Ian Bell

Ian Bell Exclusive: England must be ruthless in fifth Ashes Test and beyond

  • Ian Bell
  • 4:00 min read
Ex-England cricketer Ian Bell
Ian's backing a 2-2 series result

England legend Ian Bell says Ben Stokes' men must learn to bury their opponents, starting in this week's fifth and final Ashes Test, as they bid to draw the series 2-2...

  • Ashes a tale of missed opportunities for England

  • But they have upper-hand against tired Aussies

  • Anderson and Wood key to chances of drawn series


Does the better team hold the urn? I've been asked that question a few times after the washed-out Test at Old Trafford. And I've asked myself it a few times, too. My conclusion is that, it is very tight and as tough as it sounds, the answer is...I'm still not sure!

Australia won the key moments at the start of the series but England are getting stronger as the series goes on.

Almost perfect England rue missed chances

Don't get me wrong, at Headingley and Old Trafford, England were almost perfect in everything they did. And that is incredibly rare to say that about a team at Test level, particularly an Ashes series which is unique in terms of pressure and expectation. Yes, it should be 2-2 now. But it shouldn't have been 2-0 after Lord's.

England should have won at least one from Edgbaston or Lord's. Or even drawn in Birmingham. When they review the series and look at all the great cricket they have played there will be moments they wish they could have adjusted our tempo then reply the pressure back on to Australia. If they get this right going forward they will be hard to beat.

That will come and there is a fair chunk of evidence to suggest they are quick learners having performed so well in the two Tests.

Cheap wickets cost us

England were aggressive in games one and two. But were they too busy concerning themselves with imposing their aggression and style on the series instead of taking stock, looking at the match situation and adjusting? At Edgbaston some of the batting in the third innings was reckless. We should have batted Australia out of the match. We gave away cheap wickets. The same was true at Lord's.

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Australia don't do that and has meant they have retained the urn. Really good teams, once they get on top, they grind down the opposition. They bury them. Australia have been brilliant at that down the years.

That was once of the first things I learnt as a Test cricketer: if you get on top you make sure your rival can't get back up. England have repeatedly let Australia back in during this series. And they've grasped that opportunity.

So it's a balance for England. Yes, be aggressive. But be ruthless.

England are worthy favourites for Oval Test

Good news for The Oval. At this stage England seem to have the psychological upper hand over Australia. Their dominance with the bat was the like of which we've never seen against the Aussies. Didn't they say when they came here that Bazball wouldn't be possible against them? That view may have changed.

Pat Cummins looks exhausted, as you would expect for a guy who has essentially already played five Tests back-to-back. He could be very tired indeed in the sixth in south London. He seems to personify his team's energy levels. They look like they are running out of steam.

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So I'm confident about an England win to make it 2-2, which would be a much better reflection of what has been an amazing series. England are looking fresh and they're players are stepping up with big performances. Zak Crawley is an example. It's huge that England don't have to rely on the same old faces of Root and Stokes to produce extraordinary moments any more.

Australia, by contrast, haven't really addressed their issues. Will David Warner play at the Oval? They may have to bring back Toddy Murphy, the spinner, who was not used by Cummins in the fourth-innings at Leeds.

One of the surprising issues is Steve Smith. He has not got the runs we expected him to score, although it feels risky to write him off completely. Mark Wood's involvement has definitely asked more questions to him.

Marnus had struggled all series with knowing where his off stump was. He left well and looked back to his best at Old Trafford and was rewarded with a half-century and ton. His innings has probably gone under the radar a bit but it was brilliant considering the circumstances. I would expect him to frustrate England at The Oval with some big runs again.

Wood may be England's player of series

As for England's XI, they have options. They can freshen up their bowling attack again. Ollie Robinson and Josh Tongue will be chomping at the bit to come in and both have done fantastically well. One has to worry whether Mark Wood's body can play in three consecutive Tests because he's not managed it before.

MarkWood.jpg

Wood has changed the series almost single-handedly and if he plays he could be in line for player of the series combined with an England win.

As for James Anderson, I think it would be wrong to say we've seen the last of him. If it's a close call over him or Ollie or Josh, then I would go with Jimmy every day because of what he had for such a long time. He is a class act!

There's still a chance that overhead conditions could suit him. Something which I fully expect to happen. The series is going to be a 2-2 draw for me.

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