England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Rose Bowl, 4th day June 19, 2011

Bell's numbers start to stack up

Bell's silky presence in the middle-order is providing far more than mere embellishment
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When all else is said and done, when all the psychological by-plays are taken out of the equation, cricket is in essence a numbers game, and right at this moment, Ian Bell's are stacking up phenomenally. Sunday's unbeaten century was his second of the series and his third in his past four Tests, and by the time of England's declaration his series average stood at a monumental 335.

In a team that already possesses Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, two of the most avaricious run-hoarders in the world game, Bell's silky presence in the middle-order is providing far more than mere embellishment. As Stuart Law, Sri Lanka's frustrated coach, admitted, he is becoming "a pain in the backside". Time and time again, he steals in from his No. 5 position to turn shaky positions into solid ones, and formidable positions into impregnable ones, without ever compromising the silken nature of his strokeplay.

Today's performance was as inevitable as it was attractive to watch. From the moment he resumed on 40 not out overnight, he exuded a sense of purpose and belonging that bent Sri Lanka's bowling to his will. Whereas Kevin Pietersen, in a thrilling return to form on Saturday afternoon, had played exclusively in the V to maximise his strengths (and shield his current weaknesses), Bell soon proved there was no shot beyond his remit. "He scores quickly but hits the ball in 360-degree arcs," said Law. "It's very difficult to contain. He's full of confidence and you can see that in the way he plays."

These days, the psychology of the game can go hang. Bell's only interest is the numbers, which - from the days he was marked out as a teenage prodigy - is all he has ever really sought. At the age of 29, and with 4500 Test runs safely tucked away alongside a mounting Test average of 47.11, he seems to have cultivated an immunity to all external pressures. It's hard to believe this is the same batsman whom Shane Warne once derided as "The Sherminator", and who briefly developed a cringe-inducing habit of puffing out a still-mousy frame in a bid to improve his body language.

It used to be the case that Bell saved his most fluent performances for situations devoid of pressure. Nowadays he takes the pressure out of situations through the fluency of his performances. "Playing good cricket is all about consistency and Ian has started to fulfil the promise he showed coming through the ranks as a youngster at Warwickshire," said Law, who saw him at close quarters during his long service on the county circuit. "Hats off to him, he played another great knock today."

Qualitatively, there was scarcely a jot of difference between this latest breeze of an innings and the 162 not out he pillaged off the over-awed Bangladeshis at Chester-le-Street in 2005. Then as now, an outclassed attack was further demoralised by every new swish of his bat. But the context has been transformed in the intervening years. These days Bell's team-mates, his opponents, the press and the paying public all know he'd be playing with the same clarity of purpose, regardless of the match situation.

"I feel like I am batting as well as I can at the minute, and it's nice to contribute to us getting in winning positions.," said Bell. "I think in the past I've played well at times, probably not when it's got very tough, but hopefully in the last 12-18 months I've started to put in performances when the team have needed them most, and doing it more consistently, which is what you want to do as a batsman. I'm really happy with the way my game's going, and the improvement I've made, but there's still a long way to go hopefully with where I can take my game to."

Bell knows better than any player that his 335 series average is unsustainable. In the immediate aftermath of that Bangladesh performance, his overall career mark stood at 297 - an unfortunate prelude to his run of seven single-figure scores in ten innings of the 2005 Ashes. But right at this moment, it is a fitting tribute to a run of form that has crashed past innumerable benchmarks in the past two years, ever since his axing in the Caribbean forced a complete reappraisal of his game.

Bell was made the scapegoat for England's 51 all out in Jamaica in March 2009 - the match that marked the nadir from which Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss plotted their rise towards world Test domination. A feckless cut in the final over before lunch led to his banishment, and he wasn't recalled until Kevin Pietersen's Achilles injury in the subsequent Ashes campaign. He trained harder in the interim, toughening himself up in the physical sense which in turn brought the mental side along with it, while facing up to the fact that he had to embrace his seniority in the team.

The returns were almost instantaneous. From the moment he marked his comeback with a half-century in the drawn Ashes Test at Edgbaston, Bell has averaged 69.04, which is a notch below the 72 he made in the decisive victory at The Oval two matches later. That was the first occasion in which he really made runs when it mattered, but his defining innings was his 140 in Durban four months later, since when his figure has been 91.46. Since the tour of Bangladesh last March, when at the tenth time of asking, he scored a century without another batsman doing likewise, it has risen to 106.60.

