Bell defends England preparation
by CricketArchive staff reporter

Player:IR Bell, IT Botham
Event:England in Australia 2006/07

DateLine: 26th November 2006


England batsman Ian Bell Saturday rejected suggestions his side was "undercooked" going into the Ashes series, as the tourists teetered on the brink of a first Test thrashing by Australia at Brisbane's Gabba.


Bell, whose half-century was the England batting's sole source of resistance to another Australian onslaught on day three of the one-sided opening Test, conceded the tourists faced a massive task to salvage a draw in Brisbane. He admitted surprise at Australia's decision not to enforce the follow-on after England managed just 157 runs in reply to the home side's 602 for nine declared and said his team could only chip away at a lead that had ballooned to 626 by stumps.


"There's still a lot of cricket to be played and we're going to have to bat really well in the next two days to get anywhere near saving this game," he said. Bell added he did not think a lack of preparation was a factor in England's poor performance, saying most of the touring party played in the ICC Champions Trophy in India last month. "It wasn't that long ago since we were in the ICC tournament, so I don't see how we could have squeezed more preparation in," Bell said. "Probably 10 of the 16 of us over here were in the ICC Champions Trophy."


BellÂ’s remarks came after England legend Ian Botham said the tourists' lack of game time Down Under and defensive selections had left them "ill-prepared for a grueling Ashes' defence" in Australia.


England played only three matches on tour before facing Australia, a one-dayer against the Prime Minister's XI, a 14-a-side game against New South Wales and a three-day match against South Australia.


Botham said only the South Australian match counted as serious preparation as it was the tourists' sole first-class outing. "I think they're undercooked," England's former champion all-rounder told Channel Nine. "They only played one warm-up game and then a 14-a-side game. I just don't think it's enough."


Botham also took aim at England coach Duncan Fletcher for his conservative response to the absence of star players, Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones and Marcus Trescothick. He said Fletcher had been "defensive" in selecting spinner Ashley Giles over the more attacking Monty Panesar and including wicketkeeper Geraint Jones to shore up the batting line-up ahead of in-form gloveman Chris Read.


"Chris Read is unlucky. He averaged 42 in Test cricket last year and has been left out in the cold," Botham said. "They've said he didn't play very well in the ICC Trophy but unless I'm mistaken England didn't play very well in the ICC Trophy. And Monty Panesar I believe is the best finger spinner in world cricket. He gets turn, he gets massive bounce and to win Test matches, yes you need to get runs, but at the end of the day you have to take 20 wickets."


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