Ian Bell: It's eating away at me - the last thing you do is give them wickets
Ashes Diary: It's obvious what the fans think. Their disbelief matches ours. We haven't helped ourselves
Sunday 10 December 2006
England have much the better of the early exchanges in Adelaide on day three. Australia begin at 38 for 1 and when I catch Damien Martyn, diving forward at gully, they are 65 for 3. Duncan Fletcher was pleased with the catch. It's something we practise.
It might have been 78 for 4 when the in-form Ricky Ponting pulls Matthew Hoggard to deep square leg. But Ashley Giles puts down the catch. I'm gobsmacked. I have never seen Ash drop a catch like that. He has great hands; if you would want anybody there, it's him.
It goes through your head that Ponting is in prime form. There might not be another chance coming soon. In England last year, we caught everything. But by the end of the day we are still more than ahead.
We still feel we are bossing the game but Australia eventually get to a point where they feel they can't lose it. The wicket stays flat, and when you get in on it, it's perfect for batting. For someone like Hoggard to have seven wickets for 109 is astonishing. He has been Mr Reliable for a long time and he shows that it doesn't have to swing for him to be effective.
He mixes it up with slower ones, off-cutters and eventually reverse-swingers. Phenomenal. Flintoff only bowls four overs but I've no idea his ankle is hurting. We bowl them out and bat. After losing an early wicket, Andrew Strauss and I see it through to the close. It's the best I have started against Shane Warne. It all looks good for tomorrow.
In a little dressing-room gathering, the importance of the first session to the match is stated. It's a big thing for us. Today is an opportunity for me to score a hundred. It isn't in my mind that we can be bowled out. Strauss and I sit down and wonder who will bowl. Glenn McGrath springs to mind but they use their form bowlers straightaway, Warne and Stuart Clark.
They bowl beautifully, giving nothing to hit. Ponting sets good fields, mid-on and mid-off straight and two sweepers. There are not many runs but no alarms. Warne is bowling leg-spin far more than sliders. After 40 minutes Strauss is given out caught off bat and pad. I can't see it well from my angle but Strauss's body language says it all. He doesn't think he's hit it and the replays support the view.
Two overs later, I'm run out. I don't really know what's happened. I play it down off the back foot. My first instinct is to look for a run, I look round and wait for a call. I don't move and then Paul Collingwood is in my crease. I have to run. I know I'm not going to make it. I'm out by yards as Michael Clarke throws the ball to Warne, who throws down the stumps.
Throughout the morning I have felt as cool and calm as in any innings I have played. I was enjoying it, I don't think we were overwhelmed by the emotion of the occasion, but I know how important it is. From that point Australia recognise that they can win.
I'm annoyed, but there's no bat-throwing. I don't do that any more. But what's eating away at me is that the last thing you do is give Australia wickets. Warne bowls and bowls but the guys at the other end do wonderfully, bowling a really good length and line. We need a partnership, more of time than of runs. It doesn't come. Five overs or so would have made a tremendous difference.
Things do not go our way but maybe they do not deserve to go our way. Warne is immense. The last two wickets are nerve-racking but we know we have to give it everything.
Australia come out slugging. We manage to squeeze them a little but we never quite manage to bowl as Australia did. One good over is followed by one which goes for a few, another good over, and then a few more runs. Flintoff bowls a tight over but it ends with a seven as three runs are followed by four overthrows. Strength flows out of our bodies.
Australia win by six wickets. It's a horrible defeat, and walking round Adelaide it's obvious what the supporters think. Their sense of disbelief matches ours. We haven't helped ourselves enough.
We sit around the dressing room, have a few beers with the Australians. I have arranged to go to a barbecue with some friends of Lucy, my girlfriend. They're very good in not ramming it down my throat. I don't want to talk much about cricket.
Travel to Perth. It's a bit of a homecoming for me, because I played club cricket for the University three years ago. Those months helped me to mature as a bloke. Ed Joyce also played at the club and he and I go along to a social, fundraising evening. I have good memories. I recall being an up-and-coming England player. When I got here there was no guarantee of a first-team place.
A ferry up the Swan River with Lucy and a wander round Fremantle. Kylie Minogue in concert in the evening. It's important just to get away from cricket.
Back to the nets at the Waca. It's a light session but we have to turn our thoughts to the Third Test.
Excused duties at the ground but went for a workout at the gym and then had an hour against a bowling machine in a net. Feel fresh and restored. Twelfth man tomorrow. A lot to do, but we still believe we can do it. We have to.
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