England v Australia, NatWest Series, Chester-le-Street July 7, 2012

Loud shots land softly for Bell

Ian Bell's return to England's ODI side was not championed throughout the land but he is now liberated of his troubles over the winter and in some form to take on South Africa.
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There is something about Ian Bell that means even at the height of his game he will never quite make the earth shake. Bowlers will never feel bullied and spectators will rarely gasp in admiration. Sometimes it has to be admitted that readers might not even bother to read. It is his lot in life and he must put up with it. It cannot be denied, though, he is in the finest of form.

He made 69 before chopping on against Clint McKay, extending a run against Australia in the NatWest Series that had previously brought him 53, 41 and 75. His prowess was again apparent, but it is prowess largely without presence, the sort of classical approach that soothes the mind without ever quite quickening the pulse.

Well, grant him this: presence or no presence, the manner in which Bell has reclaimed his England one-day place is extraordinary, his graceful talent paraded time and again. England were preparing for life without him in one-day cricket and whatever people might claim in hindsight there were no protests at the gates. Nobody was especially passionate in arguing his case, neither in the media or the public at large. Somebody in Kings Norton might have shrugged a little in disappointment but revolution there was not.

Bell, though, retained his hunger. Beneath the forever boyish countenance, desire remains entrenched. Since Kevin Pietersen ditched one-day cricket for England three weeks ago and Bell took his chance to return with a century against West Indies at the Rose Bowl, he has scored 364 runs at 72.80 with one hundred and three fifties. He has become a final component of an England side who have extended their winning run in ODIs to nine. One Australian was heard talking about them as favourites for the World Cup in 2014/15, quite a shock for a country that has never won it.

Bell might never be the tough guy in the tattoo parlour, but at least now he can claim he is so menacing that Australian bowlers are breaking down the moment they set eyes on him.

"He is class, isn't he?" Alastair Cook, England's captain, said about Bell. "He is hard to bowl at because he can score 360 degrees. We are getting off to good starts which makes it easier. Kevin Pietersen is a world-class player but we have had to move on and people have had to step up to different roles.

"Bell is not unappreciated in our dressing room. The way he has played in the last two years is outstanding. He has worked so hard at his game, he is always first in the nets, and he is getting just rewards for it."

In that comeback innings against West Indies, Bell began with an effortless straight six, but played the shot in such considered fashion that he made the exceptional look routine. Perhaps deep inside himself he wanted it to be seen as a powerful, chest-out statement that he was back, but to the onlooker it did not quite feel like that.

Many of Bell's most dominant shots are understated, so perfectly constructed that they are almost taken for granted. They demand deeper contemplation. As Krusty The Clown once bemoaned in The Simpsons about something entirely different: "Aw crap, I said the soft part loud and the loud part soft". So it is with Bell in full flow: he flows so effortlessly that the loud shots land softly.

The observation on this website after that Rose Bowl innings that Bell's knock lacked the theatrical appeal of a Pietersen hundred brought howls of protest, much of it not fit to print. The howls, though, came entirely from Pietersen admirers, who felt without justification that their man had been slighted. Hardly anybody ever writes in Bell's defence. Perhaps they do not view things so emotionally and are out dog walking or spraying the roses.

Bell might never be the tough guy in the tattoo parlour, but at least after this innings he can claim he is so menacing that Australian bowlers are breaking down the moment they set eyes on him. Shane Watson and Brett Lee both pulled up with calf injuries and left the field, managing less than four overs between them. They might not play again this series.

Up on the hillside stood Lumley Castle where it was reported on a previous Ashes tour that Watson was afraid of ghosts. These days, Australia stay in Newcastle, but Bell may still walk before him at dead of night, his head clasped in the crook of his arm, haunting him for the rest of the series.

There were some fine shots for this Chester-le-Street crowd to savour: some fulsome drives through extra cover and serene clips off his legs. He chopped James Pattinson past David Hussey's fingertips on 21, but that was his only uncertain moment. It was another systematic innings in his orderly universe. His poise was a million miles away from his traumatic time against Saeed Ajmal in the UAE in the winter. He looks liberated, classical, ready to pit himself against South Africa in the contest to be the No. 1 Test side in the world. England can be grateful for that.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on July 10, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    @jackiethepen - My original post did not make it so I'm retyping it.Yes it's the 5th ODI since his recall - apologies for forgetting WI matches.I was dead against Bell coming back into the OD squad but his average was mediocre and his strike rate the worst of the current Eng batsmen.He had scored 1 100 in over 100 inns 1st time around so I think the stats backed up my concerns.I also thought Bell should have been dropped in the UAE (for a 5th bowler). Our batsmen were pathetic and Bell was the worst but even at the time I said that by dropping him now doesn't mean they can't bring him back in a series or 2 time. I praised him fully and unreservedly after the WI series and have said so far he is proving me wrong in the OD side so fair play to him.Just because I air my criticisms and don't go overboard about Bell doesn't make me a Bell hater.I want England to succeed and if I feel it is better with a certain player or without a certain player I'll say so and give my reasons for it

