Bell savours his finest innings
Ian Bell will face stronger bowling attacks than Somerset's in the months to come, but it will be hard for him to play any better than he did at Lord's in guiding Warwickshire to the Clydesdale Bank 40 title with a perfectly compiled 107. He rated it as his best one-day innings for county or country and it was an ideal way for him to finish a season hit by injury which ruled him out of the Pakistan series.
Warwickshire were wobbling on 39 for 3 when Jonathan Trott was removed by the impressive Ben Phillips, but Bell took everything in his stride. It has taken a little longer than some would have liked, but he is now producing batsmanship of the highest order on a consistent basis. Four days earlier he struck a vital Championship hundred to help Warwickshire maintain their Division One status and barely put a foot wrong during his 95-ball effort on Saturday.
About the only piece of timing that wasn't spot on came when he launched Mark Turner down the ground for what Bell thought was the winning boundary, only to see it stop dead in the turf in front of the pavilion. "It came out the screws," Bell said, "but plugged like one of my seven irons." In the next over he drove straight to mid-off with the scores level, but at least his departure allowed him an individual standing ovation. It was the least he deserved.
"In terms of one-day cricket I probably haven't played better than that," he said. "It's a shame I didn't see it right to the end, but I enjoyed what I achieved today."
Bell was also captaining the side, in place of Ian Westwood who couldn't even make the team, and leading his team to victory at Lord's ticked off another of Bell's ambitions as a cricketer. "It gave me a little more determination to be there at the end," he said. "I've really enjoyed the experience of captaining. I feel very lucky to captain Warwickshire, it's something I've wanted to do for a long time - especially to lead the side out at Lord's.
"Ian Westwood did a great job all season but it's a shame that when me and Trotty are available it makes our batting particularly strong and it's very honest of him to leave himself out.
"I grew up watching Warwickshire. I was lucky enough growing up when they were winning a lot of trophies. We probably haven't done ourselves justice in the last couple of years, though we've been a good side."
However, Bell wasn't the only star performer at Lord's. The chance for Bell to guide a steady run chase was set up by Imran Tahir's 5 for 41 as his legspin ripped out Somerset's middle and lower order after they'd been well placed on 172 for 3. Tahir is moving to Hampshire next season, but Bell was quick to praise his match-winning qualities.
"Imran has done it all season to be fair," he said. "We don't get him back next season which is massively disappointing to us as players as well as to supporters. I think he's pushing 100 wickets in all cricket so we'll miss him massively. To come on and turn a game like that, there's not many people in world cricket who could do it."
Somerset's Tahir-inspired collapse and Bell's outstanding innings left Marcus Trescothick with a feeling that has been all-too-familiar this season. For the third time Somerset were left in second place, following near-misses in the Friends Provident t20 and County Championship, to end the summer with no silverware to show for their efforts.
"Any time you lose is going to be tough, but three times in a season is pretty devastating for boys," Trescothick admitted. "They are all gutted as you could imagine. It's very tough to take, but we have to learn some lessons from what is happening.
"There is a reason why it happens. You only have to look at the two guys from Warwickshire; Imran Tahir getting five to take the heart out of the game then Ian Bell showing the world-class player he is. That's what you've got to do if you want to be the best, you have to show it at times. We've got to improve and try to emulate that."
However, even in the aftermath of another shattering loss Trescothick was adamant his team have emerged with credit from the season. "We are very proud of what we've done and achieved as cricketers," he said. "To be probably the most consistent team and put ourselves in the position to win three trophies, we could be sat here completely different. Obviously we're not, but we've still got to walk out of here with a lot of pride and passion about what we've done and what we can still achieve."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo