Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Ian Bell leaps to defend off-form Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen has come in for a lot of criticism after another cheap dismissal

Ian Bell has backed his England team-mate Kevin Pietersen after he got himself caught out while trying to reach his 50 with a six.

Pietersen's self-inflicted dismissal serves to highlight what a poor tournament the South African-born batsman is having as Australia strengthen their grip on claiming their first Ashes series since 2007.

Bell, who managed to hit a half century of his own as the tourists chase Australia's total of 504, said: "Kevin will be as frustrated as anyone. but I'd rather have him in my team than play against him.

"Okay, he might do that every so often – but win you a game from nowhere as well.

"He does things that a lot of other players can't."

England arrived Down Under with a fourth successive Ashes series in their sights.

Bell, who made a classy 60 alongside Ben Stokes (72no) before edging Peter Siddle behind, admits he is "hugely disappointed."

"Coming out here, we had some real excitement," Bell said.

"There was a massive challenge ahead, and that's what you play the game for.

"But I don't think we've shown anybody the kind of cricket we can potentially play.

"Hats off to Australia – they've batted better than us, caught better than us and bowled better than us."

It was heartening but also frustrating for England's supporters to see Bell and Stokes, with his maiden Test half-century in his second match, show the tourists could previously have done so much better.

"We showed some fight with the bat when we went out there," added Bell.

Australia batsman Shane Watson joined in on the debate, and balances the Pietersen equation in similar terms to those of Bell.

"He always takes on the game... that's the way he plays," Watson said.

"This series hasn't fallen his way exactly... he lives and dies by the sword at certain times.

"At the moment, it hasn't really come off for him. It's just not his time exactly at the moment, and it's coming our way."

Watson had licence to attack with impunity before lunch during England's second innings, and duly did so – before George Bailey weighed in even more forcefully by smashing James Anderson's final over for a joint world-record 28 runs.

For Watson, so often an Anderson victim in past series, it was a rewarding experience to be able to dominate an England attack minus the injured Stuart Broad.

"A lot of us have played all these guys a lot over the last couple of series, and we're starting to get closer to knowing how not to allow them into the game.

"We've had quite a few bad experiences against Jimmy Anderson – I've certainly been a part of that... so to see that, it's always nice to see the shoe on the other foot.

"We've been at their mercy at times, so it certainly provided a bit of enjoyment for us."

England gave a glimpse of their capabilities at last to extend their fading Ashes hopes by a few hours, leaving Ian Bell all the more frustrated at what will almost certainly prove too little too late.

There was a sense of merely delaying the inevitable, albeit in style, as Ben Stokes and Bell took the attack back to Australia with defiant half-centuries on the fourth evening of the third Test at the WACA.

Set a world-record 504 to win – or alternatively to bat more than five sessions to salvage a stalemate – after Watson's brutal runs total of 103 had taken the hosts to 369 for six declared, England managed to reach stumps on 251 for five.

The statistical resonance – they were bowled out for the exact same score in their first innings – highlighted one of the failings which has seen Alastair Cook's team concede a 2-0 lead already, and apparently put themselves on course for another defeat here.

Should that be confirmed, the Ashes will be lost before Christmas and England will play for pride in Melbourne and Sydney.

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