  • JG2704 on July 10, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    @jackiethepen - PS , RE " I would pretty much bet that on the basis of Bairstow's ONE good innings in ODIs you promoted him to all forms of the game" - No not at all. I have always wanted 5 batsman , Prior and 5 bowlers - even before the UAE series. Eng are too rigid to try that these days and would rather continue their so far fruitless search for a settled number 6. Bearing that in mind I'd go for Compton as a number 6 batsman but I'd say Bopara is nailed on for that spot. My favourite Eng player is probably Broad , but if he has an iffy game/period I'll admit it and I wouldn't try and straw clutch by mentioning a bit of fielding he did above someone taking a 5 for or scoring a 100 etc

  • jackiethepen on July 9, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    Have you been out of the country JG? This is Bell's fifth ODI game since his recall. He averages 72. The first game answers your own question because Bell came in with 10 stitches in his chin and a possible broken jaw and clobbered the Windies for 126. It wasn't a run chase but setting up a total good enough to defeat their big hitting line up. We won that game and the next when Bell got 53 and Cook 112. Just read a report in the Northern Echo which doesn't carry any baggage of being a Bell Nay-sayer. Gave him credit for the win. 'Success story' 'Bell set the tone for the England innings'. I would pretty much bet that on the basis of Bairstow's ONE good innings in ODIs you promoted him to all forms of the game. Yet you are niggardly in your praise of Bell. Why can't you be proud of how he has performed - for once? You ignored that Bell was messed around like no other batsman. Flower should have promoted Bell to open 18 months ago. You stand by your judgement to keep him out? Why?

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 9, 2012, 11:37 GMT

    Appreciate the comments/feedback - thanks guys. I withdraw my statement about "Bell being tooted as England's best no. 3". I do not have the luxury of Sky Sports etc. and therefore have to make do with highlights, which often focus/zoom-in on certain 'battles', so one of the key images in my mind of the 2005 Ashes was Bell being unable to pick Warne, and subsequently getting out to him no less than 3 times. But, as you guys rightly corrected, he was batting at 4. I think there was an article later, when Bell DID move to position 3, and the Aussies sledged a bit. Bell responded well, and I love players that do the talking with the bat/ball, not the media! Peace out.

  • JG2704 on July 9, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    @Pauline Griffiths/DavidHopps on (July 08 2012, 16:05 PM GMT) Personally I like Bell although I stand by my criticisms which I made of him at the time. I was dead against him coming back into the ODI side but that was because he was by and large awful when he changed from whites to blues - esp in terms of SR and his ave wasn't great either.And in the tests in UAE he was the worst of a bad bunch of batsman and I still felt they should have dropped him for an extra bowler. I still think 5 batsmen is the way to go vs SA but Bell has done well enough to cement his place for that series. Bell has done well since being recalled but I'm still not 100% confident of having the top 4 all in the same line up if we have to chase a big score. This is just 3 games into Bell's recall and 2 of them were comfortable run chases and the other one we'd have lost if it hadn't been for Morgan's acceleration.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 9, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    From my Perspective Bell has grown a lot under the leadership and influence of Strauss and Flower, Prior to 2009 I sometimes thought Bell didnt fullt understand his role and was frequently messed around by the management teams that couldnt decide on the best place to bat him. That said he doesnt come across as a premadonna like some players (Flintoff and KP)....In the End Bell is in a rich vein of form and is letting his batting do the talking, as soon as he has a few misses, the same old questions will be raised in the media.....I personally hoped that bell would have a good ODI summer and cement his ODI place and hes done that, and hes done that, hopefully this will continue into the later part of the summer.

  • me54321 on July 9, 2012, 2:35 GMT

    Perhaps fans who appreciate a player like Ian Bell tend to not feel the need to voice their opinions so loudly on message boards, while fans of players like Pietersen are somewhat more vocal and dare I say less able to appreciate good cricket (and therefore criticise players like Bell). When Bell is reaching the end of his career I expect there will be endless comments about what a great he was, and how it is a shame to see the end of such a wonderful career, much as there is/was with players like Dravid and Chanderpaul.

