Ian Bell's Tour Diary: We're out to win war of attrition

I'm relishing chance to bat at No 3 again for England but patience is key if we're to get the better of Murali and Co

Test cricket might have moved on considerably in the past decade but the subcontinent is the place to wind back the clock. When England begin their Test series against Sri Lanka next Saturday, we must remember to play the game as if from a different age.

Put simply, it would be folly to try to transfer the type of cricket we play at home, or in most other places, to here. We have to adjust and do so immediately. Since Australia led the dramatic change in approach, it has become more or less the norm to score between 350 and 420 runs a day.

That works in Australia, in England and in other places. But not here. These are slow pitches, slow outfields, hot and humid conditions – tailor made for attritional cricket. To win here we have to be prepared to take our time, to make patience our watchword more than ever. If that means settling for between 200 and 280 runs a day then that is what we must do.

As batsmen we have to be prepared to keep the opposition in the field for over after over, to look to keep the board ticking over but not to go hunting for big shots too early. That applies particularly in our approach to Muttiah Muralitharan, who stands on the threshold of becoming the leading Test wicket-taker of all time.

The longer you play against Murali the more chance you have of staying in, so the first 20 or so balls are vital. And batsmen know it is important to stick to their game plan. We also know that he will take wickets in this series. His record – not least at home – speaks for itself, so there will definitely be five-wicket hauls for him.

That is not a defeatist talking, it is a realist. But the objective is to ensure that Murali does not take 5 for 20 but 5 for 150 (or preferably 0-150) and that we have batted a long time against him and his colleagues.

It will be difficult for sure and we will have to spot the doosra early and try to play it from hand but we cannot simply let him dominate. You have to look to rotate the strike. It sounds obvious but it can be easily overlooked in the heat of the battle.

The bowlers too have to be prepared to play a waiting game. There is unlikely to be any blasting out. A match, all the matches, could turn on one big session on the fourth or fifth days.

And catching will be crucial. One of the reasons that Australia have been so dominant is that they snaffle the half chances regularly. Sounds obvious again but it can be easier said than done.

England's coach, Peter Moores, has been relentless in working on our fielding so far. We have practised catches, of course, but we have worked on our technique, probably as never before, because that can be crucial over a long hot day in the field.

Sri Lanka have returned home from Australia with their tails between their legs, having been on the wrong end of a 2-0 drubbing in which nothing went right. Some of us recognise that feeling. They are a greatly different animal at home but they may be chastened and they will be desperate to do well. It will put them under a little more pressure.

The longer we stay in the series, the greater the stresses will be on the home side. We can take strength from our one-day success last month.

Nothing has been decided yet but I may well return to three in the batting order. It is different than six because you can be in earlier, have more time to make a big hundred. It is more pivotal. I know I had a decent record at six and I would bat anywhere for England but I am relishing the prospect.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London