we want to make but they are a fantastic side. Our fans are fantastic too.

Saturday

The one-day series is on the horizon. That provides fresh hope. But we can't and mustn't forget this Test hammering. Every match from now until 2009 has to be considered vital. We have to start planning as though we mean it.

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