Ian Bell on the Ashes: We need to regain the momentum - and KP is just the man to do that
View From the Middle: As players we have to remain above the DRS problem and not let it distract us
Wednesday 07 August 2013
If there was a subdued element to our celebrations after retaining the Ashes, it was because we know our job is not completed.
We set out to win the Ashes. Retaining them is great and doing so in 14 days – the quickest time by an England side for nearly 100 years – is even better. But we set out to win this series and win it well and we have two big games coming up. We will celebrate properly when the job is done.
We were in a slightly awkward situation at the end of the game. We didn't want to go over the top in our celebrations, but we did want to show our gratitude to all those supporters who had paid for tickets and waited in the rain for hours. So we signed autographs and spent time talking with them. I think we got the balance about right.
Australia played well at Old Trafford, but that really wasn't a surprise. We have always respected them and we knew this series was going to be a challenge. They won an important toss and Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke batted beautifully when the pitch was at its best. When we batted, the pitch was just starting to crack and it had deteriorated quite a lot by the last day. Ryan Harris is an outstanding bowler and he performed very well.
It sets up the next two games nicely. Momentum is a big thing in sport and, with another Ashes series to follow in Australia, the next two Tests are vital. We don't want to scrape to a win; we want to win decisively and go Down Under with momentum and confidence.
The biggest positive to come out of that match was the performance of Kevin Pietersen. I've known Kev a long time. I first played against him when he was an off-spinner for Cannock in the Birmingham League – he got me out when I tried to reverse-sweep him; something he never tires of reminding me about– and he had a trial at Warwickshire in 2000 after he was recommended by the TV presenter Nick Owen.
At the time, Kev was a very aggressive batsman. The only thing that stuck in the mind was that he loved to give the ball a whack. He was confident and hit the ball hard, but I don't remember too much more than that.
It probably wasn't until 2005 that I realised he was a special player. He had played some great limited-overs innings, but he came into the Test side at pretty much the same time as me, he produced the goods under pressure against a great attack and he kept on playing the same way. His innings in the final Test at The Oval to ensure we won the Ashes that summer remains among the best I've seen.
Actually, he's played a fair few of the greatest innings I've seen. He is, without doubt, one of the best I've played with and one of those very rare batsmen who can change a game in two or three hours.
We're lucky in that we have another great batsman in the side in Alastair Cook. It's hard to compare them as their strengths are so different: Kev blasts it and has a technique that works for him, but Cook produced some of the best batting I've ever seen in India with his patience and his shot selection. Those skills maybe aren't quite as eye-catching as Kev's but they're just as important. We're lucky to have two such good, very different players in our side.
Kev is fantastic to bat with and we present a problem for bowlers. They can bowl us the same balls and he'll hit it for four on the leg side and I'll play it on the off side. He cuts; I pull. He flicks it; I drive it.
The records show I've put on more runs with him than any other player – 2,755 at an average of 56.22 each time – with nine century and seven half-century stands. He's very calm and good at pinpointing the areas the bowlers are going to target, and he's very good at working to build the partnership.
Whatever the issues were last year Kev has been fantastic on and off the pitch since. One of the nicest things about this summer has been the close-knit feel of the squad and we are all spending time together and enjoying each other's company and success.
I felt as fluent with the bat at Old Trafford as I have done all series. I feel great; pretty much as I did in 2011. But I'm trying not to focus on that; I'm trying to remain in the moment and keep doing the basic things well. That is what has brought me my success.
It's not long ago I was struggling a bit. I felt OK, but I was failing to go on and register decisive scores. When that happens you can become introspective and focus on your technique too closely. You end up chasing your tail.
So I know what it's like for my old friend Jonathan Trott right now. He has had one quiet Test really, and is just in that dip where he is having no luck at all. It is a horrible situation to be in as an individual, but I can guarantee that every single person in the team and the support staff has the fullest confidence in him. He's been an incredibly valuable player over a long time and he will bounce back.
Sadly, the series has been overshadowed a bit by the DRS issues. As players, we have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the on-field umpires. We understand what a tough job they have and that they, just like us, will make mistakes.
The problem comes when the TV umpire makes mistakes. Once you have access to the replays and all the technology, our expectation is that the decision will be right. That hasn't happened and has left us confused. Hot Spot just hasn't worked on a few occasions.
The meetings over what has gone wrong and what we can do about it have already started. As players we have to remain above that and not let it distract us. But it has created confusion and it is an issue that requires resolution.
To read Ian Bell's column in full, visit the world's leading cricket website espncricinfo.com
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