As Trott and Cook are no doubt aware, and as Pietersen has spent the past two years confirming, such good times are unlikely to continue in perpetuity. But as Graeme Swann aptly put it while describing England's top three as "cures for insomnia", most of Bell's fellow batsmen have limitations on their games that he does not seem to possess. Like Eoin Morgan, whose Test credentials are improving by the match, his wealth of scoring options create new opportunities with every new switch of the field.

His 57 from 43 balls in the declaration rush at Lord's was a case in point. At the other end was Cook, unquestionably admirable in reaching yet another Test century, but defiantly one-paced even when the match situation demanded more haste. His belated attempt to up the ante brought him out of his comfort zone, and resulted in the first stumping of his first-class career.

With the retirement of Paul Collingwood, Bell has been landed the extra responsibility of being England's insurance policy in times of need, but it is a burden he has worn particularly lightly. Awkward situations - such as England's first-day 22 for 3 at Lord's - have been greeted with the insouciance he demonstrated all throughout the Ashes, the series in which it was clear he had outgrown his No. 6 position. At Brisbane and Perth, he alone possessed the fluency to overcome tricky conditions, but he was twice forced to chance his arm, for 76 and 53 respectively, as the tail subsided around him.

Can it last? It's hard to see a reason why not. With the possible exception of Andrew Strauss, no-one else in the current England team has a range of experiences quite like Bell's, and Strauss would never pretend to have anything like the same range of shots. After years in the shadows, his time has finally come. And his quest for greater numbers could yet define that of his team as a whole. No. 1 in the world is attainable for both.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mcheckley on June 22, 2011, 8:07 GMT

    I am sure there are many cricketers who would have had a more successful international career if they had been given more chances, but it doesn't work like that. For the vast majority the chance comes along because the incumbent is injured or has suffered a loss of form. When those chances come they have to be taken; the incoming player has to put the selctors in a position where they cannot easily be left out. A good examp0le of a man who did this very recently would be Bresnan - although he's now got injured himself. Only with players of the highest and most obvious pedigree and class - "once a generation" players - do selectors consciously plan to bring them into the team and BEAR WITH THEM if at first they do not succeed as well as hoped, in confidence that thier class will eventually rise to the top. This is what they did with Bell, and their confidence in his pedigree is now being repayed. But even that doesn't always work - Hick, for example. Cricket is an unforgiving game.

  • D.S.A on June 21, 2011, 18:07 GMT

    @landl47: Michael Carberry. He only needed more chances than he got. He would have cemented his place in the middle order a long time ago (not failing at number 3 again and again for years, and then being pushed down, like Bell did).

  • oojj on June 20, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    I can anticipate that everyone is expecting a good contest between India and England, and English fans are awaiting a win from their side against India. But i would love to say cricket is also a Black Swan incident when it is between two quality sides. So who are expecting Indian bowler will not be able to deliver, Andrew Strauss and company will pile lots of run. So friends these all are expectations.Just look what happened to India against West indies, Thy lost two ODIs. Because cricket still provide unexpected results. They themselves should not forget 1st Test, when Sri Lanka surrendered in 25 overs.

  • Finn92 on June 20, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    I have to admit I was one of the many who doubted him and labelled him as over-hyped by people at Warwickshire etc. However since the South Africa tour he just hasn't looked back, especially when he finally scored a century when no one else did against Bangladesh as that cloud was still hanging over him. He's technically the best we've got and I see many more runs to come in the next couple of years but he will lose this form we have to be realistic but I don't think it will be for a while yet. And I can't believe I'm reading a comment about bloated averages written by an Indian I'm guessing, all your batsman have bloated averages, just look at how Jayawardene and Sangakarra are struggling in England, in rea conditions and not batting on roads.

  • Percy_Fender on June 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Ian Bell was always good. It is just as someone said, the media and the fluctuating whims of the selectors that has kept him from achieving what he was meant to achieve. I have no doubt that he will continue in his rich recent vein for sometime to come. He may be a bit troubled by top class spin though. He is definitely a good pick for a future captain.

  • mcheckley on June 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Pure class - always has been - and class will always EVENTUALLY rise to the top. But the emotional maturity required for regular international contributions of SUBSTANCE comes to different people at different times. Like a fine wine (and like Hobbs) Bell has taken time to mature, and his 30s wil be more productive than his 20s. I do hope he gets the opportunity to showcase his CAPTAINCY skills at some point. Bell's is an absolutely superb cricket brain, as he has demonstrated in age group cricket and when leading Warwickshire on occasions. His awareness of match situations is stronger than Strauss' or Cook's and I am sure he, not Cook, would now be captain-in-waiting had there not, until very recently, been a slight question mark against his ability always to justify selection when all the squad was fully fit.

