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Ashes: Ian Bell focused on England win in Melbourne

Venue: Melbourne Dates: 26-30 December Start time: 2330 GMT on 25 Dec
Coverage: Live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; TMS highlights online (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4


Melbourne prepares for Boxing Day showdown

Ian Bell says where he bats for England is irrelevant as long as they win the fourth Ashes Test against Australia.

In-form Bell has been tipped to move up the order to five for the crucial match in Melbourne which begins on Boxing Day, with Paul Collingwood struggling.

Bell said: "It's always nice to get moved up the order [but] I've had no discussions about it.

"But whether it happens or not is irrelevant for this series, as long as we're winning the next two Tests."

He added: "That's the most important thing to me, contributing to this team winning the Ashes."

Bell dismisses talk of batting order change

England skipper Andrew Strauss said: "I'm not going to 100% rule it out - but I'd be surprised if we went down that route.

"It is the time to go back to what has worked very well for us on this tour, and Belly has been a fine example of a number six batsman coming in and taking the game away from the opposition.

"He's in very good form and I can appreciate why people are clamouring for him to go up the order. But I'm very happy with what he is doing down there."

England and Australia are currently level in the series at 1-1, after the hosts claimed an emphatic victory in the third match.

Bell's first-innings 53 in England's 267-run loss in Perth was his fourth successive Test half-century.

He said he was excited about the prospect of playing in front of a record 90,000-plus crowd at the MCG on Sunday as England look to get their Ashes defence back on track.

"Playing here in Melbourne is something you look forward to - a Boxing Day Test match is always special," he said.

"We're particularly excited about playing on one of the best grounds in the world and trying to put right what we did wrong in Perth.

"I think we've played some very good cricket since we've been here. We had a blip in Perth - we knew Australia at some point would play some great cricket and have some great individual performances.

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"We've had a good opportunity to have a sit down and talk about what happened in Perth... in Melbourne, I'm sure we can put right what went wrong."

Team-mate Kevin Pietersen said England will be more prepared for Australia's swing bowling after Mitchell Johnson took nine wickets in Perth.

"I just don't think we prepared for it," Pietersen told BBC Radio 5 live. "The ball swings in England in summer so swing bowling's not a problem.

"We didn't bat as well as we could have [in Perth] - we understand the reasons and a had good thrash in the team meeting about the reasons," he said.

"We've come to grips with that and will be a lot better prepared come Melbourne. We've had great success against swing bowlers in the past."

Vaughan rips into Aussie top order

Pietersen also defended the under-fire Collingwood, saying: "We support players who are not going through the best of times, because it happens to us all.

"We all know Colly's someone who, when his back is up against the wall, scores runs. I'll be very surprised if we're not 100-3 this week and he gets us a big hundred and in a really good position - I've seen it so many times before."

Meanwhile, the curator at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has hinted England will have nothing to fear from his pitch.

Cameron Hodgkins says he has had no directive from Cricket Australia on what type of surface to prepare for the match - and that it should pose fewer problems than the Waca did in Perth.

"[The MCG] is more a wicket that offers a little bit up front and is quite flat towards the end of the match," he told BBC Sport.


"On the Waca's worst day they'd still be faster and bouncier than anything that we'd turn out.

"We traditionally are quite slow on the first day, normally, and that probably causes the most difficulty for batsmen who want to get on with it.

"So patience is normally a key ingredient here. If you don't have that you can be four or five down early on, and the game's over."

England have been boosted by the news that bowler James Anderson is expected to be fit for Melbourne, despite feeling stiffness in his side after the match in Perth.

England (from): AJ Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, IR Bell, MJ Prior (wkt), GP Swann, TT Bresnan, CT Tremlett, JM Anderson, A Shahzad, ST Finn.

Australia (from): RT Ponting (captain), PJ Hughes, SR Watson, MJ Clarke, MEK Hussey, SPD Smith, BJ Haddin (wkt), MG Johnson, RJ Harris, BW Hilfenhaus, PM Siddle, MA Beer, UT Khawaja.

Umpires: A Dar (Pkn) and T Hill (NZ)

Third umpire: M Erasmus (SA)

Match referee: R Madugalle (SL)

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see also
Justin Langer's column
22 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Thursday's Ashes gossip column
23 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Pietersen learnt from Perth struggle
22 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Sledging not an issue - Pietersen
22 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Cook backs under-fire Collingwood
21 Dec 10 |  England
Skipper Ponting expects to play
23 Dec 10 |  Australia
Flower hints Finn may be rested
20 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
Strauss will not rule out changes
19 Dec 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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The Independent Strauss confident England are ready for MCG - 2 hrs ago
Daily Star Strauss: We will be the Ashes smashes - 4 hrs ago
Belfast Telegraph Ring the changes to get best out of Bell - 4 hrs ago
CricInfo Big-game Bell ready to make his mark - 11 hrs ago
ITN Bell in the dark over Ashes batting order - 13 hrs ago navigation


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