The Ashes

Ian Bell Exclusive: England have psychological grip on Australia in Ashes

  • Ian Bell
  • 3:00 min read
Ian Bell former England cricketer
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Former England Cricketer and new Betfair Ambassador, Ian Bell, gives his thoughts on the first test in the Ashes series, believes England have the psychological edge, shares his thoughts on the first innings declaration, and thinks their rustiness could have been the difference in the end...

  • England are in the heads of Aussies

  • Australia were passive and scared

  • They were perhaps helped by the England declaration, but I had no problems with it at the time

  • Jonny Bairstow hasn't kept for ages, but will be better for doing so

  • I expect England to come at Australia even harder at Lord's

In the aftermath of the epic at Edgbaston England will feel exhausted and hugely disappointed. But once the dust settles they may come to realise that despite being 1-0 down in this Ashes series, they have got a psychological grip on Australia.

It has also set us up for a series to remember and perhaps most importantly captured the imagination of sports fans. What this match has done for Test cricket can't be overstated and hopefully the series can follow in the same vein.

It may sound strange given the scoreline but I believe England are inside the heads of the Aussies. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Ben Stokes' team to come from behind and win the series.

I know a thing or two about coming from behind to win a home Ashes series. And I know a thing or two about Edgbaston epics. Back in 2005, when I was right at the start of my England career, the tight result went our way.

Ian Bell 2005.jpg

If it had gone against us, maybe we wouldn't have come back but this England team have so much aggression and are relentless in their approach that Australia will be extremely wary.

Australia were passive and looked scared

It was a great result for them, but I'd go as far to say that Australia have more to work on. After the first two days at Edgbaston I was amazed how passive Australia were.

It was like England used to play Ashes series in the really bad old days. Australia looked scared. I saw that in two examples.

First, in the field setting for England's batters in the first innings. They had sweepers out on the off- and on-side after three overs. I'd never seen anything like it and as someone who has experienced the pressure cooker of an Ashes series - I won five out of seven - being afforded an easy option for a single as a batter like that would have been unheard of.

It was also interesting how nervous Steve Smith was. Why didn't he launch himself at Harry Brook? Why did he barely play a stroke in anger?

As I said, I think England's intent has unnerved Australia and the only time they showed any aggression themselves was when Alex Carey was out in that extraordinary final innings.

Basically, they only played in England's style when they knew they were beaten and they had nothing to lose. Psychologically that is fascinating. Brendon McCullum will pick up on that.

England's first innings declaration wasn't an issue; rustiness could have been the difference

Australia were perhaps helped by that England declaration but I had no problems with it at the time. It's easy to criticise after the event but there was nothing in Ben Stokes's captaincy that upset me or was off. Delaying the new ball in the fourth innings also made sense on that surface.

The only query I had was whether a bit of rustiness from a lack of game time in preparation night have been the difference.

Ben Stokes dropped catch.jpg

Jonny Bairstow missed chances, for example, but he hasn't kept for ages so will be far better for having done so in such intensity. And England's bowlers, particularly James Anderson and Ollie Robinson didn't look at their best after injury.

I expect that to change with England in the ascendancy from now on.

I expect England to be even more aggressive at Lord's

If anything, I expect England to come at Australia even harder. In the past when England have come unstuck people have questioned whether they should be reined in.

McCullum's response has been that they weren't aggressive enough. He will applaud their effort, focus on being part of such a historical game and reinforce that they have no fear.

As for Australia, despite getting the result, they need a rethink. Surely they now know they can't be so negative and if they come with the same tactics at Lord's I think England will come at them very hard.

Ollie Robinson was right to give Khawaja a send-off

One thing that is true about the Aussies is that when they get their noses in front they can be relentless. Honestly, they are murder. But even though they'll talk the talk now they're 1-0 up, I'm not so sure that the team and Australian public are that confident.

I was with some Aussie friends the other night and they know full well this is a series like 2005 when England are going to keep coming. It is going to be spicy on the field at times - rightly so - and that is why I have no issue with Ollie Robinson giving Usman Khawaja a send-off.

Olle Robinson send off.jpg

I had plenty of send-offs when I was playing this lot, believe me. It is part of it. Maybe I was a bit surprised that Ollie doubled down in the press conference but every word he spoke was true. If you can't handle it...

Off-the-field the teams are much closer than you might think. I know we're supposed to hate them and vice versa but they get on well. After all, a lot of them have socialised at franchise leagues around the world.

Australian hold over England has gone

The aura that the Australians had over the English has, by and large, gone. There was still a bit of it around in 2005 and that was probably one of the greatest achievement of that team. We busted that aura of a team with great players.

Australia have tried to replicate that - with some success - but in this series it's not there as Nathan Lyon showed when he talked up our great batters.

It may be disappointing to die-hard England fans but both sets of players will have a beer after that game and they'll be weirdly united by being involved in such an epic game. It's very, very hard on the field but these two respect each other.

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