  • prozak on June 20, 2011, 12:03 GMT

    @puroniks

    yeah because no one else hypes their players up do they?

  • nurdleoffpads on June 20, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    the sherminator nick-name came about because Warne was watching American Pie with Clarke in 2006/2007 and thought bell looked like the sherminator. The next day when (inevitably) Bell came out to bat the comparison was shared with everybody in the middle... or so Warne says anyway

  • anver777 on June 20, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    Bell is an elegant player & is in tremendous touch................wonder together with Prior-Morgan currently Eng has the best & untouchable middle order in the cricket world !!!!!!!!

  • Aristotle01 on June 20, 2011, 9:49 GMT

    to be honest, most of england's players are hyped.. look at flintoff ... u ntake out the ashes of 2005 and he ends up as a very very mediocre player...but the english media just hype their players as if tey are demi gods!..of the current lot, i can only see trott as one who can sustain great nos. cook, and bell are just flash in the pans really... cook has had just 7 superb tests this year thats wht has caused his ave. to bloat. as he playes more matches the world will realize that nos do not reflect everything as great scores will reflect by proportionately lesser points in the batting averge.. if sachin scores a 2008 today, his ave. will increase only by about .60 or so.. but if cook does so (235* at brisbane), his ave increaes by more than 2 tuns per innngs... so nos are deceptive.. and lets see these guys bat on fifth day wearing ,turning indian wicket before glorifying them.. but they are all good players no doubt.

  • mcheckley on June 22, 2011, 8:07 GMT

    I am sure there are many cricketers who would have had a more successful international career if they had been given more chances, but it doesn't work like that. For the vast majority the chance comes along because the incumbent is injured or has suffered a loss of form. When those chances come they have to be taken; the incoming player has to put the selctors in a position where they cannot easily be left out. A good examp0le of a man who did this very recently would be Bresnan - although he's now got injured himself. Only with players of the highest and most obvious pedigree and class - "once a generation" players - do selectors consciously plan to bring them into the team and BEAR WITH THEM if at first they do not succeed as well as hoped, in confidence that thier class will eventually rise to the top. This is what they did with Bell, and their confidence in his pedigree is now being repayed. But even that doesn't always work - Hick, for example. Cricket is an unforgiving game.

  • D.S.A on June 21, 2011, 18:07 GMT

    @landl47: Michael Carberry. He only needed more chances than he got. He would have cemented his place in the middle order a long time ago (not failing at number 3 again and again for years, and then being pushed down, like Bell did).

  • oojj on June 20, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    I can anticipate that everyone is expecting a good contest between India and England, and English fans are awaiting a win from their side against India. But i would love to say cricket is also a Black Swan incident when it is between two quality sides. So who are expecting Indian bowler will not be able to deliver, Andrew Strauss and company will pile lots of run. So friends these all are expectations.Just look what happened to India against West indies, Thy lost two ODIs. Because cricket still provide unexpected results. They themselves should not forget 1st Test, when Sri Lanka surrendered in 25 overs.

  • Finn92 on June 20, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    I have to admit I was one of the many who doubted him and labelled him as over-hyped by people at Warwickshire etc. However since the South Africa tour he just hasn't looked back, especially when he finally scored a century when no one else did against Bangladesh as that cloud was still hanging over him. He's technically the best we've got and I see many more runs to come in the next couple of years but he will lose this form we have to be realistic but I don't think it will be for a while yet. And I can't believe I'm reading a comment about bloated averages written by an Indian I'm guessing, all your batsman have bloated averages, just look at how Jayawardene and Sangakarra are struggling in England, in rea conditions and not batting on roads.

  • Percy_Fender on June 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Ian Bell was always good. It is just as someone said, the media and the fluctuating whims of the selectors that has kept him from achieving what he was meant to achieve. I have no doubt that he will continue in his rich recent vein for sometime to come. He may be a bit troubled by top class spin though. He is definitely a good pick for a future captain.

  • mcheckley on June 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Pure class - always has been - and class will always EVENTUALLY rise to the top. But the emotional maturity required for regular international contributions of SUBSTANCE comes to different people at different times. Like a fine wine (and like Hobbs) Bell has taken time to mature, and his 30s wil be more productive than his 20s. I do hope he gets the opportunity to showcase his CAPTAINCY skills at some point. Bell's is an absolutely superb cricket brain, as he has demonstrated in age group cricket and when leading Warwickshire on occasions. His awareness of match situations is stronger than Strauss' or Cook's and I am sure he, not Cook, would now be captain-in-waiting had there not, until very recently, been a slight question mark against his ability always to justify selection when all the squad was fully fit.