  • jackiethepen on July 8, 2012, 19:39 GMT

    Like Pauline Giffiths I am puzzled about THAT Ashes Series where Bell was touted as England's Best 3 (R_U_4_REAL_NICK) and made to look silly by Warne. In 2005 Bell was a rookie bat at 4. Warne got him out 3 times in 10 innings, so perhaps Warne has exaggerated his role in Bell's struggles in that Series. In 2006/7 Bell came in as a replacement for injured Vaughan so hardly touted as England's Best. Cook was also a last minute replacement for Trescothick who went home. Bell and Cook famously took on Warne in that Series (see celebrated video on YouTube) and Bell ended up with a respectable 4 50s and Warne only got him out twice in 10 innings. Warne is now one of Bell's biggest fans and calls him The Bellmeister. He has advocated Bell opening in ODIs and moving up the order in Tests. Bell is adored on his home patch both in the Warwickshire dressing room and playing for the Bears. That says a lot about his 'character' from those that know him best. Ricky Clarke nicknamed him Legend.

  • pom_don on July 8, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    @RandyOZ 'Bell will be crushed by the Saffers' well we will have to wait & see (unlike you I cannot tell the future) but in the meantime he has proved to be in a different league to the Aus batsmen. Having said that your predictions you made before this series so far have come to nought

  • on July 8, 2012, 16:28 GMT

    @ Pauline Thanks for your posts. If the most considered England cricket watchers have taken Bell to their hearts then that is totally deserved. You have argued an alternative view very persuasively.

    @ Real Nick Moderating of comments is outsourced at considerable expense. Sometimes the rush of posts makes perfect choices of what is accepted and what is not extremely problematic, if not impossible. The aim, as I see it, is to allow all views as long as they are argued fairly, intelligently and relevantly and junk those that are vindictive, irrelevent, socially unacceptable (eg racist) or illegal. We are committed to trying to develop such an atmosphere, widening debate yet seeking minimum standards from all of us, wriyters or respondents. I also get to see the comments which are junked (not many on this occasion as it happens) so I see the comments at their worst as well as their best.

  • JG2704 on July 10, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    @jackiethepen - My original post did not make it so I'm retyping it.Yes it's the 5th ODI since his recall - apologies for forgetting WI matches.I was dead against Bell coming back into the OD squad but his average was mediocre and his strike rate the worst of the current Eng batsmen.He had scored 1 100 in over 100 inns 1st time around so I think the stats backed up my concerns.I also thought Bell should have been dropped in the UAE (for a 5th bowler). Our batsmen were pathetic and Bell was the worst but even at the time I said that by dropping him now doesn't mean they can't bring him back in a series or 2 time. I praised him fully and unreservedly after the WI series and have said so far he is proving me wrong in the OD side so fair play to him.Just because I air my criticisms and don't go overboard about Bell doesn't make me a Bell hater.I want England to succeed and if I feel it is better with a certain player or without a certain player I'll say so and give my reasons for it

  • JG2704 on July 10, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    @jackiethepen - PS , RE " I would pretty much bet that on the basis of Bairstow's ONE good innings in ODIs you promoted him to all forms of the game" - No not at all. I have always wanted 5 batsman , Prior and 5 bowlers - even before the UAE series. Eng are too rigid to try that these days and would rather continue their so far fruitless search for a settled number 6. Bearing that in mind I'd go for Compton as a number 6 batsman but I'd say Bopara is nailed on for that spot. My favourite Eng player is probably Broad , but if he has an iffy game/period I'll admit it and I wouldn't try and straw clutch by mentioning a bit of fielding he did above someone taking a 5 for or scoring a 100 etc

  • jackiethepen on July 9, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    Have you been out of the country JG? This is Bell's fifth ODI game since his recall. He averages 72. The first game answers your own question because Bell came in with 10 stitches in his chin and a possible broken jaw and clobbered the Windies for 126. It wasn't a run chase but setting up a total good enough to defeat their big hitting line up. We won that game and the next when Bell got 53 and Cook 112. Just read a report in the Northern Echo which doesn't carry any baggage of being a Bell Nay-sayer. Gave him credit for the win. 'Success story' 'Bell set the tone for the England innings'. I would pretty much bet that on the basis of Bairstow's ONE good innings in ODIs you promoted him to all forms of the game. Yet you are niggardly in your praise of Bell. Why can't you be proud of how he has performed - for once? You ignored that Bell was messed around like no other batsman. Flower should have promoted Bell to open 18 months ago. You stand by your judgement to keep him out? Why?

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 9, 2012, 11:37 GMT

    Appreciate the comments/feedback - thanks guys. I withdraw my statement about "Bell being tooted as England's best no. 3". I do not have the luxury of Sky Sports etc. and therefore have to make do with highlights, which often focus/zoom-in on certain 'battles', so one of the key images in my mind of the 2005 Ashes was Bell being unable to pick Warne, and subsequently getting out to him no less than 3 times. But, as you guys rightly corrected, he was batting at 4. I think there was an article later, when Bell DID move to position 3, and the Aussies sledged a bit. Bell responded well, and I love players that do the talking with the bat/ball, not the media! Peace out.

  • JG2704 on July 9, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    @Pauline Griffiths/DavidHopps on (July 08 2012, 16:05 PM GMT) Personally I like Bell although I stand by my criticisms which I made of him at the time. I was dead against him coming back into the ODI side but that was because he was by and large awful when he changed from whites to blues - esp in terms of SR and his ave wasn't great either.And in the tests in UAE he was the worst of a bad bunch of batsman and I still felt they should have dropped him for an extra bowler. I still think 5 batsmen is the way to go vs SA but Bell has done well enough to cement his place for that series. Bell has done well since being recalled but I'm still not 100% confident of having the top 4 all in the same line up if we have to chase a big score. This is just 3 games into Bell's recall and 2 of them were comfortable run chases and the other one we'd have lost if it hadn't been for Morgan's acceleration.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 9, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    From my Perspective Bell has grown a lot under the leadership and influence of Strauss and Flower, Prior to 2009 I sometimes thought Bell didnt fullt understand his role and was frequently messed around by the management teams that couldnt decide on the best place to bat him. That said he doesnt come across as a premadonna like some players (Flintoff and KP)....In the End Bell is in a rich vein of form and is letting his batting do the talking, as soon as he has a few misses, the same old questions will be raised in the media.....I personally hoped that bell would have a good ODI summer and cement his ODI place and hes done that, and hes done that, hopefully this will continue into the later part of the summer.

  • me54321 on July 9, 2012, 2:35 GMT

    Perhaps fans who appreciate a player like Ian Bell tend to not feel the need to voice their opinions so loudly on message boards, while fans of players like Pietersen are somewhat more vocal and dare I say less able to appreciate good cricket (and therefore criticise players like Bell). When Bell is reaching the end of his career I expect there will be endless comments about what a great he was, and how it is a shame to see the end of such a wonderful career, much as there is/was with players like Dravid and Chanderpaul.

  • jackiethepen on July 8, 2012, 19:39 GMT

    Like Pauline Giffiths I am puzzled about THAT Ashes Series where Bell was touted as England's Best 3 (R_U_4_REAL_NICK) and made to look silly by Warne. In 2005 Bell was a rookie bat at 4. Warne got him out 3 times in 10 innings, so perhaps Warne has exaggerated his role in Bell's struggles in that Series. In 2006/7 Bell came in as a replacement for injured Vaughan so hardly touted as England's Best. Cook was also a last minute replacement for Trescothick who went home. Bell and Cook famously took on Warne in that Series (see celebrated video on YouTube) and Bell ended up with a respectable 4 50s and Warne only got him out twice in 10 innings. Warne is now one of Bell's biggest fans and calls him The Bellmeister. He has advocated Bell opening in ODIs and moving up the order in Tests. Bell is adored on his home patch both in the Warwickshire dressing room and playing for the Bears. That says a lot about his 'character' from those that know him best. Ricky Clarke nicknamed him Legend.

  • pom_don on July 8, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    @RandyOZ 'Bell will be crushed by the Saffers' well we will have to wait & see (unlike you I cannot tell the future) but in the meantime he has proved to be in a different league to the Aus batsmen. Having said that your predictions you made before this series so far have come to nought

  • on July 8, 2012, 16:28 GMT

    @ Pauline Thanks for your posts. If the most considered England cricket watchers have taken Bell to their hearts then that is totally deserved. You have argued an alternative view very persuasively.

    @ Real Nick Moderating of comments is outsourced at considerable expense. Sometimes the rush of posts makes perfect choices of what is accepted and what is not extremely problematic, if not impossible. The aim, as I see it, is to allow all views as long as they are argued fairly, intelligently and relevantly and junk those that are vindictive, irrelevent, socially unacceptable (eg racist) or illegal. We are committed to trying to develop such an atmosphere, widening debate yet seeking minimum standards from all of us, wriyters or respondents. I also get to see the comments which are junked (not many on this occasion as it happens) so I see the comments at their worst as well as their best.

  • on July 8, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    David, I would agree that on message boards there is a vocal minority who apparently have never forgiven Bell for his failure in the Ashes 05 and for these fans the jury is still out and nothing Bell does will ever change their minds. But not every cricket fan posts on message boards or responds to newspaper articles. As I said in my earliier reply, the vast majority of spectators respond very warmly to Bell when he plays well, and as Jackiethepen pointed out, he was voted by readers of The Cricketer as their most popular player of 2011. With little help or guidance from the media in that direction, it has to be said.

    And pundits and fans should surely by now have learned that "charisma" (however that is manifested) is no measure of success and in itself doesn't win games of cricket. Bell batting as he can is a pleasure to watch, and his performance over the last 2-3 years is one of the reasons England are doing so well.

  • mikey76 on July 8, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    When did Warne end this guys career Randy?? In the 06/07 ashes Bell was probably our best batsmen. His record home and away against SA is terrific too so its doubtfull he will be crushed as you say. You really do need to do your homework sometimes pal. Pauline I was being sarcastic, you rightly point out he has a good record overall against Pak, I dont think he has a weakness against any opposition. He put his demons against Australia to bed on the last tour.

  • on July 8, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    R_U_4_REAL_NICK - For whiich Ashes series was Bell touted as England's best #3? In the 2005 Ashes where he came badly unstuck he batted at 4. In the 06/07 Ashes, where England as a whole came badly unstuck, Bell did bat at 3 but was one of the few who came out with a modicum of credit, having the third hiighest average behind KP and Collingwood. Altho he didn't make a century he did make 4 x 50s and during that series began to get the measure of Warne.

  • on July 8, 2012, 13:10 GMT

    @jackiethepen I look forward to the day The Cricket Society has a website with comments. I will be there!

    You are totally right about criticism on The Guardian about Ian but that was primarily feedback criticism which I and others regularly if not always countered as any study of the pieces (a task for the Society perhaps) will prove. Such feedback criticism surely justifies my contention that he is not widely appreciated. The Cricket Society has much to commend it but capturing the nation;s mood is noit one of them. You are entirely misrepresenting my pieces over the past seven years. I am actually arguing many of the points you are making!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 8, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    @David Hopps: Ian Bell has required a lot of 'moulding' to get him where he is. During THAT Ashes series where he was tooted as England's best no. 3, the Aussies were shocked, and rightly so. Shane Warne made him look silly almost. Aussie supporters posting here say we have short memories, or selective ones... don't fuel them with statements like this! It was too much too soon for Ian Bell back then, and though it's great to see him developing and delivering now, PLEASE DON'T JINX IT!

  • jackiethepen on July 8, 2012, 12:11 GMT

    My so-called 'misreading' of your article seems to have been shared by a number of Bell supporters! You have been attacking Bell's persona as not matching up to the tough guy concept needed to intimidate bowlers for a long time. It was a favourite criticism of the Guardian during the days when you were part of the team. My comments aren't lazy at all but have been expressed through other channels including the Cricket Society Bulletin when Bell was being hounded for lack of charisma in order to get him dropped from the side. That Bell is now a world class batsman and a valued member of England is no thanks to critics who took up this theme. Toughness has nothing to do with tattoos - they are literally skin deep. Bowlers are intimidated by excellent batsmen who can hit all round the park. Exactly what Cook said yesterday. He is our most graceful and elegant stroke player which you just ignore. Of course he is attractive to watch. He was voted favourite player on The Cricketer by fans.

  • on July 8, 2012, 11:18 GMT

    I am very heartened by all these protestations of recognition for Ian Bell's undoubted talent. Long may it continue. I have been arguing on his behalf for years and it has often been a lonely place to be. However, as much as I laughed at the suggestion that I have produced yet another piece of pointless whimsy - it takes all sorts - that Ian Bell has not roused passions as much as players of a more immediate impact is accepted as a truism by many people who have spent a prolonged time on the England circuit. I could even show you readership figures that prove that pieces about Ian Bell will attract strikingly lower readership than any other senior England batsman. And before you say it, no it doesn't matter whether I write them or whether they are pointless whimsy! As for the idea that I have been a churlish faux macho critic, well, dislike the piece by all means, but this in itself is a lazy, sour misreading of the piece that has no basis in reality. As is so often the case...

  • yorkshirematt on July 8, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    @randy oz You have a funny definition of "ending someone's career". Now you've realised your "world class attack" are not actually that good, you're hoping another country's team will prove your point.

  • on July 8, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    Mikey - Despite Bell's disastrous series in UAE early this year, overall he has a good record against Pakistan - average 46.18 with 4 centuries.

  • jackiethepen on July 8, 2012, 7:55 GMT

    A lot of comments on Cricinfo are media led, David, and they look to you and your kind to fairly represent what you have seen and what they couldn't see, for reasons of work or lack of access to TV. To write a piece like this making all sorts of assumptions from personal preference is misleading the public. For example there is quite a different perception of Bell in the "media at large". Ed Smith wrote an article in the Times praising Bell's graceful batting as the best since Gower! Boycott went on record last summer to say that Bell was just superb and England's best. If you cannot look past the tattoo parlour then don't make assumptions about others. Just speak for yourself. You might lack an aesthetic sensibility that others have. Fine. You can operate for those who think tattoos frighten bowlers. I adore KP too. Bell and he are just great. Both terrific players and very very exciting in their own way. You can bet KP thinks Bell is brilliant. And brilliance is just thrilling.

  • mikey76 on July 8, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    He scored 199 against SA too. He has a good record against all teams really....except Pakistan! A wonderful player and great to watch.

  • RandyOZ on July 8, 2012, 4:58 GMT

    Pretty funny. Bell will be crushed by the Saffers and then fail overseas like he always does. Warne ended this guy's career years ago.

  • on July 8, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    Hey Hoppsey, here is one guy standing up for Bell. He is your best batsman and you Englishmen should look less at poses and posers and more at performances. There is a reason for measuring and having stats for games. it is to prove that a Bell, in his subdued way and a Chanderpaul, in his unorthodox way, can be just as good as a Richards or a Gooch. Also plz stop imposing your judggement on others. There are plenty of us who support Bell through and through

  • johnnypedals on July 8, 2012, 3:15 GMT

    Whimsy for the sake of it, no basis in reality.

  • jackiethepen on July 8, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    David Hopps should reflect on this. He was wrong about Ian Bell. Why? Because he could not see past his own prejudices about what makes a batsman attractive to the crowd. Tattoo parlour? Spectators do grasp with admiration - if fact they always have - that wasn't the problem. It was Bell's unwillingness to go for the simple ones and twos rather than the dramatic boundaries which limited his game. Now he can rotate the strike very effectively and spring the surprise of a boundary almost out of nowhere. His shot before he played on today was majestic. My artist daughter at the cricket said "I understand now why so much fuss is made about Ian Bell. Everything he does is so graceful. Wonderful to watch." Not everyone is the churlish faux macho critic that has decided Ian Bell doesn't set the world on fire. Actually he does. Brenkley wrote about Bell's batting as "an ecstasy of cricket". Boycott is another ardent fan. I am one who urged for Bell to open. Bell is the best batsmen in the side

  • on July 7, 2012, 23:36 GMT

    Where on earth does David Hopps get the idea that nobody appreciates Bell's batting or cares whether he is in the team or not? He is a very popular batsman whose century at Southampton earned a prolonged standing ovation. There has been plenty of vocal support for him being given a regular place in the ODI team from people who always believed he had what it takes in this format. Not sure where David was looking. If people do no often "gasp" with admiration at his shots it is because they are quietly purring with delight at their sheer class. The commentators certainly have been - and there have been a few sixes that Nasser Hussain et al got very excited about. I realise that this article is framed in such a way as to take the reader from a negative view of Bell towards an appreciation of his current success. But the facts just do not fit the frame. Bell has a presence in his very prowess. Cook says Bell is not underestimated in the dressing-room. Nor is he by the public.

  • SDHM on July 7, 2012, 23:13 GMT

    Kuruwita - Bell's record against South Africa is pretty damn good! In Test cricket anyway, I agree with posters saying we need to see him scoring quick and big runs against better attacks in ODIs to say he's cracked the format. But you can only score runs against what's in front of you, so he's started in good fashion.

  • JG2704 on July 7, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    I'll be honest Bell is totally proving me wrong at the moment so absolue fair play to him. Having said that , it's only 3 ODIs and 2 of them have been fairly simple run chases and I still want to see if Bell,Cook,Trott and Bopara can chase down a score near the 300 mark etc and while I'm not saying Aus are a poor side , I do believe they have underperformed.

