Ian Bell on the Ashes 2013-14: We know we've let ourselves down – however there'll be no shortage of fight from us in Perth
When things go wrong, you go looking for people to blame. Well, it's the players
Wednesday 11 December 2013
There was a sombre atmosphere in the dressing room at Adelaide after our defeat. We let ourselves down. We didn't play anywhere near to the standard we can and we have made life very difficult for ourselves.
I was as guilty as anyone. In the second innings, on a very good wicket, I hit a full toss to mid-on. It was a hugely disappointing way to go and was pretty hard to take for a while. But one of the things you learn is that you have to let that go and prepare for the next innings with a clear mind. I actually feel in good form. I feel a big score is just around the corner.
I have absolute confidence in my team-mates, too. Kevin Pietersen, who has proved himself a great player, did really well in the second innings and is just finding his best form, while Alastair Cook is probably the best run-scorer I've played alongside. He is in a little dip in form at the moment – the sort of thing that we have all experienced as part of the natural cycle of the game – but you know with him that big runs are only ever just around the corner. Joe Root was fantastic in Adelaide and showed what a fine player he is going to be for many years and Michael Carberry has also done really well. Matt Prior looked back in form by the end, too. We just need to perform together.
It went wrong for us before we batted, though. The bowlers performed well again but we failed to take our chances and, instead of bowling them out for 350, they ended up with 570. That changed the whole dynamic when we batted: they could keep attacking fields and you go into your innings under that bit more pressure. Spending the best part of two days in the field doesn't help, either.
Then we batted poorly. Mitchell Johnson is quick and he is bowling well. But he is no quicker than he used to be and not as quick as Shaun Tait, Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar. He is difficult for the tail, but us top-order batsmen have to find a better way of dealing with him. We should not be putting the tail in the position where we are reliant upon them for runs.
So we had a long talk after the game. This was no discussion for the sake of it; it was an honest appraisal of where we've gone wrong and what we have to do to put it right. And yes, there were some strong feelings. The batsmen haven't been giving the bowlers a chance.
Of course the confidence has taken a blow. But we believe in ourselves and in each other and, hand on heart, I know we can come back into this series.
I'd be disappointed if everyone in the room didn't feel the same way. Playing for England is a privilege that should never be taken lightly and if you are not, at the very least, prepared to fight and put your body on the line, you should not be in the shirt. You'll see no shortage of fight in Perth.
The margins are never quite as big as they seem. Even after we beat Australia at Lord's by what seemed like a crushing margin, we knew we had been in a hell of a scrap. They showed they can turn things around and now we have to do the same. Test cricket is never easy and we know that if we get them batting under pressure and keep them out in the field for longer, we can still win this.
It is natural that, when things go wrong, people go looking for answers and people to blame. Well, the people to blame are the players. We are the ones who step over the white line and we are the ones who missed our chances in the field and failed to bat well enough.
It's most unfair to blame the coaching and backroom staff. I have played in a lot of England teams and I can guarantee that the present set-up is the best I've seen and as good as it gets. My own batting has improved hugely since Graham Gooch became involved in the set-up and we have access to all the help and advice we could ever want or need.
I've never found the dressing-room atmosphere particularly intense. It is never the happiest place when you have just lost, but Andy Flower has created an excellent environment and any criticism of him and the set-up is missing the mark. It's the players who have failed.
But we have an opportunity. If we retain the Ashes from this position, it will be the greatest triumph that any of us have experienced. It would be a special achievement and something in which we can be hugely proud.
We have been down before. We were beaten by Pakistan in the UAE, we were beaten by South Africa and we lost a big game in India.
We have shown we have what it takes to fight back before and I truly believe we can do it again.
Read Ian Bell's columns in full throughout the Ashes on ESPNcricinfo.com
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