  • prozak on June 20, 2011, 12:03 GMT

    @puroniks

    yeah because no one else hypes their players up do they?

  • nurdleoffpads on June 20, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    the sherminator nick-name came about because Warne was watching American Pie with Clarke in 2006/2007 and thought bell looked like the sherminator. The next day when (inevitably) Bell came out to bat the comparison was shared with everybody in the middle... or so Warne says anyway

  • anver777 on June 20, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    Bell is an elegant player & is in tremendous touch................wonder together with Prior-Morgan currently Eng has the best & untouchable middle order in the cricket world !!!!!!!!

  • Aristotle01 on June 20, 2011, 9:49 GMT

    to be honest, most of england's players are hyped.. look at flintoff ... u ntake out the ashes of 2005 and he ends up as a very very mediocre player...but the english media just hype their players as if tey are demi gods!..of the current lot, i can only see trott as one who can sustain great nos. cook, and bell are just flash in the pans really... cook has had just 7 superb tests this year thats wht has caused his ave. to bloat. as he playes more matches the world will realize that nos do not reflect everything as great scores will reflect by proportionately lesser points in the batting averge.. if sachin scores a 2008 today, his ave. will increase only by about .60 or so.. but if cook does so (235* at brisbane), his ave increaes by more than 2 tuns per innngs... so nos are deceptive.. and lets see these guys bat on fifth day wearing ,turning indian wicket before glorifying them.. but they are all good players no doubt.

  • jackiethepen on June 20, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    I have been critical of Andrew Miller. But this is a fine perceptive article. Bell hasn't just changed overnight. He's always been a class player. But he was a young player who met the best bowling attack in the world before he found his feet at Test Level. From then on he was playing catch up with the merciless media mocking him. Miller wrote on his profile page that Bell played well in the 2006-7 Ashes and emerged with credit. But the media perception pays no attention to the truth. Warne sledged Bell as The Shermanator (note the spelling, the guy in American Pie was called Sherman) and that stuck. It was a red hair jibe). Miller did his reputation no good by denigrating Bell himself (Bellyflop). Fighting media abuse is no small deal and Bell showed he really has guts (like fielding at short leg) and mental strength by ignoring it. "He's entitled to his opinion," he said of Caddick's remark that he had no bottle." India are a great side and will test every player, including Bell.

  • v_singh on June 20, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    Well - it definitely is going to be a very good test series : the Indians vs the Englishmen... England's batsmen have been making runs, bowler taking wickets.. and they have a team that is on a high.. However, India's bowlers would definitely be more challenging than the Srilankan's (right now).. SL bowling has been their main weakness on this tour.. Hopefully they would regroup from 'the reitrements' and keep test cricket interesting... In batting too - India would have (hopefully) Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, VVS, Virat (hopefully - based on his current good form) & Dhoni as top seven batsmen with Bhajji n Zaheer to follow !! So, the English bowlers (esp. Broad) would not have easy outing !!! Can't wait for the matches to begin !!

  • ATIMAYANK on June 20, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    This is one article I was waiting for. A lot of articles on "one innings people" and just a few on consistent performers is baffling. Bell is one of my favorite players outside India along with Kallis. He has shown good maturity time and again but has hardly got much admiration. Now his time has come and I expect him to be one of England's all time greats. He has got an amazing technique, good range of shots and excellent temprament. Cant see any reason why he wont be a great of he game. Also, all of a sudden England's batting order is looking as good as India's. Cook, Trott and Bell in form with Strauss and Pietersen being experienced. Then you have Morgan at 6 and Prior at 7. Cant wait for India in England to begin.

  • OliverWebber on June 20, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    @mak102480 - no-one is claiming that England is the best test team in world cricket. The point is that they are aiming to *become* the best - and one step on the way would be if they could beat India this summer (especially, as you say, as they have not done so for a very long time!) This may not happen - we'll see! I think it is going to be an enormously exciting series, and can't wait.

  • on June 20, 2011, 8:07 GMT

    I really don't know how ind will take 20 wkts. In sa when they had the chance to seal the series no bowler stepped up.My guess is it would be a tie or england would win.

