Ian Bell on the Ashes 2013: Our aim was to keep Australia in the field and wear them down mentally
View From The Middle: I can’t really explain my recent form. I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible
Wednesday 24 July 2013
After we wrapped up victory on Sunday, we sat together as a team in the dressing room and had a few drinks. We didn’t want to go straight to a restaurant or a bar or back to the hotel. Winning any Test is hard, but to win at Lord’s against Australia is special and we wanted to have a bit of time to talk about what we had achieved and enjoy it.
It’s hard to describe the emotions you feel when you see your name up on the honours board at Lord’s. It’s a pleasure that never diminishes. It is something that will outlast us all and is a permanent reminder of your achievements in the game. Sometimes you are there for a dinner or taking friends round on a tour and you see the boards and it brings back a flood of memories. To be among the names on those boards is an incredible honour.
This was the fourth time I’ve made a century at Lord’s. The previous ones, against Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa, have all meant a great deal but you cannot beat scoring a century in a victory against Australia.
It was particularly pleasing as, when I came in, we were under pressure. We were 28-3 and they were bowling fantastically well. They did the whole way through, actually, but I felt I left the ball well, played straight and forced them into third and fourth spells. Really, I was just trying to wear them down and bat for as long as I could. If you do that, you can cash in when they get tired. To their credit, though, they kept running in. There weren’t many bad balls.
I can’t really explain my recent form. I’m not trying to do anything differently. I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible and batting as the match situation demands. It’s when you’re out of form that you end up thinking about batting more. When it’s going well, you seem pretty clear-headed.
I learned after the first day’s play that I had joined a distinguished list of England players who have scored centuries in three successive Tests against Australia. To achieve something that only Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Chris Broad have done previously is wonderful and feels like a small slice of history. But I think you appreciate things like that more at the end of your career.
I’ve experienced good times and bad against Australia. I grew up watching them beat England and I played in the 2006-07 Ashes when they won every Test. However it may seem and whatever the scoreline, there is never an easy game against Australia and any victory against them is to be cherished.
We were ruthless at Lord’s. We know how hard it is to be kept in the field for session after session, to be worn down physically and mentally, and that was part of the aim in that game. On the fourth day we hoped Joe Root would reach his double-century, but we were also keen not to give them a sniff of victory.
The pitch at Lord’s tends not to deteriorate that much and there was a lot of time left in that game, so we wanted to bat them right out of it and force them into session after session in the field.
They didn’t seem dispirited. We put them under a lot of pressure in the field, but they continued to bowl very well. Australia teams tend to be like that; they’re very hard to beat.
There is no talk about whitewashes in the dressing room. If there is one thing we learned from our brief period as the No 1-ranked team, it is that we can never take anything for granted. We cannot look too far ahead and we cannot lose focus on the task right in front of us. We were probably guilty of that in the past and we are not going to make the same mistake.
There were some great signs for us from Lord’s. Stuart Broad bowled some excellent spells, working up good pace and hitting Michael Clarke a couple of times; Graeme Swann showed everyone why he is one of the best two spinners in the world and Tim Bresnan bowled with great discipline to build pressure on the batsmen.
We fielded really well, too. That was an area in which we didn’t quite maintain the high standards we set ourselves when we played South Africa last year, but this year we have held some great slip catches and I was pleased to hold on to a good one at short leg.
And then there’s Root. Clearly he has a very good technique, but the really good thing about him is his calm and maturity. It’s easy to forget he’s just 22. He has taken to international cricket incredibly well and has a fantastic future.
There was, I suppose, just a little bit of controversy over one moment when I was batting. I hit the ball towards gully but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that it had carried. The umpires told me to wait so, at that stage, things were taken out of my hands. The TV umpire gave me the benefit of the doubt and we got on with the game. There wasn’t any lingering problem between the sides.
We will take a few days off now. Playing back-to-back Tests is draining mentally and physically and a few of us have a few aches and pains. It’s nothing serious, but we’ll have a couple of days completely away from cricket and then do some gym work later in the week before coming back to cricket.
We’ve had a great start to the series, but the job isn’t done.
To read Ian Bell’s column in full, visit the world’s leading cricket website espncricinfo.com here
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