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Bell backs England to come good

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bellEngland’s chastened cricketers regrouped in the howling winds of Wellington’s Basin Reserve on Tuesday, as they prepared to put their tour of New Zealand back on track after Sunday’s humiliating 189-run defeat in the first Test in Hamilton. With criticism ringing in their ears after the abject nature of their final-day collapse, the batsmen were put through their paces in a morning net session, not least by a fired-up Steve Harmison, who seemed to have been piqued into finding that extra gear that he so obviously lacked last week.

Harmison’s efforts, however, may have come too late to spare him the axe when England unveil their team for Thursday’s second Test. The recently appointed selector, James Whitaker, watched his spell closely from the sidelines, having agreed to stay on to oversee the remainder of the series. His presence alone, however, reaffirms how important it is for England to be seen to take action after such a desperate defeat. Stuart Broad, who made his solitary Test appearance in Colombo before Christmas, remains the favourite to take Harmison’s place.

Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom in the England camp, as Ian Bell was at pains to point out after practice. “Obviously it’s disappointing to lose a Test match, but hopefully it’s something we can shake off very quickly,” he said. “We’ve just got to make sure we turn up here prepared to win. I think everyone believes that. We’ve just got to go out there and express ourselves, and believe that we can win this Test.”

Bell provided England’s only reason to cheer in that second innings, as he chivvied the tail along with a composed and attractive half-century that served to highlight how good the going might have been had his team-mates got stuck in at the top of the order. He finished with 54 not out from 151 balls, having added 33 for the last wicket with Monty Panesar, but was honest enough to admit that his innings hadn’t been compiled when the pressure was really on.

“Given the position we were in, it was only a matter of time before they started bringing the field up to try and keep me on strike by tossing a few balls up,” Bell said. “It was nice to bat a bit freer at the end, but to be honest the result wasn’t the ideal situation to do that. Hopefully we’ll all get back to the way we used to play - play a bit more on instinct and go out and be really positive.”

In the aftermath of the defeat, which took England’s recent record to four draws and three losses in seven Tests, Michael Vaughan suggested that there was “a lack of confidence” in the dressing-room, particularly among the batsmen, who have mustered three centuries between them in those games. Bell tried to play his captain’s comments down, although he did admit that things were not quite as relaxed as they used to be.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of confidence, we’ve just put a bit of pressure on ourselves,” he said. “We need to free it up a little bit and back ourselves. The top six have got some great records, so we need to go out there and show that. We need to play naturally, and if we see the ball, hit it. We need to get back to how we used to score runs.”

Confidence can, however, come across as recklessness if wrongly carried through, and Bell admitted that it’s a fine balance. “I don’t think anyone’s more nervous than normal going out to bat,” he said, “but sometimes you have to come back at the bowlers a little bit more. We were guilty of sitting in a little too much, and didn’t take it to them enough. But a lot of credit has to go to their bowlers. They showed us how to play on those slow wickets.”

Though Vaughan claimed after Hamilton that getting straight back onto the horse was the best remedy, England have just one more day of practice and mental preparation before they head back into the fray. Bell, however, was confident that the team would be ready to compete properly this week. “The guys have been trying and training really hard, but there’s not that much we have to change,” he said. “It’s just about a slight difference of mindset, a few little tweaks here and there. We’ve had a good session today, the wicket looks good, and we’re excited about trying to turn it around.”

Source:Cricket News

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