  • satanswish on June 20, 2011, 7:34 GMT

    Ian Bell is a beautiful batsman to watch. Surely one of the superstars of the future.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 20, 2011, 7:29 GMT

    Its fair to say that over the last 18 months Bell has matured as a player, several commentators put that down to him getting married, personally I think he's just flourished under the Strauss and Flower partnership, as he knows what his role is. He also seems to be able to judge the pace of the game a lot better than he did a few years ago, and can play either the flashy stroke maker role, the rebuilder, or the steady accumulator role. Over the last 2 years I've seen him do all three equally as good, from batting out the overs in SA with Colly to earn England a draw, to taking the game away from the opposition, Sydney 2011, and the rebuilder like in Brisbane 2010 and Lords 2011. Will it last, I hope so, but being realistic he'll his a bad patch at somepoint, hopefully not for a long time.

  • heavybails on June 20, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    The difference between the post Jamaica-dropped Bell and the prior version is accounted for almost entirely in his lack of catastrophic failure. He was the same quality player then, excptt for an alarming single digit failure rate, of about 40% (for most decent Test class batsmenit is below 30%). Contrary to popular opinion, he did not lack for gutsy innings against good attacks, nor did he play cameos flattering the eye. He was, even in the darkest times the most likely of the England bats to get 50. No, the anomaly in his early career was the frequency that he failed. Removal from the firing line to #5 and 6 has had a lot to do with the turnaround but for all the guff and rewriting of history that has gone on, the one thing that any analyst has to explain is; how has Ian Bell elininated the single digit failure? Is it just good form? I think not. He's the same player he's always been. He just has just found a better way to get himself 'in'.

  • Harmony111 on June 20, 2011, 6:28 GMT

    Can someone please tell me the context in which Ian Bell was called the Sherminator. The only time I have heard this term is in the American Pie series.

  • on June 20, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Bell's actually my favourite English player. Anyway, on this forum, you've got Indian fans dismissing England, some England fans dismissing India, and a few of us who can't wait for the series. Anyway, aren't India in the West Indies right now and England playing Sri Lanka. C'mon lads, there will be a time and place to talk about about India vs England - now isn't!

  • Harmony111 on June 20, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    No doubt Ian bell is in terrific form. And most importantly, he plays in the lower middle order. By the time the bowling side reaches that point, the strike bowlers are usually tired, the ball is older and the batting conditions are at its best. What this means is that if a batsman is in as good a form as Ian Bell, he can exploit the conditions to the fullest as Ian Bell has been doing that for a few tests. I really think that more than Cook and Trott, Indians will be wary of KP and Ian Bell since they both score at a much faster rate and tend to get big 100s.

    Btw, is it just me who thinks that Ian Bell might be highly co-sanguine with a Chinese? Just kidding ;-p (but I am serious)

  • on June 20, 2011, 5:44 GMT

    @Tondy Hobbs : Me too, cant wait to see India thrash England this time. Last it was close series win for India, this time it has to comprehensive victory for India.

  • Clive_Dunn on June 20, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    Ian Bell - fearless slayer of minnows since 2004. To be fair though, of all the England batters, he's the one the purests love to watch. For all of KP's aggressive thwacking, and Morgans 21st century creating of angles, Bell is the one you can imagine playing against a Bradman lead Australian team.

  • chandau on June 20, 2011, 4:57 GMT

    Every batsman goes thru a PURPLE PATCH in his career and some over time have 2 or 3. It seems Bell and Cook are having theirs' now. Search crikinfo and you will find many a good batter who had exceptional season/2 which props their career average. I remember Aravinda made over 1000 test and odi runs one season and also over a 1000 runs for Kent. That form never came back but he had a great career as one of the greats in modern batting. Lara scored the 375 and 501 and a ton of runs one season and had another vintage in Sri Lanka scoring doubles back to back if i remember correctly. Great batters have one/two super seasons but also perform during the others so that they end up with a lot of runs and a high average in the end. The pretenders have one big season and nothing else to write home about in between. Where they make the runs or against whom does not matter. In the end its the values that speak. Even the worst bowler has 6 balls to get you out and then try again; one good ball!

  • landl47 on June 20, 2011, 3:30 GMT

    Bell has always had the talent, but he needed the swagger to go with it. Now he has that and he's among the best batsmen in the world at the present time. @D.S.A.- perhaps you could give us the name of the player who would have improved much more than Bell. No-one comes to my mind and presumably not to the selectors' minds either. @drskankalp: I hope you'll still be posting here after Bell takes the rather feeble Indian attack apart this summer. The Sri Lankan fans, who were telling us how much better SL is than England, seem to have disappeared now it's obvious England's a much better team. My guess is that you and the other Indian fans will do the same thing.

