Ian Bell on the Ashes 2013-14: Defeat in Melbourne hurt us deeply. We were timid in our second innings
View From The Middle
Monday 30 December 2013
It is probably inevitable that, after a tour like this, there will be questions asked about our futures and those of our captain and coaches. After arriving in Australia full of hope and expectation, we have been badly beaten. There's no getting away from that.
All I can say is that, in my 10 years of playing for England, we have never had it so good. We have all the information, all the facilities, all the advice and all the encouragement. The coaches can't go out and score hundreds or take wickets. That is up to us as players. We have let our coaches and captain down.
People forget it is only a year since Alastair Cook led us to victory in India. He showed magnificent leadership on that trip and retains the respect of the whole side. He is a "lead from the front" captain and, although he will be disappointed about his lack of big scores here, we know what a fine player he is. I thought his batting in the second innings at Melbourne was very good, too.
It is the same with Andy Flower and his staff. These are the same men who led us to No 1 in the world, the same men we all praised when we won three Ashes series in a row, when we won in India, even at the end of the English summer. It is not their fault we have played so far below the level of which we are capable. We remain as well prepared a team as any in the world.
I was as guilty as anyone for my second-innings dismissal in Melbourne. In the last five years, I have prided myself on my ability to make runs under pressure, so to let them down on this occasion was particularly disappointing.
I have to give credit to Nathan Lyon, the bowler: I was trying to drive the ball on the ground through extra-cover, but there was more drift than I thought, I didn't quite get to the pitch and ended up spooning it to mid-off. It was the sort of freakish dismissal I have fallen to quite a few times on this odd tour. I still feel in good form. I still feel confident every time I go out to bat.
I passed 1,000 Test runs for the year during the game. Michael Clarke was the only other man to achieve that during 2013 and it is a milestone of which I am quite proud. A couple of low scores doesn't suddenly mean you have forgotten how to play.
It is just the same with other members of the team. Cook became the youngest man to score 8,000 Test runs during the Melbourne match, James Anderson and Stuart Broad created chances we failed to take in the field, and Kevin Pietersen is now the fourth-highest Test run-scorer in England's history. Players like that deserve to have some credit in the bank.
Defeat in Melbourne hurt us deeply. It reminded me of the Test at Adelaide in 2006-07 when, having fought ourselves into a strong position, we let it slip. It just goes to show how important every session is in Test cricket, I suppose, but it wasn't good enough.
We were timid in our second innings when we should have taken the game to Australia. It's not good enough at Test level just to defend and allow pressure to build. You have to try and dictate a bit.
Australia seem to have reacted better than us during the back-to-back series. They have learnt where to bowl to each of us and they have executed their plans brilliantly. They have been better than us in that regard.
Maybe we are at the start of a new journey. We have to draw a line under the team that won so much over the last five years and accept that this is a new team with several young players. It will take a while for the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to gain the experience you need at this level and learning in front of 90,000 people at the MCG is a big ask. In fact, it is as tough an environment as I have experienced. That makes it all the more important that senior players like me step up and help them.
Read Ian Bell’s columns in full throughout the Ashes on ESPNcricinfo.com
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