By Guest Author.
England batsman Ian Bell says that England will fight hard to stay as the number one side in Test cricket. South Africa took the first Test at the Oval comfortably and if England lose the series, they will be knocked off top spot.
In the poor second innings of the Three Lions, Bell was the stand out performer as he scored 55 from 220 balls. In the end though, it was not enough to save the match as wickets around him kept falling.
Now though, Bell believes the team have the strength to bounce back and take the series, 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. “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."
The second match of the series comes from Headingley and England know they will need to seriously up their game if they are to be victorious. There is no doubt that England have the talent to go on and win the remaining matches, but this is the biggest challenge they have faced for some time now.
Bell is determined not to lose the number one spot though and has admitted that rankings don’t mean a thing when you are playing: "It proves to us that, no matter where you are ranked, you have to keep performing.” He added: "Opposing teams see us a bit differently now. Maybe they turn up desperately wanting to beat us, and we have to react to that."
The middle order batsman has been in good form and seems as though he is settled coming in at number five. Bell is certainly a flair player that likes to play his shots, something that batting a bit lower down the order allows him to do when the team are playing well. He also has the ability to grind out an innings if required.
The Warwickshire man believes that the motivation skills of Andy Flower could play a massive part in the remainder of the series. "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.
The second Test from Headingly gets underway next Thursday and it is sure to be another superb five days of Test cricket.
By Guest Author.
By Guest Author.
With more than 70 ODI caps to his name, you can no longer call Ravi Bopara a novice in the international game.
However, if you ask those who regularly see him train or play for his County, they will tell you that we have not yet seen the best of the 27-year-old on the world stage. He has all the attributes and technical ability required to challenge at the very top, both with the bat and with the ball.
But, while the selectors have seen him as a Test player in the making, there is something about pulling on a white England shirt that causes him to lose form. His 72 ODI caps compared to just 12 Test matches spread over five years is evidence of this.
Now, of course, the jump from domestic to international cricket is a significant one, but, for a player with such skill, it was frustrating to see him fail to replicate his domestic achievements in Tests.
However, his form in the recent one-day series with Australia suggests Bopara is finally starting to believe he belongs in the England side, raising hopes that he will take that into the upcoming Test series with South Africa.
Bopara averaged 91 with the bat throughout the 4-0 rout, including a match winning 82 at the Oval in the second game, as well as taking four wickets in the crucial middle stages of the Australia innings.
It is not before time, but a confidence appears to have gripped Bopara that has finally allowed him to fulfill his potential. However, proof of that will only be found in his performances against a far superior South Africa side, later this month.
"The lad's a talented performer," said England coach Graham Gooch. "He's had a lot of chances, been in and out, done well at times and struggled at times. "I think he's finding himself now, he's maturing with age. He's not old - the prime for a batsman is 25 to 35 and he's 27.”
England decided to rest off-spinner, Graeme Swann, for the remaining two matches of the one-day series against Australia, with James Tredwell added to the squad. Kent spinner, Tredwell, won the last of his five ODI caps in the World Cup in March 2011. He provided cover for Samit Patel.
Swann had complained of discomfort in his right elbow, and England gave him the opportunity to recuperate, ahead of the Test series against South Africa, which starts on July 19. "We had earmarked the fourth and fifth matches in this series as an opportunity to rest Graeme, regardless of the result at Edgbaston, as we have to consider our preparations for the Investec Test series, later this month," said national selector, Geoff Miller. "Graeme has some pain in his elbow at the moment, and we feel that an extra week's rest will allow his elbow to settle."
Meanwhile, Chris Woakes continued to deputise for Jade Dernbach, who had been ruled out of the rest of the series with a side strain. The Warwickshire seamer was in the squad for the third ODI at Edgbaston, but missed out on the chance to play on his home ground, due to the weather.
Despite the changes to the original squad, Miller believed England would have enough quality to seal a victory over their old rivals, and the current betting line agrees. "We have played some very good cricket in the last week to lead this NatWest Series 2-0, and will need to continue that form if we are to win our seventh straight series on home soil," he added.
England would wrap the series up with a victory at Chester-le-Street, on Saturday, ahead of the final contest at Old Trafford, on July 10. The latest odds indicate that a draw is the most likely result, across the series as a whole, coming in at 6/4 in the bookmaker’s window.