Ian Bell: My Ashes Diary
What a player! Game will miss him, maybe I won't
Sunday 24 December 2006
Up against it at the Waca. Duncan Fletcher tells us it is time for individuals to stand up perform. There are two days to save the Ashes.
Alastair Cook and I take it ball by ball at first. I play Warne well. I hit him back over his head first ball. It wasn't planned, it was just there. I'm playing him much better this series. That's the way I've always played spin, barring 2005, when he had the hex on me.
The Aussies chat to me all the time. They ignore Cook. They tell me that Warney will have the last word, that he'll get me in the end, that I'm a ball-softener for the rest of the guys. On and on they go. Very occasionally, I'll smile and say: "Warney, I agree with you," but mostly I studiously ignore it.
For the third time in the series a hundred is there for the taking. For the third time I miss out. This is bad. It's not what I or the side want. And it leads to wickets. By close, we are five down.
The Ashes are lost. A bitterly disappointing day. The truth is that we have not been good enough.
All those celebrations of last year, all those happy thoughts, are finished. If we had come out here and still lost but lost with it going down to the wire, real tough all the way to Sydney, I think people would have been just as happy. But this was not in the plan.
A word for Kevin Pietersen. He has played fantastically well. From his hundred in the warm-up in Sydney he has been in form.
There is a firestorm at home. Fletcher is getting some awful stick, we hear. I should just say that in the past 12 to 15 months he has taught me a great deal. He spots things in technique that nobody else does. The biggest favour he did me probably was dropping me for the Sri Lanka series last summer at home. He was honest with me when I needed somebody to be honest.
As for selections, from what happened in the warm-up games and from what happened in 2005, I can see where they were coming from. Perhaps his greatest strength as a character is that whether on a high or a low he remains the same. The team are on his side. We are a young side, we can be helped by him.
Word is out that Warne is retiring. What a player, what a man. The game will miss him, maybe I won't.
He has challenged me to be a better cricketer without saying a word to me about my game off the field. Just playing against him made me recognise what I had to do. But then he's had an impact all over the world.
Part of his trick is getting into the opposition. At Adelaide, when he came into bat Australia were 384 for 6, still 170 behind. He was out on his feet after bowling 53 overs. He needed something to get him going. He began staring at the fielders and trying to do impressions of Pietersen batting, bending at the knee, purely to provoke reaction. He caught my eye quite deliberately and said: "What are you looking at?" I said nothing.
He was desperate for somebody to get involved. Paul Collingwood did. It was what Warne was looking for and he dug in, forgot the pains and made 43 in a hundred partnership. Having a beer afterwards, the truth came out.
Gone fishing. Five of us go down to St Kilda. It helps to forget cricket but I don't think it will be my future post-cricket recreation. Pudsey Plunkett and Matthew Hoggard catch red snapper galore, I give up after an hour.
A return to nets. Dinner and a stop in the Barmy Army's Melbourne pub on the way back. They are a raucous bunch but they were pleased to see me and Chris Read.
Thoughts turn to the Test. We have to go out at Melbourne looking as though we know we can win. Australia know that on their day England are capable of beating them. The Australian celebrations at Perth reflected how much they wanted to win.
We have shown glimpses of how well we can play and haven't strung it together. If we are to beat them in Melbourne we have to string sessions together.
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