England batsman Ian Bell thinks the Ashes will “go right to the wire” and has acknowledged Australia are likely to be a stronger proposition for the fourth Test at Trent Bridge following their humbling at Edgbaston.
Bell made a timely return to form with a brace of half-centuries on his home ground, helping England to an eight-wicket victory inside three days and a 2-1 series lead.
It was an outstanding display from Alastair Cook’s men following their 405-run thrashing at Lord’s although Bell is wary of underestimating the tourists, who themselves remarkably bounced back after a heavy defeat in Cardiff.
“We fully expect Australia to come back hard, if not harder, and this is going to go right to the wire,” Bell said on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“I don’t see there being any draws in this series, so we have to play well.
“We have to front up again like we did (at Edgbaston) and we have to make sure we play the kind of cricket that we have done at Edgbaston at Trent Bridge.”
Following the conclusion of the second match of the series at Lord’s, Bell had averaged 20.84 in seven Tests this year, as speculation mounted he was about to lose his place.
He was given a reprieve and actually moved up a place to three in the batting order, replacing left-hander Gary Ballance, who was dropped following a similarly miserly run.
It was an opportunity Bell capitalised on with knocks of 53 and 65 not out in Birmingham, and the 33-year-old revealed the uncertainty of his place in the line-up actually helped, rather than hindered, his mindset.
“If anything over the last couple of months I feel like I haven’t been playing that well and actually when things started to get to that point where people were saying this might be my last Test match, I actually got into a simpler, much better mindset,” he said.
“I was going to go out there and give it absolutely everything and what will be, will be.”
Bell admitted his lean run, at one point he scored just 45 runs in seven innings, had taken its toll although he felt a return to Edgbaston helped to bring him out of his reverie.
“It’s been really tough,” he said. “You go in and out of form, and sometimes you don’t know where the next run’s coming from and I honestly did feel like that at times.
“At this level you want to contribute and that’s the thing, I’ve always been somebody that tries to put the team first and when you’re not contributing to the team that’s probably worse than the individual stuff.
“It’s nice to come to Edgbaston, we’ve had incredible support as a team, but as a local player I felt like when I walked out to bat in particular on day one it was the best applause I’ve ever got in my career, and I felt that the whole crowd was with me and desperate for me to do well.”
The only downside to England’s latest victory was the injury to James Anderson, who has already been ruled out of playing at his happy hunting ground of Nottingham due to a side strain.
While losing their leading wicket-taker of all-time comes as a blow to England, Bell believes the likes of Mark Wood, Mark Footitt and Liam Plunkett – the seamers in contention to replace Anderson – can make their mark.
“(In the 2010/11 Ashes) we lost (Stuart) Broad quite early in the series and it gave Tim Bresnan an opportunity, it gave Chris Tremlett an opportunity and that’s what it’s about.”