Interview: England batsman Ian Bell

Ahead of the second Ashes Test at Lord's on Thursday, Sports Mole catches up with England's number five batsman Ian Bell.

Along with James Anderson, Ian Bell played a key role as England got this summer's Ashes series against Australia off to a winning start at Trent Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

With the home side in need of runs, Bell, batting at number five, kept his concentration to produce a knock of 109 runs, which in turn helped his side win through by a 14-run margin.

There are just two days to go before the sides meet again at Lord's and with that in mind, Sports Mole spoke with the 31-year-old, who is also a ESPNcricinfo columnist, to look back at events in Nottingham as well as the forthcoming Test encounter in London.

On a personal level, where does your century in the second innings at Trent Bridge rank alongside your other performances for England?
"In terms of the Ashes cricket that I have played so far it would definitely be number one. There have been a couple of innings similar to that - India a couple of years ago at Trent Bridge for example. It was the same situation because we needed to get runs on the board to give our bowlers the opportunity to get 10 wickets. [The performance against Australia] is right up there, without doubt."

Ian Bell celebrates scoring a century against Australia at Trent Bridge.© PA Photos

How did it feel to have played such a big role in an Ashes victory?
"It's amazing. Every Test match, whether it is The Ashes or not, you're trying to put a performance together that can help win a Test match or save one. The more you play, you realise that is what you want to do for your teammates - that is the satisfaction you get. In terms of the dressing room it was my turn to do it this week, but with the quality that we have, someone else can do it this week coming up. It was a brilliant day and an amazing match to play in so to have a big role was special."

It was actually your first century in three home Ashes series. Heading into the summer, was it something that you were looking to put right?
"Definitely. 2005 seems a long time ago now and as a youngster, when I look back then, I probably wasn't ready for Test cricket. It was a good eye-opener as to what Test cricket was all about though. That Australian side of '05 was loaded with world-class legends of the game.

"The last series in England I only came in for the third, fourth and fifth Tests, so it was nice to start off a series this time on the right foot. In my last innings in Australia I got a century as well so I've got two in two Test matches, which is a nice place to be in. I didn't really worry too much about what had happened in the past. The only thing that was important in the lead-up to this Ashes was that first match at Trent Bridge."

What was the tension like inside the dressing room at lunch on day five? You didn't have a lot of runs to play with, did you?
"Obviously in tight situations there are going to be a few nerves flying around, but it was a remarkably calm place really. Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and David Saker made a real conscious effort to ensure that the environment was good. The guys believed that although we did not have a lot of runs, we could create an opportunity. That's what we were driving for - a mistake, a great catch or a great delivery. We were sure we could create one of them in those 21 runs, even though it is easy to go chasing things at a time like that. It's good to see that it was calm in the dressing room."

How much importance as a squad did England place on getting off to a good start and winning the first Test? It's put you in a positive position, hasn't it?
"I've been involved in the England team for a while now and we always play our best cricket when we focus on what we have to do in the next game. That's how it was at Trent Bridge and it will be the same at Lord's. It's going to be an incredible series. I don't think there are going to be too many draws happening. They are going to be very competitive and very tough. We are going to have to play very well if we want to win the next game. It's been a great way to start the Ashes summer because it has got the attention of everyone now. I see the next four games being very close."

Ian Bell plays a shot on day three of The Ashes at Trent Bridge.© PA Photos

As a squad, has the win in Nottingham gone now? Is all the attention now fully on the upcoming days at Lord's?
"We have a team meeting today which I think is important because we can still learn some things. We'll talk about the things that we learnt about Australia. A few guys like Ashton Agar we hadn't seen much of before so it will be useful to discuss what we know about them now. We will put down a line after Trent Bridge and start preparing for a Lord's Test match - that is going to be as important as going in the nets."

Are you expecting a backlash from the Australians? After all, if you were to win at Lord's, it leaves them with a mountain to climb in terms of winning the series.
"I haven't really thought about it in that way. I'm just taking it a game at a time. We try as a group not to let any outside influences get involved or hamper the dressing room. We are focussed on getting our basics right. It's about each game as it comes, but even less than that. Whatever we do in the first hour on Thursday morning, whether it is bat or bowl, we've got to make sure that we are on top. If we keep that in our minds we tend to start to play good cricket. If we start looking elsewhere and what potentials are around the corner, that is when we lose our focus and go away from what we do well."

The history books would make Australia favourites for this one because England have only beaten them at Lord's once in the last 75 years. Is there any particular reason why the Aussies have been so dominant there?
"Lord's, for me, is the number one place to play in world cricket. All the away teams that come to England always look forward to playing at Lord's. It's the kind of place that makes people play that little bit better. That type of occasion can get the best out of people. The Australia team for a long time were so good and for them to play there is huge, as it is for everyone. As a group we think that this Australia team is a very good side and we know that we will have to play to our best to beat them. It's something that we are really looking forward to."

You were closer than most when Stuart Broad's edge was missed by umpire Aleem Dar on day three at Trent Bridge. Did you see him nick at the time and was he right, in your opinion, to stay put?
"Everyone has their right to wait for the umpire to make a decision. From the non-striker's end, it was a spinner, the keeper was stood up and it was all done in quick time. There wasn't very much space between the nick and the glove. It's all very well and good seeing it on slow motion replays, but in real time it was quick.

Ian Bell and Stuart Broad leave the field at the conclusion of day three at Trent Bridge.© PA Photos

"For me, Aleem Dar is one of the best umpires that you can get in the middle. If he is not number one in the world then he is number two. Even the best umpires make mistakes, but I'm glad he is involved in our series because he is one of the best. I honestly didn't think that [Broad] had nicked it at that time. Obviously, in hindsight you can see on the replays that he did."

Just how good is James Anderson at the moment? Is there anyone in world cricket that you would swap him for?
"No way - I'm glad he's on my team! That is where he is right now. Regardless of the conditions he gets, he's got the tricks now to bowl in all conditions. He leads our attack well and communicates to all the other bowlers, passing on information, which puts us in a good place as a bowling unit. He was sensational in that last game really. To get 10 wickets on that surface was an incredible effort. He's doing incredibly well, but we have other quality seamers. It was mine and Jimmy's game at Trent Bridge, but it could certainly be two other people's at Lord's."

Your home ground, Edgbaston, wasn't awarded an Ashes Test match this time around. How disappointing is it that you won't get to turn out in front of your home supporters?
"We've been lucky to have the ICC Champions Trophy at the Edgbaston recently which was great and that went really well for the club. Obviously you want to play [at your home ground as much as possible]. Edgbaston now has incredible facilities - the dressing rooms and viewing areas are as good as anywhere in world cricket. You want to play at the best venues and Edgbaston has all that from the playing side of things. It is a little bit disappointing, but we are very lucky that we have a number of great Test venues now. It's good to get around the country as well."

Ian Bell will be writing exclusively throughout the Ashes series for espncricinfo.com.

Steven Finn, James Anderson and Graeme Swann celebrate against South Africa.
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