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There was a time when I thought that instead of playing Test Cricket; Ian Bell should be oiled up, naked and playing his cover drive in a giant birdcage at parties. It was just such a perfect looking shot, one that might have been designed with a Keatsian obsession with beauty. As for bringing him many runs in Test cricket, that looked less likely. The birdcage seemed the best way to go.
That was the old Ian Bell, the nervous Ian Bell, the Ian Bell who one minute could play a cover drive so good that Leonard Cohen would write it a song and then next minute miss a straight ball that would make his mother consider changing her name.
The new Ian Bell is something else: when he's in his special happy place, the ball dances off his pretty blade like a butterfly on a beautiful spring day. He's almost impregnable to danger. Technically sound, mentally tight, and easy. No matter who he plays against, when he's in that magic mode, it looks like you could fire bricks, missiles or copies of 50 Shades of Grey at him, and nothing would get through him.
Since 2010 he's averaged over 60 from a guy who was dropped in 2009.
The old Ian Bell never seems too far away though. Yapping at the heels of the improved model and occasionally biting him.
Everyone has their own theory on the run out against India at Trent Bridge. But one thing that can't be denied was that Ian Bell had a massive lapse of concentration that caused a stupid mistake. In the UAE for the series against Pakistan, he batted like someone threatened to burn all his video games if he made runs. And yesterday, well. Ian Bell's stroke from yesterday should be shot behind a curtain and fed to unfussy dog.
It was disgusting to look at, it's only redeeming feature was that Ian Bell didn't fall over playing it. There is no way to describe this in words and do its awfulness justice.
If Simon Katich, Phil Hughes or Shiv Chanderpaul had played this shot it would have been awful looking, and mocked, but people would have forgotten the image soon enough. For Ian Bell to play a shot that was cricket's equivalent of placing a plastic bag of vomit in the washing machine, it was so much worse. It's just there, in my brain, wildly swinging with no footwork near my primary somatosensory cortex.
No one can keep their beauty forever, but you don't have to give it away with a wild unbalanced swing like that. Belly, you're prettier than that.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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