Ian Bell's Ashes Diary: Get well, Marcus. We miss you

A hundred in Australia - just what I was looking for after that personal bolt from the blue

SUNDAY

The first day of the second match of the tour, against New South Wales in Sydney. If the defeat in the first, against the Prime Minister's XI, had not been the mother and father of all hammerings, it had left room for improvement.

By and large we found it. Things got better as the day wore on. The bowlers found their feet. Phil Jaques, who got a hundred playing for the PM XI, scored another. He is an extremely talented player who cashes in - as he has proved in the county game in England. He is knocking on the door of Australia's team and shows their strength in depth.

Had dinner with Marcus Trescothick, Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood. Tres seemed in good form and we had the usual banter. It seems strange to say that it was exactly as it always has been.

MONDAY

My first innings of the 2006-07 England tour of Australia. It lasted two balls. It was one of those balls you would tend to play in England but considering the extra bounce could leave in Australia. I played it and paid for it by getting the edge. It was, I hope, a lesson learned.

It was my first failure for a while. Disappointing, sure, but the two consolations were that most of the rest of the top order did well, and that if you are going to get a low score I would rather do it here than in Brisbane next week - if I play. I still feel in exceptional form.

TUESDAY

Trescothick goes home. It was a bolt from the blue for the team. I don't think anybody knew anything about his illness. He is a friend of mine and I am left wondering whether I should have noticed something, or if I could have done anything. But I didn't. Everything had seemed fine.

He is a top bloke, someone I really admire, and the important thing now is that he gets better. The team will miss him and his batting because he is world class. The last I saw of him was at lunch when I was coming away from a net and he was going into one.

We were aware something was going on at tea and were told at the close of play what was happening. It is very sad for Marcus but we have to get on with things now that he has gone. In terms of team spirit we have shown before, as we did in India, that we will fight on.

It means a change for me. I think that I would have been in the side for the First Test and that looks certain now - but I will be batting at three. Three or four is where I want to bat for England. Having got back in at six last summer, it is up to me now.

We know that we have to regroup quickly after Marcus's loss. The general reaction in the party was one of astonishment but we didn't dwell on it. We can't. But every single player will wish him well. Tres is one of the good guys.

WEDNESDAY

Flying day, this time from Sydney to Adelaide. This is the third flight already and there will be a few more this winter. Time for light gym work. Fitness counts.

THURSDAY

Full-scale practice day. Faced Steve Harmison, who bowled quickly and with bounce. I felt in top form. There was no sign of Harmison letting up and Saj also bowled very quickly.

I feel in excellent nick. I need a bit of time in the middle to get used to the wickets a bit more.

FRIDAY

South Australia 25 for 4 inside the first hour. We knew we had to start well, and after losing the toss the captain told us in the huddle how important it was. It will be vital to start well in Brisbane, so starting well here was important.

This is all the more commendable because there is no Harmison, who pulled out with a side strain. Let's just say that we could do with him for the Test.

South Australia recover well thanks to Darren Lehmann, their captain. It is a masterly innings, playing the ball late with his singular method, custom-built for him and probably impossible to copy. We have him run out for 99. It's a good day, there has been more improvement. We are going the right way to peak for the Test.

SATURDAY

A hundred in Australia. Just what I was looking for. Time in the middle and the ball came out of the middle too. Batting with Paul Collingwood, we played only for survival early on while they bowled pretty well. There was time to look at Shaun Tait, but not much, since he can be seriously quick. And it was good to face over after over of leg spin, which I hope to be doing for the rest of the summer. This is exactly what I needed. The team are in form. It would be good to be talking like this next week.

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