  • on June 20, 2011, 2:42 GMT

    Ahsan_Shere. No bell's average is MUCH higher then andrew Strauss' also (42) And Tho Cook, Pieterson and Trott are al higher then him, this is because they are all great batsman, it shouldnt diminish Bell Rising career in any way. Trott bursted on the scene in the same way Pieterson did, had a couple of great ashes series and really looks the good but can they both keep it up is the question? I think they can. Morgan is really on the way up too and looks a very good player. Strauss is so frustrating, he seems to take his career for granted by just playing loose shots and going to hard too early, he doesnt learn from his mistakes. James Taylor needs to find a place in the top 6.

  • on June 20, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    cant wait for the india vs england test series mi money on england ay bcz india are used to winning at home now that india are overseas a real test for them because england are so good than ever they thrashed aus in their backyard something have failed to do in aus,so engl have the slight edge ahead ay.cook,bell,trott, all in the forms of their life tremlett and anderson just too lethal.icn see harbhajan singh struggling in engl def starting to wear down in the world cup he wasnt tht gud either.tendulkar too much ipl so def due for struggling for runs in the test series,india dont have other bowlers hu are effective as zaheer,sreenath too radic all the times ay

  • Woody111 on June 20, 2011, 2:32 GMT

    Bell has gone from the 'Sherminator' to the 'Determinator' now. It's always good to see batsmen turn their career around ala Hayden, Langer et al here in Aus. Bell is the complete batsman now and far more enjoyable to watch than Cook or Trott. Credit to him for working hard to get back in the team and now reaping the rewards for this work. He's still got time to play every test team at home and away and show the world how good he can be. It's a bit of a pity he batted at 6 here in the Ashes as he obviously could have made the runs those ahead of him did; but far more easily on the eye. You can just imagine a 200 run partnership between him and KP or Morgan - that would be good to watch. England may even have a top and middle order superior to South Africa now - a great balance of stoic and fluent batsmen that can build 500 plus scores for their team. The series vs India is going to be insanely good

  • on June 20, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    @Ahsan_Shere Well as you mention it would be hard to increase his average by 1 every time he plays. However smaller gains over another 60+ matches make that 50+ average a viable goal. Although really players should be thinking of the match situation and not just improving their batting average. Normally the two are the same but sometime when playing at 5 bell will need to make quick and risky runs where a blazing 30 is better than a steady 50.

  • ruester on June 20, 2011, 2:20 GMT

    drsankalp do you actually ever watch test cricket? To say that Bell and Cook are average batters is obviously a joke. What Cook did in Australia outshined anything an Indian batsman has achieved over there. I would never say that Laxman or Ganguly are average batters but they are lauded for their achievements in australia. Stop being so biased and blinkered, appreciate other players in international sides. There are quality players other than Indians you know. In fact you will soon see!

  • on June 20, 2011, 1:40 GMT

    Bell has a terrible record vs India (failed in 2007 after a great year - 3 hundreds vs Pak 2006 remember?) Infact England smashed WI 3-0 before losing to India and Bell was the biggest failure with Prior.Will cricinfo staff check that?

  • Ahsan_Shere on June 20, 2011, 1:29 GMT

    Ian Bell has lowest batting average in England batting line-up except Morgan. His career average of 45 don't express true colors of Bell; He's beyond that hope he carries his average to above 50 which needs consistency, specially for a guy who has played 64 matches coz he has to score 96 more runs in an innings than his career average (96 + 46 = 142 runs) if he's going to increase his average by 1 in a single innings i.e 45.87 to 46.87 since he got out 96 times in Test cricket.

  • on June 20, 2011, 1:18 GMT

    Blessed are the entertainers. While Cook, Strauss, and Trott are solid accumulators with limited stroke play, it falls upon Bell, Pietersen, and Morgan to provide the entertainment. No one is currently better on this count than I.R. Bell, the most attractive classical stroke player that England has possessed for many a year. With KP returning to form, but not yet confident enough to reproduce the swashbuckling, unorthodox, brilliantly improvisational stroke play of yore, and Morgan making strides but still feeling his way at test level, this is Bell's moment in the sun. An innings by him is a connoisseur's delight. The way he has disarmed even his most cynical detractors in the past 18 months has been truly heartening. He is now up there in the ranks of the best batsmen England has ever produced, and the thought that he, Cook, and KP are all likely to break the record for the number of centuries by England batsmen is thrilling.

