DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – England’s Ian Bell is desperately looking to do some decent batting on a turning Dubai pitch after featuring in two humbling test defeats against Pakistan.
Bell has scores of 0, 4, 29, 3 in the four innings and has fallen to star offspinner Saeed Ajmal three times. Ajmal’s 10-wicket haul lifted Pakistan to 10-wicket win in the first test before he added seven more in Pakistan’s convincing 72-run victory at Abu Dhabi last week.
Pakistan will be looking for its first ever clean sweep against England when the third test begins on Friday.
“I’m desperate as ever to get some big runs in this last test,” Bell said.
“We are all preparing and training as hard as possible to make sure we get it right in the third (test).”
Bell will be fighting with teammates Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan to keep their places in the playing XI after all three combined for only 94 runs in the two tests.
It was not only Ajmal who made England look vulnerable against spinners. Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman’s 6-25 shot out Andrew Strauss’ team for a poor 72 at Abu Dhabi — England’s lowest ever total in a test against Pakistan.
“Look, it’s been really tough,” Bell said. “We know over here and especially in the subcontinent the hardest part is starting your innings.
“Generally things get a little bit easier the longer you are there, unfortunately I’ve got some balls early in my innings that have got me out.”
Both Ajmal and Rehman have grabbed 29 wickets. Add in the five by offspinner Mohammad Hafeez and England has lost 34 of 40 wickets to slow bowlers in the series.
“When you’re playing quality spin, it’s important to stay there for a period of time,” Bell said.
“You lose two to three wickets in periods and then you go quite flat, that’s what we’ve been caught into.
“I think we found it particularly hard to start our innings. Unfortunately none of us in this series have got past those first 20-25 deliveries.”
England has not won a test series against any of the big three Asian teams — India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — in the subcontinent for a decade. It has failed miserably in subcontinent-like conditions in this Gulf country after Pakistan was forced to choose offshore venues for ‘home’ series due to security concerns back home.
“If you look at English cricket history we’ve never played great cricket in the subcontinent,” Bell said.
“We’ve started to play very well everywhere else in the world and this is the last little bit of hurdle that we need to get over.
“We are working hard as ever, we are looking at areas that we can improve mentally and technically. There’s no doubt, we are all hungry enough.”
England will have two more chances to remove its subcontinent jinx this year — playing against Sri Lanka and India. Bell felt it was high time he and the batsmen showed progress against spinners on turning tracks and support their bowlers.
“There’s a lot of cricket in the subcontinent coming up and if you want to stay No. 1 in the world then we have to improve and get some runs because our bowlers have been fantastic out here — taking 20 wickets — so its up to the batting unit to give them support.”