Ian Bell admitted England have had no answer to Australia’s bowlers as the home side prepared to reclaim the Ashes tomorrow.
Australia need five more wickets to take a 3-0 lead in the series and win back the urn, with England 251 for five chasing a world-record 504 for what would be one of the most remarkable Test wins in the history of cricket.
Only once have England passed 300 in their five completed innings on this tour and not one player has made a century, compared with seven hundreds on the Australian side, and Bell acknowledged the batsmen could not cope with pace trio Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.
“Australia have bowled, batted and caught better than we have and that’s what it is about,” said Bell. “When we came here, we were really excited about the massive challenge ahead, but we haven’t shown anyone the cricket we can play.
“We’ve got it in us to do good stuff but we haven’t been able to get it out. Johnson, Harris and Siddle give you no scoring options and it becomes tough. They’ve done it well for long period and pressure like that will create wickets.
“We’ve trained as hard as we always do and done all the right things but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. That’s not a lack of desire, hunger or fight; we’re just not playing the kind of cricket we need to.
“We’ve spoken honestly about not making big scores in the first innings, which has been happening for a while. We’re aware of it and we’re doing everything we can to get back to good habits.
“You can’t have more than two players not playing well in any side, and we’re not playing how we need to. That’s letting us down. If we don’t score big runs, we won’t win Test matches and it’s something we need to improve.”
Ben Stokes will seek a maiden Test century when he resumes 72 not out tomorrow but, barring a sporting miracle, England will lose the match and the Ashes will return to Australia.
Kevin Pietersen’s dismissal, caught at long-on trying to hit the off-spinner Nathan Lyon for six, will draw strong criticism but Bell sought to defend his team-mate’s style of play.
“He will be as frustrated as anyone,” said Bell. “In my experience, I would rather have him than play against him. He might do that from time to time but he will also win you a game. He does things a lot of players can’t and I’d rather have him in my team.”
Shane Watson bludgeoned a century during a morning session when Australia added 134 in 17 overs before captain Michael Clarke declared. The all-rounder has been on the losing side in three successive Ashes campaigns and he said: “It’s a special moment to be in this position. Hopefully we can achieve a few dreams tomorrow.”
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