  • mak102480 on June 20, 2011, 1:07 GMT

    How can England be the best test team in the world when they haven't beaten India in a Test series since 1996? Yes, Eng haven't beaten India in a series in 15 years. The last 5 series b/w India and Englad: India (in India), Drawn (in England), Drawn (in India), India (in England), and India (in India). So, it's not just a case of India winning at home either: the last two series in Eng was drawn and won by India.

  • on June 20, 2011, 0:58 GMT

    @drsankalp-it was a matter of time before enlightened indian fans like you come up with "bell,cook etc are avg"comments.n wat else,england a poor team?back to the topic,its a testament to belly,he has come a long way frm being a batsman who thrives under no pressure,a sherminator.what amazes me is that he looks very fluent and once he settles in,he scores big.thats da sign of a quality player.ind wl b much tougher,zaheer is class,i think praveen kumar will excel in da conditions,n sharma/sreesanth are quality on thr day.m not too worried with harbhajan though.

  • Tomek on June 20, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    If Bell is so solid, Cook and Trott in serious form and Broad almost as good with the bat as he is with ball then surely it's time to go with 5 bowlers? Otherwise it is a matter of holding onto Broad and possibly compromising the attack, or switching him for Finn.

    With Anderson a perfect foil for top order bats looking to increase the score, Prior a sublime bat and Broad/Swann pretty useful I really think it's time teams stopped hiding behind runs. We live in an era of roads, the first team to step up and play attacking cricket with their bowlers has the chance to really take the lead.

  • rohitkossery on June 20, 2011, 0:39 GMT

    England is too formidable a side now. All their players seem to be in great form, or getting there. They have slow, but steady run accumulators in Trott and Cook, and Some swashbuckling players like Bell, Morgan, Prior and KP. Add to that their in-form pacemen and the world's best offspinner, and its clear that they have the tool to be number 1. cant wait for India vs England. I think it would be the true test of champs

  • TheDoctor394 on June 20, 2011, 0:15 GMT

    I'm thrilled with how well Bell is doing. I've been a fan of him for years, and thought some (though not all) of the critism he received earlier in the year was quite unfair. He's now showing just what a beautiful and high quality batsman he is.

  • on June 19, 2011, 23:30 GMT

    Happy for the man. Once it was a genuine case of a guy caught in headlights. He never had the imposing presence like Hayden or Pietersen. Ever a touch artist, his prolific rise through the ranks seemed to have become his millstone. However international experience, harsher lessons in survival and a more rounded game has finally fine tuned his very visible talent. Let's hope our bowling attack finds a way counter Bell. In any case, like Hayden has proved with different methods - baptism by fire might not be such a bad thing if you have the mental fortitude. Not many would have recovered from a Warne- McGrath assault.

  • drsankalp on June 19, 2011, 23:21 GMT

    Ian bell and Cook are average batsman ! They will be exposed against India in this year only. They don't have ability to play quality spin of Harbhajan and Amit Mishra. I won't be surprised if there average dips to single digit that time. Its ridiculous to put them on high pedestrian based on performance on number 8 team in world.

  • on June 19, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Great to see Bell doing well, he's yet to score a century against india. Let's hope when they visit, he can rectify that.

  • D.S.A on June 19, 2011, 23:00 GMT

    If you look at his stats, from 2005 to 2009, his average is going DOWN as time passes, yet the selectors kept faith in him. I ask this...if it is right to keep faith in him, they are then obligated to keep faith in every other player that has failed as badly as he had done. Whilst he has been playing well in the recent past, is the benefit of today's success worth the misery of him underperforming for sooo long? If somebody else had been given as many chances that he had, he wouldn't be in the team as that player would have improved a lot faster than him.

  • 5wombats on June 19, 2011, 22:48 GMT

    Yes - it's true - Bell really has arrived! He seems to be that guy who somehow was a serial underachiever and because of this misperception we can't believe that today he is actually pretty darned good. Although history writers will say otherwise - it was Graham Thorpe who made way for Ian Bell back in the day (some say Pietersen took Thorpe's place - but I don't believe that). I never felt that was fair on Thorpe to be dumped and I've always felt that Thorpe would have done better in the 2005 Ashes than Bell did (alright - Thrope as a left hander would always struggle against Warne, but then everyone did, and Bell certainly did). Because of this I've always felt Bell was a bit of a pretender to Thorpes throne, and been a bit prejudiced against him. I need to get over that! Bell IS a good player now. That was tricky to bat in there today, poor light, rain, etc - but I don't remember him giving a chance. Well played Sir! You can keep it warm for the Indians too!!!

