Ian Bell's 100th Test June 18, 2014

Bell recalls career turning point

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As Ian Bell sat in the dressing rooms at Edgbaston in May 2009 and watched his former England colleagues take the field in a Test against West Indies, the prospect of a 100th Test cap seemed almost impossibly distant.

Bell was, at the time, on the periphery of the England side. He had been dropped after the debacle of the defeat in Jamaica when England were bowled out for 51 with a message that, for all his talent, more was expected of him if he was going to win a recall.

But now, with Bell on the brink of becoming the 12th England player to win 100 Test caps, he can look back on the experience of being dropped as the turning point of his career. The shock, the hurt and the realisation of how much representing his country meant to Bell spurred him on into fulfilling the expectations that had, at times, seemed to weigh him down in his earlier years.

"2009 was the turning point for me," Bell said. "The guys walked out at Lord's and I was at Edgbaston watching on TV.

"I felt then that I didn't just want to be playing county cricket. I felt I had unfinished business. I knew that when I got my next chance, I didn't want to let it go. Even with 40 Tests under my belt, I knew then I had to do more to stay in the side."

The key for Bell was learning to perform under pressure. While there was no doubting the sweetness of his timing, there were doubts about his ability deliver when England most required it. Until he was dropped - 45 Tests into his career - he had never scored a century in an innings when none of his team-mates had also scored one.

"You try to get away from those stats, but they're there in black and white," Bell admitted. "My goal was always to try to play the tough innings."

"You ask questions about yourself. You stop taking the easy option. Maybe in my early days I did that a little bit too much. I scored a lot of nice runs that looked good on the eye but really didn't change the course of the game.

"The next chance came when Kevin Pietersen got injured in the 2009 Ashes. And since then, things have gone really well. I started to score runs when the team really needed them. That was a massive turning point in me where I thought I could go on and get 100 Tests.

"On the 2009-10 South Africa, scoring 140 in Durban and batting the day with Paul Collingwood at Cape Town, gradually I started to understand what I needed to do to become a tougher Test cricketer.

"Last summer was probably the best I've played under that kind of pressure and hopefully that's just the start now. For the rest of my career I can do that more often and more consistently for England. I've really enjoyed the last few years. I'm 32 and feel as though I'm batting as well as I ever have for England."

But, having experienced the pain of being dropped, he is reluctant to look beyond the present and consider the prospect of surpassingg Alec Stewart's record of most Test appearances for an England player; 133.

"I've tried not to look too far ahead," Bell said. "If I stay fit, I want to play as long as I can for England. I love it.

"I watched people like Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart play their 100th Tests and you think it's what you'd love to do. That was my dream so to manage to do it is an incredible feeling. It's why I played the game. It is all I wanted to do as a kid, so I've managed to do what my goal was."

You ask questions about yourself. You stop taking the easy option. Maybe in my early days I did that a little bit too much. I scored a lot of nice runs that looked good on the eye but really didn't change the course of the game
Ian Bell on learning to get tough

Perhaps the sense of expectation over Bell was a hindrance at times. While he admits to having enjoyed the warm words and lofty predictions made for him in his teenage years, he also accepts there were times

"It was nice to hear people are talking you up," he said. "But probably, at times when it wasn't going right, I tried too hard to get to where people said I should be. That is at the back of your mind when you are a young player. Gradually, I've been able to get on with my cricket and not worry too much about that."

But Bell is well placed to offer advice to Sam Hain, the 18-year-old batsman who on Tuesday broke Bell's record as the youngest man to score a first-class century for Warwickshire. Like Bell a decade-and-a-half ago, much is being predicted of Hain.

"I'd tell him just 'enjoy the game'" Bell said. "He is a serious player, no doubt, and he just loves the game. I wouldn't change any of that.

"The minute you start to take it too seriously or put pressure on yourself, that's when it can be hard. He is the nicest young lad you will come across. Keep that, train as hard as you can and enjoy yourself. I think he has a future; everyone knows he has a future.

