Bell defends captain after England collapse

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Ian Bell admits England are bang on course to lose the Investec series but insists captain Alastair Cook is not to blame.

England were powerless at Headingley to stop Angelo Mathews’ and Dhammika Prasad’s career-best peformances seemingly take the second Test away from them.

Mathews made 160 in Sri Lanka’s second-innings 457, and then England stumbled to 57 for five at stumps on day four in pursuit of 350 and what might have been a highest successful run chase in their history.

Instead, Sri Lanka are set for their first series victory in this country - and their hosts for defeat at the first attempt under the new guard of coach Peter Moores.

Bell says that is unlikely to happen today when Sri Lanka will be strong favourites for a 1-0 victory.

“Yes, it looks like we’re going to lose the Test series,” he said. “In a two-match series, you can have one bad day and lose it. If this was a five-match series, we could fight our way back in - but we can’t. That’s the reality.”

Cook has no official vice-captain - but should he decide he has had enough of leading the team, Bell will be at the head of the list of candidates to replace him. He does not believe that is on the agenda.

Asked whether he expects Cook to stay on, Bell said: “Absolutely, absolutely, no doubt.”