Ian Bell's Tour Diary: Angry and annoyed but I must go on
Converting good starts into more centuries is my next big test and will help England with our unfinished business
Sunday 09 December 2007
Funny thing, isn't it? You get 83 and 74 in a Test match and the overwhelming feelings after it are of disappointment and failure. This was partly because England lost the first game of the series in Kandy but partly because I was left after both innings with a sense of a job unfinished.
Same ground, same match, different circumstances. When I was out in the first innings, England were threatening to build a substantial lead over Sri Lanka. In the event, we did go ahead by 93 runs but it might have been more.
There is a thin dividing line. You have to guard your wicket but you have to keep the scoreboard ticking over as well. The two are always on your mind facing Muttiah Muralitharan.
In the first innings, I came down the pitch to meet his spin, and you have to get there because he spins it so much. I was aiming to hit him straight, I wasn't quite there and offered a catch to mid-wicket. I was annoyed, frustrated. I know that I have to go on.
But there is no mental block, it is not a psychological weakness. I have scored six hundreds, so I know what it takes. But I am still learning my trade as such. I know that I am capable of going on to get hundreds and turn them into 150s.
Look at Kumar Sangakkara, who has almost doubled his number of Test hundreds in the last year. There is, I guess, a breakthrough point and I am near it. If you are going to win here in Sri Lanka, somebody has to go big.
In the second innings we had to bat, and bat to save the match. England played Murali well. We reckoned that we would have to make him bowl around 40 overs to save the game. He bowled 36. Close but no cigar.
We talked about the days people remember years on, and saving that match would have come into that category. Matthew Prior and I put on 109 for the seventh wicket to take us to within a whisker of a draw we had done enough to deserve.
And then Murali struck with the second new ball. He bowled us both. It was hard to take but he's a good bowler. Was it tiredness? I don't think so. Or a brief lapse in concentration? Not on this occasion, not with so much to play for. It was just a minimal error of judgement with the new ball's seam not gripping as much.
I know what people expect of me, I expect it of myself. Ricky Ponting often says that he does not care how many runs he gets as long as Australia win. He's right. But equally, the more big runs I get to help England to totals of 500, then the more England are going to win.
There are runs in me. There are runs in me which can set up matches for this side and finish them. The 74 in Kandy went a little way, at least, towards laying the second-innings bogey, the fact that I average above 60 in the first innings and less than 30 in the second innings of Tests.
Maybe in the past I have been guilty not of complacency after getting a first-innings score but of just a minor lack of focus which can have terminal consequences. One nick and you're out. It is another thing that I have to change.
This was not intended to be one long mea culpa but I cannot go without mentioning the slip catch I put down off Ryan Sidebottom when Sangakkara was on 98 in the second innings. It was straightforward as these things go and I had it in my hands. It was when I took them back to give with the ball that it squeezed out.
I was at slip all the way through junior cricket so I'm used to the angle. I hadn't done it for England until now but after a string of good practice sessions, I put my hand up for the role and was glad to. Ryan was disappointed and showed it. He was right. We have kissed and made up now.
Kandy was a tough match. All I can say is that we (and I) learned some more about playing Test cricket.
Listen to Angus Fraser and Stephen Brenkley discuss the first day of the crucial Second Test: independent.co.uk/thetest
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