Ian Bell on the Ashes 2013: Most of us just sat about eating Cornettos before that final session

View From the Middle, by Ian Bell of ESPN: His match-defining innings and how England dealt with the pressure that an Ashes Test brings

When I come to look back on my career, the Trent Bridge Test of 2013 will always rate as a highlight. To play a match-defining innings with the team under pressure, against a demanding attack and the fact that it helped us win the game makes it very special. I accept it was probably the best innings of my Test career to this point.

I owed the team those runs. I’ve felt in good form all year, but I haven’t had the scores to show for it and I had a relatively disappointing year in 2012. I was flying in 2010 and 2011, but then I had a long lay-off ahead of going to the UAE and struggled against Saeed Ajmal, who is right up there among the toughest bowlers I’ve faced. Maybe I lost a bit of confidence as a result and it has taken a while to rediscover my best form.

It’s not as if I felt I had anything to prove. Maybe, if I had not enjoyed a good series in Australia in 2010-11, I might have felt that way. But I’ve had good innings before. I scored a century against India at Trent Bridge a couple of years ago that helped set up a victory and I’ve helped us fight for draws in Cape Town and Auckland. But, whatever the merits of other series, for anyone in England or Australia, the Ashes is always the biggest series you play so to contribute to a victory is a special feeling. It’s definitely the most important innings I’ve played in an Ashes match.

As a game it was up there with Edgbaston 2005 for drama. There were so many momentum swings; so much drama. From a personal perspective, it’s more satisfying to have played a large part in this result. When you look back on your career, you want to know you’ve scored your runs in the biggest games, under the most pressure. I did that at Trent Bridge.

I was at the other end when Stuart Broad survived ‘that’ appeal. I honestly didn’t know he had hit it and I’ve always thought Aleem Dar is an exceptional umpire. At the time I put the Australian reaction down to frustration. Broad didn’t mention the edge and I didn’t know about it until I saw a replay back in the dressing room. The fact is that almost no batsmen in world cricket ‘walk.’ It’s within everyone’s right to wait for the umpire’s decision and we have seen the batsmen of both sides do that in this game. I can’t see it causing any lingering problem between the teams.

You honestly don’t always know when you’ve edged it. I didn’t feel anything when I was out. I heard a nick, but I didn’t feel anything, and it was the same for Joe Root when he was caught down the legside. He heard something, but didn’t feel it and, had he reviewed, he may well have been successful. There was no sign of an edge on Hot Spot.

The Australian bowlers all like to have a chat - that’s a polite way of putting it - but, at this stage of my career, I barely even notice. Maybe, when I was younger, I wasn’t prepared for it, but now it just washes over me. I never respond. The whole purpose is to make you lose concentration so if you allow yourself to become distracted by it, you’re letting it affect your game.

We have a great bowler of our own these days. Jimmy Anderson’s career record might not show it - that can happen if you start your career early and learn your trade at the highest level - but he is well on his way to establishing himself as a great bowler. We’ve known for a few years that he was a match-winner in typical green, English conditions, but he has proved he is on dry, sub-continent style pitches where he gains reverse swing, too. I really can’t remember the last time he bowled badly with a red ball. He instils a sense of calm among the other bowlers and with his skill and fitness is a huge asset to us. I’m glad he’s on my team; I wouldn’t want to be facing him at this stage of his career.

It was pleasing to see how well he was supported in the field. Even in those last few minutes, Jonny Bairstow and I pulled off a couple of diving saves in the field that ensured we kept the batsmen under pressure. We made them fight for every run and in the end the pressure told.

We were amazingly calm. It can get very tense in those situations but, after lunch on the final day, most of us sat around eating Cornettos before going out for that final session.

Teams tend to work on remaining calm on the pitch and, in a way, that is easier as you have your job to do and you can lose yourself by concentrating on that. But it’s in the dressing room where things can become tense and, if that environment is wrong, other things fall apart. We were excellent in that respect at Trent Bridge. That bodes very well for us for the rest of the series. We know we’re going to be tested again and again, but we’re proved we can withstand that and come through it as the winning side.

To read Ian Bell’s columns in full thoughout the Ashes series, visit the leading cricket website espncricinfo.com


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