The Ashes

Ian Bell Exclusive: England must be aggressive in Lord's second Test

  • Ian Bell
  • 4:00 min read
Ex-England batsman Ian Bell
Ian Bell expects another classic Ashes Test at Lords

Former England Cricketer and new Betfair Ambassador Ian Bell looks ahead to the second Ashes Test and says we could be in for another classic at Lord's...

  • Ian Bell on Ashes second Test starting Wednesday

  • Root could hit another big score in Lord's classic

  • England should be more aggressive in bid to bounce back

An Ashes Test at Lord's - by far the best place to play cricket - will this week bring back fond memories. In 2013, I scored a second consecutive Ashes century there and we won the game.

It was one of my favourite innings in a 118-Test career. It came in a high-pressure situation - for me, nothing came as high-pressured as the Ashes - so it meant a huge amount.

I think it's a story worth telling with regard to how some of the batters might get on when the second Test starts on Wednesday.

Sometimes you just know big score is coming

I had come to the wicket at 28 for three (it can nibble about in the first hour at Lord's so beware). Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen were all back in the pavilion. I was desperate for a big score and was able to meld grit and determination with classic strokeplay. I scored 109.

In the second innings I made 74 - and it should've been three tons in a row because I slapped a poor Steve Smith delivery straight to Chris Rogers - as we set Australia a massive 585.

What was interesting about that century was that it was sort of in the pipeline two innings before in the first Test at Trent Bridge. I knew that I was about to hit a rich vein of form when I had, to all intents and purposes, failed in the first-innings of that match, caught by Shane Watson off Peter Siddle for just 25.

We were bowled out for 215 and the ball was hooping everywhere. Cricket's a curious game in that you can 'fail' with the bat but still be excited about your form, safe in the knowledge that you're about to go big soon.

Sure, I was disappointed but walking off I said to myself: 'Wow, I am feeling great'. In the second innings I was in the zone, I felt totally in control and hit 109. We bowled out Australia to win a tight game.

Ian Bell batting for England 2013.jpg

There are maybe two or three times in your career as a batter that you get that feeling.

I had it in 2011 in the summer when I scored four centuries (one of them a double) in 10 innings against Sri Lanka and India. The really, really top players, like a Joe Root or Steve Smith, probably feel it more, but I just knew I was going to score runs in that second innings in Nottingham and I knew I'd score big at Lord's, too.

Is that easy to spot for the people watching? Probably not. But I would say a massive clue is how these players leave the ball. If a player knows where his off stump is and isn't fussed about moving the score along (that may be more relevant for Australia given their style), then you can be sure that batter is feeling good. They are totally unflustered and feel in control.

Root has found his rhythm

To my eye, Root looks to be in that sort of rhythm. Some people may have wondered how he fitted in to England's aggressive style but for me he underpins it. That's because he can do it all. He can mix defence and attack without looking like he is forcing it. It's so natural.

Joe Root.jpg

It wouldn't surprise me if Root knew he was going to score big runs again at Lord's.

England must put Khawaja under pressure early

Usman Khawaja is another player who naturally fits into that 'zone'. And to be fair he's been in it for months scoring loads of runs before this series.

Khawaja is a classic left-hander in that he's so elegant and breezy with his strokeplay. He's an exceptional cricketer, all eye and touch, so putting the pressure on him early is essential.

Edgbaston was a prime example of how England can't let him get into any sort of fluidity and England will be desperate to get him out early. He's bang in the zone at the moment. He's not forcing his strokes, you see. Nor is Root. It's all fluent and natural.

People watching at home may reckon: "Well, he can't go big of averages and all that." And yes you absolutely feel that as a batter sometimes. I averaged 43 in Tests and sometimes you do wonder whether there is one with your name on.

But perhaps the guys like Root, Smith or Virat Kohli aren't troubled in that way. They can consistently go big. Not tensing up and trying too hard is crucial at this level.

Lord's Test could be another classic

England will again look to set the tone at Lord's. After the epic at Edgbaston I thought that Brendon McCullum would ask his team to go harder at the Aussies and that's exactly what he said. It could be another classic. But a totally different game.

The conditions at Lord's are crucial. There is rain around and if the skies are cloudy it could be a bowling game. That means the toss could be important. I wouldn't be surprised if the team that wins the toss has a bowl if conditions suggest seam and swing.

Then it will come down to making use of the angles and the slope at Lord's. England should have the greater experience in that regard. Can Australia master that slope? Can they get their bowling combinations right? It's not an easy place to bowl for touring teams because outswingers and inswingers and variations can be either nullified or exaggerated by the slope.

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I know Australia have a good record at Lord's and they will be confident. In the aftermath of Edgbaston I think we are all excited to see how England bounce back.

I'm hoping England are going to be very aggressive. We won't need to wait long to find out.

Will it take Australia by surprise if England come even harder? I'm not sure. They know who they're up against and I don't think they will think: "Hang on, we're the team who are one-up."

This is Ashes cricket and both sides have set up this match to be an absolute classic. There is so much on the line, but every player will be so excited to get out there.

Nothing beats playing at Lord's and do it at this juncture of the series is an enthralling prospect. And if England take the spoils this time around, 1-1 will set us up for perfectly for the remainder.

Watch our Ashes Second Test preview here...


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