ENGLAND cricketer Ian Bell admits he and his fellow batsmen have failed their bowling colleagues too often this year after spin again proved their undoing on day two of the first Test in Sri Lanka.
Woefully off-form Bell and out-of-sorts twirler Graeme Swann were the tourists’ unlikely star performers on an eventful day that saw 17 wickets fall and left Sri Lanka 209 runs ahead in Galle.
Bell’s 52 and some robust tail-end hitting helped England salvage 193 from their first innings, which had disintegrated at the hands of slow left-armer Rangana Herath, who took six wickets.
That still afforded Sri Lanka a 125-run lead before their second innings, but Swann, who failed to claim a scalp in the hosts’ first stint, took four wickets after tea to restrict them to 84-5 at stumps.
A productive start this morning will leave England with some hope of avoiding defeat, but Bell knows they cannot afford to fail with the bat again – as they did earlier this year against Pakistan.
“It’s a real shame and it’s not through lack of effort but it’s disappointing not to back up our bowlers. We definitely let them down, no doubt,” said Bell.
“Our bowlers have been outstanding again for the fourth Test this winter. What we wanted to do was to give those bowlers a good rest, like we did in Australia [in the 2010-11 Ashes series]. In a way we let them down not to give them that time.”
Paceman James Anderson claimed his 12th career five-for, taking two more wickets after Sri Lanka resumed their first innings on 289-8, the hosts ultimately reaching 318.
After opener Alastair Cook went lbw for nought, captain Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott put on a smart 40, before Herath entered the fray and bewildered those two, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Samit Patel and Bell.
England’s bowlers were less accommodating, however, in particular Swann, who claimed 4-28, including the crucial wicket of Mahela Jayawardene, late in the day.