Ian Bell: I've got a few sessions lined up with Merlyn
View From The Middle: Dubai was a reminder to us all that we're going to have to work very hard to win Tests
Tuesday 24 January 2012
When England teams have had a big defeat in the last two or three years we've nearly always managed to get ourselves together and put in a performance in the next match. Fingers crossed, we can do that in Abu Dhabi this week after we were beaten by Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai.
At Headingley in 2009 we lost heavily to Australia but came back at The Oval to win the Ashes. It was a similar situation in 2010, when we were well beaten in the third Test at Perth yet managed to win the next Test at Melbourne by an innings and make sure we retained the urn.
We were absolutely gutted to lose in Dubai, especially in three days, and the dressing room really hurt afterwards. It's given us all a bit of a shake-up. We hadn't played a Test since August, but whether we were caught out or not, we can't use it as an excuse. Given what happened in Dubai, it's been nice that my wife, Chantal, and the rest of the players' families were able to join us last weekend. It helps everyone keep things in perspective.
Cricket has gone really well for us in the last couple of years, but this has proved that we're all human and we all make mistakes. If anyone thought we'd be successful every time we went on the field, those three days in Dubai were a good reminder for us all. There are some great cricketers around and we're going to have to work very hard if we want to keep winning Test matches.
It was, of course, disappointing to score only four runs in two innings in Dubai, but I look back on it and I see that I got two very good deliveries, especially the one from Saeed Ajmal in the first innings. I didn't really give my wicket away, and when you don't manage to score runs, you have to try to stay level and not to dwell on it – which I hope I've managed to do in recent years.
It's not always easy to manage that when you're a young player, but it is crucial, just as you can't go around thinking you're the best thing in the world on your good days.
Before Dubai, I had never faced Ajmal in Test cricket, so hopefully I'll learn a few things from what I picked up during the last Test. The major thing I would point out is that when he is delivering the ball, his arm goes through very quickly, which is not the case with all spinners. We have all watched film of him and we were very well prepared for that Test, but the key is to have time in the middle. You need to be there for an hour and, hopefully, after that things will become easier.
We're aware of what was said on television about Ajmal's bowling action during the first Test, but I haven't really focused on it, and it would be stupid of us to look at aspects like that. We were well beaten by a very good Pakistan team, not just by Ajmal. I don't want to get drawn into it, because if we do, as a team, we run a serious risk of going 2-0 down – there's no doubt about that. Pakistan were exceptional in that match and we have to raise our game to compete against them.
As I do before any Test, I'll prepare as well as I can for this match. I've been doing specific work to combat off-spin bowling. I like to do plenty of work with our batting coach, Graham Gooch, and I'll also use Merlyn, the spin-bowling machine. Merlyn's a good device. It can create big spin and it can send the ball down at different speeds, which is something that is otherwise hard to achieve.
As we approach this Test, though, it's also important to remember that Dubai was only one game, and we mustn't get too carried away with thinking about what happened there. We're a group of players who stick together through good times and bad times, and we now have to enjoy the challenge of facing some of the best players in the world in conditions that they know better than we do. Sport always gives you chances to bounce back quickly, and we have to take ours in Abu Dhabi.
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