Ian Bell: It's true - Birmingham is hotter than Sri Lanka

View From the Middle: I will hit the ground running in Colombo after my Birmingham heat chamber sessions

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The Independent Online

I've been in Sri Lanka for more than a week as we do some early preparation for the Test series, but I was already in a position to hit the ground running thanks to some warm-weather training in Birmingham.

I'll have to come clean and report that there was no freakish temperature spike in the Midlands in January. Instead, I was doing some work in a heat chamber at Birmingham University, which is not too far from where I live.

You go in and there is a bike and a treadmill, and when I was there, the temperature was set to 34C and the humidity was between 70 and 80 per cent. I did five fitness sessions between getting back from Dubai and heading back to Sri Lanka again, and I found it really beneficial.

When you bat in places like Sri Lanka, the heat and humidity are a huge factor. You sweat a lot, so your shirt will be wet and heavy and you have to be prepared for that. You also need to know how to cool down during an innings and how to lower your body temperature during a drinks break.

The Birmingham sessions were arranged for me by Huw Bevan, the fitness coach for the England team, and it's certainly far better than training in a normal gym during the English winter. It meant I felt ready to go when I landed in Sri Lanka.

The rest of the Test squad will head out here tomorrow to join me, Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Steve Davies, James Tredwell, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel and the batting coach, Graham Gooch. On Wednesday and Thursday, the batsmen had 90-minute net sessions in the morning, and then 45-minute ones in the afternoon followed by fielding and fitness drills. It means there's little chance for socialising in the evening as you're so knackered.

When you've got the whole squad in the same place, it's hard to do everything you want to do in practice sessions, so these last few days have been invaluable. Here in Colombo, we've been practising on the square that will be used for the second Test against Sri Lanka in April, and we've been working very hard on spin and on our all-round game.

One of Goochie's techniques as a coach is to try to make it harder in practice than what you would face in a Test match. So you might have a seam bowler delivering the ball from closer to you than he would be able to during a match, or you'll practise on a surface that will turn really sharply. Everything he does is about making life more difficult.

He's also tried to introduce a competitive element to the sessions. There have been contests between batsmen and bowler, so if there is a dot ball it's one-up to the bowler. For every time you get out during a net session, you have to do 10 burpees – full-body exercises used in strength training.

If you're out twice it's 20 and so on. It's not what you want to be doing in this heat, so it means there is a consequence of getting out, which is as close as you can get to emulating the situation you might face in a Test.

What I hope this extra preparation will do is enable me to regain top form in the Test series, which starts in Galle on 26 March, as quickly as possible. I had a bad time against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where I failed to record a half-century, but you have to remember that I came into that series on the back of scoring 235, my highest Test score, against India at The Oval last summer.

If I can score a hundred in my first innings in Galle, then the memories of the Pakistan series will be gone. Everything I'm doing at the moment will hopefully prepare me to be able to do just that.

Tour fixtures

15-17 March Sri Lanka Board XI (Colombo)

20-22 March Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI (Colombo)

26-30 March First Test (Galle)

3-7 April Second Test (Colombo)