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  • 5wombats on June 19, 2011, 22:48 GMT

    Yes - it's true - Bell really has arrived! He seems to be that guy who somehow was a serial underachiever and because of this misperception we can't believe that today he is actually pretty darned good. Although history writers will say otherwise - it was Graham Thorpe who made way for Ian Bell back in the day (some say Pietersen took Thorpe's place - but I don't believe that). I never felt that was fair on Thorpe to be dumped and I've always felt that Thorpe would have done better in the 2005 Ashes than Bell did (alright - Thrope as a left hander would always struggle against Warne, but then everyone did, and Bell certainly did). Because of this I've always felt Bell was a bit of a pretender to Thorpes throne, and been a bit prejudiced against him. I need to get over that! Bell IS a good player now. That was tricky to bat in there today, poor light, rain, etc - but I don't remember him giving a chance. Well played Sir! You can keep it warm for the Indians too!!!

  • D.S.A on June 19, 2011, 23:00 GMT

    If you look at his stats, from 2005 to 2009, his average is going DOWN as time passes, yet the selectors kept faith in him. I ask this...if it is right to keep faith in him, they are then obligated to keep faith in every other player that has failed as badly as he had done. Whilst he has been playing well in the recent past, is the benefit of today's success worth the misery of him underperforming for sooo long? If somebody else had been given as many chances that he had, he wouldn't be in the team as that player would have improved a lot faster than him.

  • on June 19, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Great to see Bell doing well, he's yet to score a century against india. Let's hope when they visit, he can rectify that.

  • drsankalp on June 19, 2011, 23:21 GMT

    Ian bell and Cook are average batsman ! They will be exposed against India in this year only. They don't have ability to play quality spin of Harbhajan and Amit Mishra. I won't be surprised if there average dips to single digit that time. Its ridiculous to put them on high pedestrian based on performance on number 8 team in world.

  • on June 19, 2011, 23:30 GMT

    Happy for the man. Once it was a genuine case of a guy caught in headlights. He never had the imposing presence like Hayden or Pietersen. Ever a touch artist, his prolific rise through the ranks seemed to have become his millstone. However international experience, harsher lessons in survival and a more rounded game has finally fine tuned his very visible talent. Let's hope our bowling attack finds a way counter Bell. In any case, like Hayden has proved with different methods - baptism by fire might not be such a bad thing if you have the mental fortitude. Not many would have recovered from a Warne- McGrath assault.

  • TheDoctor394 on June 20, 2011, 0:15 GMT

    I'm thrilled with how well Bell is doing. I've been a fan of him for years, and thought some (though not all) of the critism he received earlier in the year was quite unfair. He's now showing just what a beautiful and high quality batsman he is.

  • rohitkossery on June 20, 2011, 0:39 GMT

    England is too formidable a side now. All their players seem to be in great form, or getting there. They have slow, but steady run accumulators in Trott and Cook, and Some swashbuckling players like Bell, Morgan, Prior and KP. Add to that their in-form pacemen and the world's best offspinner, and its clear that they have the tool to be number 1. cant wait for India vs England. I think it would be the true test of champs

  • Tomek on June 20, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    If Bell is so solid, Cook and Trott in serious form and Broad almost as good with the bat as he is with ball then surely it's time to go with 5 bowlers? Otherwise it is a matter of holding onto Broad and possibly compromising the attack, or switching him for Finn.

    With Anderson a perfect foil for top order bats looking to increase the score, Prior a sublime bat and Broad/Swann pretty useful I really think it's time teams stopped hiding behind runs. We live in an era of roads, the first team to step up and play attacking cricket with their bowlers has the chance to really take the lead.

  • on June 20, 2011, 0:58 GMT

    @drsankalp-it was a matter of time before enlightened indian fans like you come up with "bell,cook etc are avg"comments.n wat else,england a poor team?back to the topic,its a testament to belly,he has come a long way frm being a batsman who thrives under no pressure,a sherminator.what amazes me is that he looks very fluent and once he settles in,he scores big.thats da sign of a quality player.ind wl b much tougher,zaheer is class,i think praveen kumar will excel in da conditions,n sharma/sreesanth are quality on thr day.m not too worried with harbhajan though.

  • mak102480 on June 20, 2011, 1:07 GMT

    How can England be the best test team in the world when they haven't beaten India in a Test series since 1996? Yes, Eng haven't beaten India in a series in 15 years. The last 5 series b/w India and Englad: India (in India), Drawn (in England), Drawn (in India), India (in England), and India (in India). So, it's not just a case of India winning at home either: the last two series in Eng was drawn and won by India.