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Ian Bell has been in sublime touch with 500 runs during the Ashes. His performances - three centuries and two fifties in eight innings - have been a key factor behind England retaining the urn and have put him as a prime contender for the Man-of-the-Series award. However, as Vic Marks recalls while writing for the Guardian, the going wasn't always this easy for England's current go-to batsman.
Now as he walks to the crease he is a source of reassurance. He has shared vital partnerships with Pietersen, in which their contrasting methods have been highly complementary - "he cuts, I pull; he flicks it; I drive it" - but it is Bell who has suggested the greater permanence and who has produced more runs. The opposite was the case when they started their Ashes careers together back in 2005. The brash Pietersen revelled in the atmosphere straightaway; Bell was not so sure. In five Tests in 2005 he scored 171 runs and 124 of those came in two innings at Old Trafford. The Australians patronised him, calling him the "Sherminator". Adam Gilchrist behind the stumps talked through him to the bowler at the other end, "Jeez, Shane, I've never seen anyone try to play you like this before", and Bell felt pretty small.
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