'That's why he is the best, he makes things happen'

In a single direct, heartfelt sentence, Ian Bell captured the torture of facing the best bowler in the world. It was not about turn, or dip, or swerve, or the blur of the corkscrew wrist, or the wild, bulging eyes staring at you. It was not technical stuff, it was about the sheer, dreadful inevitability of being out there and wondering what the hell to do.

Whoever said it is a batsman's game and it is was not factoring in Muttiah Muralitharan in his home country on his home ground. "What I have learned from playing Warne and those guys," said Bell, "is that if you just try and survive they're going to get you out eventually anyway." By those guys, he meant one guy because there are only two: Shane Warne and Murali, champions of a generation, of any generation.

For more than three hours, Bell had been out in the middle. When he was not facing Murali, he was probably thinking about facing Murali. Nobody else in Sri Lanka's attack looked like taking a wicket, Murali looked like doing nothing else.

Bell made 83, easily England's highest score, but he knew when he left the crease he was going to get it in the neck. He and his captain had put on 107 when Vaughan was out, caught off pad and bat at silly point. It looked a dubious decision, but, in the 37 balls he faced from Murali, Vaughan put an incontrovertible case for batting euthanasia. If Aleem Dar, one of the best umpires in the game, made a genuine mistake in giving him out he was also merely unplugging the life support machine to which Vaughan had been attached for long enough.

From then on it had to be Bell. He was on 67 and he needed to go on for England to retain realistic aspirations of building a lead of beyond 100. He did not and his regret was clear. He seemed to recognise that 83 or not, he was in line for the blame.

"When you get in on these kind of wickets it's important you go on and get big scores," he said. "Obviously I'm disappointed I didn't do that. That's why he is the best bowler in the world, he makes things happen." He repeated it as if in self-reproachment: "The important thing is when you do get in you cash in."

Bell had got out trying to attack, though his miscued drive off an inside edge, ended up being neither one thing nor the other. That is Murali's game. There is no physical threat from him but men may be damaged forever by playing him.

True, he has just come back from Australia where in two Test matches, he took four wickets for 400 runs in 116 overs. But that was Australia, and this is Kandy, his old school ground, where he used to bowl for Trinity College as a boy. He needed five wickets to break the world record and he meant business.

Bell, who is a lovely batsman with the potential to be a great one, was determined not to be intimidated. He was desperate to impose himself on the proceedings in general, on Murali in particular.

"The thing I have learned in my short career so far against spin is that I want to play my game, use my feet and be as positive as I can in defence as well as attack," he said. "It's watching the ball, trusting myself. It's a matter of trying to get the singles. Looking to score off every ball is a positive, it doesn't have to be a four or a six, but that's the way I think you play top spinners."

Try as he might to look assured, Bell faced 31 balls from Murali. He struck one four over mid-on, one three and three singles. He failed to score from 26 balls. That was hardly his fault and there were times he looked assertive in keeping it out, elbow high, bat straight. But it would have definitely been on his mind when he was out. He wanted to stamp his authority, so he had to play an attacking shot.

Murali had to be content by the close with a share of the world record, 708 wickets, level with Warne. Maybe it is entirely apposite that the two great slow bowlers of the age, leg spinner and off spinner, shared the record for a few hours, at least overnight.

How Murali must make it easy for a new coach. Trevor Bayliss, from a New South Wales, was a mildly surprising choice to succeed Tom Moody in the job. He knows what he has inherited, as he observed later, a great bowler who can change the game at any time.

At any time, and England played as though they knew it and that any time would indeed arrive.

Shot of the Day

You have to admire the cheek and bravery of Kevin Pietersen. Most batsmen would be happy just to survive when facing Muttiah Muralitharan, but not our Kevin. He has to take matters a step further and he did just that when he reverse-swept Muralitharan for four. Pietersen was in total control of the shot and it never left the ground after hitting his bat.

Ball of the Day

The pitch in Kandy now has very little in it for the seamers, but it is offering ever more spin for the slow bowlers. Muralitharan rarely bowls a bad ball but one of his best was a doosra to Paul Collingwood. It did not take a wicket but the way in which Collingwood looked down the pitch, after watching the ball pitch and spit past his outside edge, told everyone it did not do the expected.

Moment of the Day

Sri Lanka's fielding was excellent throughout the day. It was sharp, energetic and it prevented England ever getting away. The effort was summed up by a brilliant catch by Chamara Silva to dismiss Ian Bell for 83. Bell must have thought that he was about to move on to 84 when he clipped the ball in the direction of wide mid-on but Silva dived full length to his left to take a superb one-handed catch.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
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

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments