England v Bangladesh, 2nd npower Test, Old Trafford, 1st day June 4, 2010

Bell steadies England with timely contribution

The more occasions Ian Bell helps the team out of difficulty, the harder it will be for people to suggest he doesn't belong at this level.

Ian Bell's success during the winter tours to South Africa and Bangladesh revived a career that was threatening to be stalled again. Yet, given the competition for England's batting places, his name has been mentioned among those under pressure to cement his place again this summer.

It is no bad thing for players to be constantly on their toes. It should avoid complacency when they know there are others lurking over their shoulders desperate for a chance to impress. Paul Collingwood will return for the Test series against Pakistan and one of these top six will have to make way. No batsman wants to be the one with a recent failure next to their name, so Bell's unbeaten 87 on the opening day at Old Trafford was timely.

"There's still a lot of competition for places, especially with the batting, so you have to keep yourself in good form and get as many runs as possible," Bell said. "It's a good place for us to be as a squad. I feel massively part of the side, and always have done, but you have to keep working hard.

"It's a good position for both Andys especially with Morgs [Eoin Morgan] coming in, someone who has a massive future, to have seven batters to pick from and probably more. There are guys doing well in domestic cricket who are knocking on the door as well."

Bell is one of the squad that has prepared for this series in county cricket rather than the Caribbean, but his domestic results weren't outstanding - much the same as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook - as he averaged 30.77 in five matches for Warwickshire. He also missed out at Lord's when he received a decent ball from Rubel Hossain that nipped back between bat and pad.

Bell has batted in more pressurised scenarios than he faced here at 83 for 3 - Cape Town in January springs to mind - but it was a good moment for him to reacquaint himself with a Bangladesh attack that has proved a rich source of runs. Following his 17 at Lord's, Bell's average plummeted from the heady heights of 244 (having previously been 350) to 168.33; now it is back at 197.33 and may well tip 200 again tomorrow.

Given the winter Bell enjoyed, where his 140 at Kingsmead was followed by a match-saving 213-ball 78 in Cape Town, plus 138 in Dhaka when England were in a spot of bother, and where he was the sole century-maker in an innings for the first time, he would have been within his rights to feel pretty secure. Yet the doubters aren't going to be satisfied until he corrects his record against Australia, against whom he has scored at a modest average of 25.70.

"I missed out at Lord's and the situation demanded someone got stuck in," Bell said. "Not scoring runs when the team needs them is the criticism that has hung over me and hopefully over the last six months I have done something towards playing more of those innings that people want from me.

"I needed it on a personal note as well. I've played some nice innings but maybe not when it mattered. Certainly if I get the chance in Australia I have the experience to dig in when the team needs it."

As with his hundred in Dhaka, the runs here will include that invisible footer of being "only against Bangladesh" but England needed his contribution. Whereas Bell concentrated hard and didn't try anything too flamboyant, the top-order didn't cover themselves in glory with a display that came across as lazy.

Strauss and Cook prodded to slip and Kevin Pietersen couldn't control himself as he had a wild mow at Shakib Al Hasan. Jonathan Trott can be partly exonerated as he received a decent ball and Bell was quick to defend Pietersen's approach, which he felt played a key role in giving England the edge on a pitch that offered much more turn than expected.

"From my point of view I'm trying to play spin as positively as possible, I'm a better player when I'm positive and I thought Kev was fantastic to get us the momentum back, which was important," he said. "He really gave us the chance to put Bangladesh on the back foot.

"It turned big and that's how Kev was playing. When you are playing like that it can go either way, but leading up to that he shifted the momentum which is what we needed because we could have dug ourselves a hole."

Even though Pietersen's dashing effort helped England restore order it needed someone to carry on that work. Bell was again that man and the more occasions he helps the team out of difficulty, the harder it will be for people to suggest he doesn't belong at this level.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alpine on June 5, 2010, 19:16 GMT

    Seems like some of the fans in the sub continent have a problem with the money that BCCI has and also have a problem with the Indian players and the Indian fans. If the Indian team did not do well in Zimbabwe, so what. Good on them, they will learn to improve. We the fans or the players need not be apologetic about their shortcomings.As we always say"We are like this only" Like it or lump it. And of late there are a lot of so called fans from Bangladesh who seem to be very happy for India's poor performance.And they keep trying to rub it in. Sorry guys, you need to worry about your team.Not the Indian team. We will worry about them. If required we will take them to task like burning their effigies or their homes. If BCCI has a fat wallet, that is because BCCI worked for that and got it. It did not happen in 5years or 10 years. We were snubbed by the bigger boys for years. We took it and swallowed our pride and with time made it big.You are also welcome to do it and rub it in.Cheers.

  • ankur on June 5, 2010, 14:51 GMT

    Bell one of the heroes of 2005 Ashes triumph...............has for past 5 years managed to stay on only that basis.....

    England have failed to produce quality batsmen in past decade which explains their need for importing batsmen and playing Bell again and again.......

  • Bang on June 5, 2010, 14:28 GMT

    Look, how raucous (only having a fat wallet) India have become to consider the series being a piece of cake and to send a lower than average talented players. The bunch of jokers (not my words, Mahinder Amarntah's) do not realise that there are no new talented players in stock. BCCI counted billions by arranging a so called T20 IPL and was happy. Average age of the India team playing in Zimbabwe is much higher than Bangladesh team and see the comprative talent (if Indians have any that is)!

  • Ashif on June 5, 2010, 7:55 GMT

    Oh God! All those so called cricket purists/experts Tell us , if you find any test matches , apart from Ashes,AUSvsIND,PAKvsIND, as intriguing as BD playing any other teams!? The answer , even though you won't admit , is a loud, bold NO . I have been reading the comments posted here patiently for the last 30 mins and even though I am a half British half Bangladeshi , I am disgusted at the so called gentlemen , the British KP tried to dominate, yes , I will accept that and he failed in that attempt. His weakness against left arm spinners is something like sub continent batsmen's inability to cope with bouncers, which everyone knows, but in KP's case , seems to suffer memory loss somehow. Anyways , I'm looking forward to the second day and hope someone will be proven wrong among us . . . . not me , I know for sure

  • Keith on June 5, 2010, 5:22 GMT

    I'm afraid Bell is one of those players who will always have heaps of doubters, no matter what he does.

  • Matthew on June 5, 2010, 2:36 GMT

    ^^ I agree. Cook just looks awkward. I must say I am not a fan. It seems to me though, that Ian Bell is always getting asked questions. Always from the media too, why is that? Aesthetically, he is the best looking English batsmen.

  • kas on June 4, 2010, 23:35 GMT

    Who said Bell doesn't belong at this level! I think Ian Bell is a fantastic player and by all means I am not biased like the majority, I am just a fan of good performance based cricket. Bell also is an added silly point fielder which is a huge advantage to England. I think the selectors should wake up, stop raiding south african villages for players and encourage home grown talents like Bell to support his development. Bell belongs at this level by his playing credentials and deserves the place to play against the Aussies. Enough Said!!!!

  • Jackie on June 4, 2010, 21:11 GMT

    It's strange that this question is still asked of Bell and not of Cook for example. Are there no openers pushing for places? Bell has been playing this kind of innings - coming to England's rescue rather a lot lately and yes, he needs to because we need him.

    As for his average in County cricket so far in the four day game, the Edgbaston pitch was behaving strangely at the beginning of the season - 20 wickets fell in one day - and he wasn't alone in the top order of both sides getting blown away. But in CB-40 he has batted brilliantly. So he can't be said to be out of form when the Tests started.

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