  • 5wombats on July 7, 2012, 22:30 GMT

    Sorry @KURUWITA - we love your posts, but check Ian Bells 140 at Durban. Test Match #1944. Ian Bell has proven his skills IN South Africa against a full strength SA bowling attack. Ian Bell is not an average batsman. He'll prove it again in the course of this series against the Saffers. Just watch.

  • garibaldi on July 7, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    @Kuruwita: what are you talking about? Bell averages 46 against SA! Stats aside, he is a spectacular player to watch: true class in the mould of Gower and Vaughan. I hope he continues to flourish - he's an asset to the team and a treat for spectators.

  • landl47 on July 7, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    The thing about Bell is that he plays old-fashioned cricket- timing his strokes, finding the gaps, working the ball around. Now and then he lifts the ball over the infield, but generally he tries to minimize risk. He doesn't use a 4lb bat to bludgeon huge sixes, so he's not a favorite with the spectators that love the excitement of T20. However, look at his record and you see that he's been a very accomplished player for a long time and is still only just turned 30. He has a good record against SA and I'm hoping his good form will continue through that series. I'm an old fuddyduddy, but I love to watch him bat; it reminds me of the great players like Barry Richards and Greg Chappell, who hit the ball so sweetly that you were astonished to see it go for 4. Keep up the good work, Belly.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 7, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    I cannot agree with David Hopes about Bell. We need to see his skills against strong bowling like SA. Any average batsman can score plenty of runs against weak team like Aussies.

  • demon_bowler on July 7, 2012, 21:06 GMT

    His deft back cuts and silky cover drives have given me more aesthetic pleasure than any batsman (except maybe, for a brief period, Michael Vaughan) since David Gower.

  • Lmaotsetung on July 7, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    I've come to the conclusion that Bell is someone who need to play a lot to get into his rythm. It wasn't long at the start of this summer that he was struggling to get runs in international and county matches. He is the exact opposite of KP who can switch it on and off.

  • phoenixsteve on July 7, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    England are playing some good cricket at the moment and the Aussies not so much! To be fair they have been plagued by injuries and harrassed by top quality English bowling. All this talk of England being no1 in the rankings in all formats is futile though! The rankings mean next to nothing and bragging rights are just that! Remember English fans the old adage about Pride going before a fall....... Anyhow well done England - any win against the old enemy is always welcome!

  • MattyP1979 on July 7, 2012, 20:17 GMT

    Aus will always be an ok side, but they are being made to look worse than they are by Eng. Eng are just a damn good side right now especially at home. Selection, injuries, toss etc are all excuses and lets face it the rub of the green hasn't exactly gone Eng way, we have to hit middle 3rd the way up to get an LBW. DRS is a blessing.

  • whatawicket on July 7, 2012, 20:13 GMT

    i dont like KP as a man but as a cricketer very good. i hope hes looking at todays game and see what bells done in his place. but more importantly i hope hes saying what the hell have i done by not playing in the shorter format. get a grip KP and get yourself back in time for the saffers games, then into the next WCs.

  • 5wombats on July 7, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    Nice. Nice too to read the author reflecting back some of the comments we send in to these pages. Describing Bells performances with reference to Krusty the Clown quotes is slightly unfortunate. Ian Bells stock has risen and fallen over the years as it does for most good players. Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden were all dropped at some point in their careers and came back fighting, Bell is doing this. He's won us over - great stroke-maker, superb balance and timing. Great snooker players make an incredibly difficult game look simple, Bell plays like this. Nothing too flash - but very effective. Nice one Belly!

  • jmcilhinney on July 7, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    By the way David, it was James Pattinson, not Darren, who was chopped past Hussey's fingertips.

  • MattyP1979 on July 7, 2012, 19:22 GMT

    Bell is and has always been a class batsman. Warne did a number on him when he was young and Ajmal got him with a couple of good uns before his feet landed in UAE. As a player in all formats he is improving. Although not our best batsman, on current form I would put him in with Hussey and AB. Should his game continue to improve he could be a very fine player. Hope he does well against SA beause all of our batsman down to 11 will be called for a one time or another.

  • Always-positive on July 7, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    Bell, pure class. Getting better with age aswell.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on July 7, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    What would Australia give for an Ian Bell in their team? Hang on, hasn't the same been said about every other England player recently....Who's really surprised? England eat Australia for lunch every time they play, and are clearly World Number 1 in all formats. Long the world number one at the real format of the game, test match cricket, they're now heading for a whitewash that has ensured Australia have run out of excuses to whinge about anymore.

