England look to improve despite Australia victory

Ian Bell: Man of the match. Picture: Reuters
Ian Bell: Man of the match. Picture: Reuters
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A COMMANDING win over old rivals Australia may have got England’s Champions Trophy campaign off to a satisfying start, but Ian Bell believes that there is still room for improvement.

A 48-run success at Edgbaston on Saturday not only improves the home side’s chances of progressing from Group A, but also represents an early psychological advantage ahead of this summer’s Ashes.

And Bell had further reason for cheer after collecting the man-of-the-match honours for his hard-working innings of 91. That innings – the game’s highest by 36 runs – set England on their way to 269 for six, a total that they defended with aplomb, led by James Anderson’s three for 30. Yet, at the halfway stage, there was some frustration that England had not posted a winning mark north of 300.

Bell and captain Alastair Cook’s opening stand of 57 came at a rapid rate and another partnership of 111 with Jonathan Trott laid the foundation for some middle-order fireworks that failed to materialise.

“I think after 35 overs we were looking for 300,” said Bell. “If we can set a platform of 170-odd for two, most times we’re going to get past 300. Obviously it’s a little disappointing not to get that, but I think potentially that was still in our sights to get 300.

“It was an extremely dry pitch for here, a lot more so than we normally play on, and I think upfront certainly was a lot easier with the new ball.

“It just got harder and harder as the innings went on and it wasn’t easy to hit the ball at the death. It wasn’t the easiest pitch to smack boundaries in the middle to late overs.”

Bell’s assessment of the conditions in Birmingham show the level of consideration that must go into setting a target, and the result proves that England’s calculations at a familiar venue were spot on.

Home advantage now applies for the remainder of the tournament too, but Bell was quick to point out that would only come into play as long as the players maintained their focus and concentration.

“We certainly have an advantage being at home, but really that counts for nothing because you still have to go out and play good cricket,” he said. “New Zealand just showed that in the one-day series (which England lost 2-1). If we don’t play to our potential, there are seven other very good teams here that could go on to win the 
competition.”

England’s next group match sees them face Sri Lanka at The Oval on Thursday and this gives lead spinner Graeme Swann further time to recover from the back injury that ruled him out of the Australia encounter.

In yesterday’s other Group A match, New Zealand secured a narrow, a one-wicket victory against Sri Lanka in Cardiff.

In what was a low scoring but thrilling match, New Zealand scored 140 in 36.3 overs in reply to Sri Lanka’s 138 in 37.5 overs with the Kiwis securing victory in the 37th over.