Ian Bell: England failed to take their chances in the Ashes

The former Test batsman says England simply didn't score enough runs and expects some changes, but stresses that there's no need to panic…


When I look back at the first few Tests of this Ashes series, England definitely had some opportunities to win at least one of them, or at least to come away with a draw.

Which in many ways is the story of the series for the visiting side: more than once, England failed to take their chance, but when Australia got theirs, they seized it and absolutely buried us.

In the Ashes, it usually comes down to several crucial moments, and in 2017/18 series the Aussies repeatedly emerged victorious from those key battles. The England team will rue the first innings at Brisbane at Perth, when they should have gone on to get 500-plus.

The batsmen had opportunities to get big runs, but they fell short. In Australia, if you don’t get those huge totals, your bowlers are robbed of the weapon that is scoreboard pressure.

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The problem in this series was that England simply didn’t score enough runs.

Getting 350 back at home is considered a decent score given the overhead conditions and the swing that can be gleaned from the Duke ball.

But in Australia, those are not factors – after the new Kookaburra ball gets worn, you generally have a 50-over period where nothing much happens with it.

So, what you need Down Under is a minimum score of 450-plus in an innings: if you don’t have enough runs, it doesn’t matter how good your bowling attack is.

Aussie media spotlight burns bright

Winning in Australia is also made more difficult because of the media attention. Had England taken that first Test at the Gabba, that pressure would have shifted onto the home side – that’s when, as a visiting team, you believe you have the advantage.

But if you don’t get a result in the opener, Australia start to feel they’re going to blow you out of the water.

Unfortunately for England, they never managed to draw the media focus away from themselves onto the Australians.

As for selection, it always makes me laugh when there’s talk about who should or shouldn’t be in the line-up. At the moment, there’s nobody out there available for selection who is staking a clear and obvious claim for inclusion in this XI. People’s names are going to be thrown around, but if those individuals were out there instead, the result wouldn’t have been much different.

I expect there to be one or two changes for the trip to New Zealand, as is normal after a series loss. But I don’t think England will panic: the selectors are not quick to discard people without giving them a chance.

Malan could be the man

However, there might be a change at number three, with Dawid Malan taking that spot and James Vince reverting to five. I like Vince, he’s a very good stroke-player but I don’t see him as the man to come in after the first wicket falls.

He may well be more suited to batting at five: Malan can bat at the slower tempo required to see off the new ball, while coming in later will allow Vince to play his shots against the older ball.

Cricket, like every other sport, is a results business. There have been a lot of coaches in my time who’ve come and gone on the back of Ashes series, and losing this one is probably a concern for Trevor Bayliss – his win percentage in Tests isn’t particularly good.

But his record in white-ball cricket is outstanding, and his appointment was possibly made with the 2019 World Cup in mind.

That may well be the reason he got the job and winning that competition may be his primary aim.

Having worked with Trevor, I know he’s an outstanding coach, though I would imagine that when you lose an Ashes, there will be a review. But what he’s done from the limited-overs point-of-view should keep him in the job – he’s a fantastic coach and I think England should persist with him.

Rooting for answers

That said, Joe Root’s team have the skills to challenge Australia back in England. In fact, they have the ability to trouble any team who come to England for a series.

When I look back at my own career, we lost two series heavily in Australia, but won one when everything went perfectly. In cricket, when you travel abroad, you need absolutely everything to go your way: the entire squad needs to be at the top of their game.

That wasn’t the case this time, but when Australia visit England, the home team have what it takes to reclaim the Urn.

England just didn’t have an answer to Steve Smith’s quality. His record is absolutely ridiculous!

When we first played against him and he came into the squad, he was an all-rounder batting at 7 or 8. He was awkward, fidgety and anything, but a classical Australian player. But it was clear he was talented: he looked unorthodox but struck the ball beautifully, and always seemed to have a lot of time.

What we see now is a guy who has developed, while remaining true to his style and technique. He plays his way, and it’s working. He has taken his game to another level: to average over 60 in Test cricket is phenomenal.

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What do you think?