  • jmcilhinney on July 7, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    He has received a fair amount of criticism over his career and certainly some it has been warranted but, despite whatever troubles he has had, I am a fan of Ian Bell. He looks as classy as any batsman playing the game today so that, coupled with my being an England supporter, makes Bell the batsman I most enjoy watching in full flight. I have been saying for some time that I believe that he can be an effective OD opener for England, although I concede that his performance in that role previously had not been stellar and Pietersen was a more logical choice. The hole left by KP will not be filled by just one player but Bell has certainly done his part so far. There are points yet to prove though. He has been out twice this series trying to cut balls he shouldn't have. He is yet to be required to show that he can score quickly against a quality bowling attack and the trip to India in the winter could be a watershed or death knell. I anticipate and hope for continued improvement.

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  • jmcilhinney on July 7, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    He has received a fair amount of criticism over his career and certainly some it has been warranted but, despite whatever troubles he has had, I am a fan of Ian Bell. He looks as classy as any batsman playing the game today so that, coupled with my being an England supporter, makes Bell the batsman I most enjoy watching in full flight. I have been saying for some time that I believe that he can be an effective OD opener for England, although I concede that his performance in that role previously had not been stellar and Pietersen was a more logical choice. The hole left by KP will not be filled by just one player but Bell has certainly done his part so far. There are points yet to prove though. He has been out twice this series trying to cut balls he shouldn't have. He is yet to be required to show that he can score quickly against a quality bowling attack and the trip to India in the winter could be a watershed or death knell. I anticipate and hope for continued improvement.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on July 7, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    What would Australia give for an Ian Bell in their team? Hang on, hasn't the same been said about every other England player recently....Who's really surprised? England eat Australia for lunch every time they play, and are clearly World Number 1 in all formats. Long the world number one at the real format of the game, test match cricket, they're now heading for a whitewash that has ensured Australia have run out of excuses to whinge about anymore.

  • Always-positive on July 7, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    Bell, pure class. Getting better with age aswell.

  • MattyP1979 on July 7, 2012, 19:22 GMT

    Bell is and has always been a class batsman. Warne did a number on him when he was young and Ajmal got him with a couple of good uns before his feet landed in UAE. As a player in all formats he is improving. Although not our best batsman, on current form I would put him in with Hussey and AB. Should his game continue to improve he could be a very fine player. Hope he does well against SA beause all of our batsman down to 11 will be called for a one time or another.

  • jmcilhinney on July 7, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    By the way David, it was James Pattinson, not Darren, who was chopped past Hussey's fingertips.

  • 5wombats on July 7, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    Nice. Nice too to read the author reflecting back some of the comments we send in to these pages. Describing Bells performances with reference to Krusty the Clown quotes is slightly unfortunate. Ian Bells stock has risen and fallen over the years as it does for most good players. Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden were all dropped at some point in their careers and came back fighting, Bell is doing this. He's won us over - great stroke-maker, superb balance and timing. Great snooker players make an incredibly difficult game look simple, Bell plays like this. Nothing too flash - but very effective. Nice one Belly!

  • whatawicket on July 7, 2012, 20:13 GMT

    i dont like KP as a man but as a cricketer very good. i hope hes looking at todays game and see what bells done in his place. but more importantly i hope hes saying what the hell have i done by not playing in the shorter format. get a grip KP and get yourself back in time for the saffers games, then into the next WCs.

  • MattyP1979 on July 7, 2012, 20:17 GMT

    Aus will always be an ok side, but they are being made to look worse than they are by Eng. Eng are just a damn good side right now especially at home. Selection, injuries, toss etc are all excuses and lets face it the rub of the green hasn't exactly gone Eng way, we have to hit middle 3rd the way up to get an LBW. DRS is a blessing.

  • phoenixsteve on July 7, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    England are playing some good cricket at the moment and the Aussies not so much! To be fair they have been plagued by injuries and harrassed by top quality English bowling. All this talk of England being no1 in the rankings in all formats is futile though! The rankings mean next to nothing and bragging rights are just that! Remember English fans the old adage about Pride going before a fall....... Anyhow well done England - any win against the old enemy is always welcome!

  • Lmaotsetung on July 7, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    I've come to the conclusion that Bell is someone who need to play a lot to get into his rythm. It wasn't long at the start of this summer that he was struggling to get runs in international and county matches. He is the exact opposite of KP who can switch it on and off.