We will fight for every wicket: Ian Bell
By The Daily Telegraph
26th July 2012 02:01 PM
Ian Bell fought hard on Monday in what proved a lost cause as England were trounced by an innings in the first Test at the Oval.
He and his team-mates then exchanged honest opinions on where things had gone so badly wrong, and how to put them right – in defence of their world-beating status – at Headingley and Lord's.
If South Africa win in Leeds next week, the series and number one position will be theirs – stark facts which have focused England's minds on what must be done, and brought a declaration of intent from Bell.
"In a way, this match has forced our hand," he said.
"In the next two Tests, we have to go out and fight for every single run and wicket and try to hold on to number one.
"There's no doubt, when you see how South Africa played, we're going to have a real scrap on our hands.
"We're all very proud that we've got to number one, and we definitely want to stay there for a long period of time."
If Andrew Strauss' team are unable to rouse themselves in Yorkshire, those words will be hollow already by Aug 6 at the latest.
But Bell, for one, is determined that will not happen.
Reflecting on England's fifth defeat in their last nine Tests, and the emphatic manner of South Africa's success – in which the hosts could take only two wickets, at the cost of 637 runs, in 189 overs – Bell conceded it may be a case of opponents supremely motivated to try to knock him and his colleagues off their perch.
"It proves to us that, no matter where you are ranked, you have to keep performing.
"Opposing teams see us a bit differently now. Maybe they turn up desperately wanting to beat us, because we are ranked number one – and we have to react to that."
Whatever the rationale, the bottom line is that England were outplayed – a fact acknowledged by captain Strauss, and echoed by Bell.
The middle-order batsman nonetheless reports England remain convinced of their ability to beat South Africa.
They will accept responsibility for a below-par performance, give due credit to the victors – and wipe the slate clean before heading north.
"We know this defeat wasn't good enough," said Bell.
"But we're confident we can get back in the series. We start on nought at Headingley – the scoreboard starts again.
"There's no doubt that, if we play the cricket we know we can, we can beat SA.
"If we don't, we know how good they are – and they won't let us back in the game."
As well as a previously potent attack, adept at taking 20 wickets in varied conditions, and ultra-reliable batting order, England have another major asset.
Bell sees coach Andy Flower as a trump card, a motivator who will not permit lame excuses but will galvanise collective and individual will.
"Andy Flower will want everyone to scratch their minds and work out how they can improve – that's why he is such a great coach," he said.
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