IAN Bell knows from personal experience that Test series victories in New Zealand must be earned the hard way.
The general assumption is that a resurgent England - after their historic Test success in India, their improved one-day international series performance there and wins in both limited-overs formats here - should brush aside New Zealand and take an early confidence boost for their year of back-to-back Ashes to come.
Bell, naturally, is hoping that optimism proves well-placed. He knows too, though, that New Zealand are stubborn and able opponents on home ground. His first taste of the international environment, as a teenager back in 2002, was as injury cover on a tour which saw England lose their 1-0 lead in the final Test in Auckland and have to settle for a drawn series. Six years later, Bell’s unbeaten second-innings half-century could not save England in the first Test in Hamilton where they were bowled out for just 110.
He completed the fightback, however, alongside captain Andrew Strauss with a second-innings century in the third match in Napier where England won by 121 runs to prevail 2-1 in the end.
As Alastair Cook’s tourists practised today before their only warm-up match, a four-day fixture against a New Zealand XI, which started in Queenstown last night, Bell made it clear it is no foregone conclusion that England will simply sweep their hosts aside. “We’ve still got to earn it,” he said. “It’s hard to win a Test match; you can’t just pitch up and win. On the last tour I came here, we lost in Hamilton - and didn’t do our basics right (there). We have to do that this tour.
“We know there’s some real quality in that New Zealand team, and we have to keep a lot of pressure on them from the first ball.”