"When you see him scoring a century or the three debutants with England, you realise why you play the game in the first place. The key is to try to keep that as long as you can."

This milestone is significant for Bell. It marks not just his talent - a quality that has never been in doubt - but his resilience, his longevity and his contribution to a team that has won four Ashes series and been ranked No. 1 in the world. In recognition of the part his family played, he will celebrate with a dinner on Friday night at which his parents and brother, Keith, will be present.

One man who played a huge part in Bell's development will not be, though. Neal Abberley, the Warwickshire batting coach, spent longer honing Bell's game than anyone. The pair first met in the nets at Edgbaston when Bell was a schoolboy of around 10 years of age and, even after he became a Test player, it was Abberley he turned to whenever he returned to Edgbaston. But, after tens of thousands of throw downs and countless hours spent in the nets, Abberely died in the summer of 2011, just as Bell's batting was reaching its peak.

"I wish Neal Abberley could be here," Bell said. "He was somebody who was with me throughout my career and got me to where I am now. I still try to do things in the way we worked together.

"Graham Gooch is probably as close as I've come to the same relationship I had with Neal. They saw the game very similarly and gave me a lot of honest feedback, which sometimes you need. You don't just want people telling you what you want to hear; you need that honest criticism. They are always striving for more. I had a great relationship with both those guys. It will certainly be nice to share a beer with Graham at some point if he is here this week. I'll certainly try to do that at some point over the next few weeks."

But this is not really a time for looking back. Bell is an integral part of England's 'new era' and, as the senior man in the middle-order, will be required to contribute more than most of the previous 11 men to reach the 100 Test milestone managed in their landmark game.

"I hope there is a lot more to come," Bell said. "I'm certainly batting as well as I have in an England shirt. This is a different period in this England team. To win four Ashes and to win in India, they are the things I will look back on. We have done some good things.

"But I still think there are some special things around the corner."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 23, 2014, 11:28 GMT

    As a Saffa, when the English side came last, we openly disliked KP the most (because of his bravado), but feared Bell the most. It was Bell that gave the English the drawn series (almost won). We were better in bowling, batting, fielding, and tactics; but for Bell, that should have been a clean sweep. KP may have ballasted our bowlers for one session - we expected it to happen at least once - but Bell was the standout performer, and easily the best batsman on the English team sheet. Kudo's on 100 tests, may we see more Bell class in the future (just not against us, eh? ;))

  • TheDoctor394 on June 20, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Congratulations, Ian. I've been a fan of yours from the start, and have been bewildered how some people never seem to have accepted you, no matter what you've done. Well done on 100 Tests, and may there be many more to come.

  • on June 20, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    I'm not sure what Titch Taylor has got to do to get a look at the Test side again. He's certainly got the temprament for it and was harshly treated by England when he was axed after just two Tests.

  • m0se on June 20, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    There used to be stat that Bell had never scored a century when he was the only centurion in the innings. He fixed that a couple of years ago and especially after he won England the Ashes in England. But, the suspicion was always that he would pile on the runs when there was no pressure and then wilt even with the slightest bit of pressure. I can't remember a match saving dogged century from Bell or a match turning century. It has all been pleasant little affairs. I remember more innings from Collingwood than Bell.

  • IndianInnerEdge on June 20, 2014, 2:39 GMT

    Congrats to Bell....a fab under rated batsman and a decent bloke - am sure. Really pleasing on the eye to watch him bat...wishing him luck on his 100th test.

  • xtrafalgarx on June 20, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    @dunger.bob. No he de doesn't. He hadn't scored a century against AUS till the last test in 2010/11. Even after the 3 he got, he still averages under 40 vs Australia overall.

  • vatsap on June 20, 2014, 1:13 GMT

    Congratulations Bell. For all the nonsense he has had to put up in his career, he has done very well on the field, looks mentally strong and has really put his head down to do the job. With no Trott, he seems to have taken the mantle from Thorpe. If he was an Indian Cricketer, he would have been the likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS. Feel happy for this quiet achiever.

  • JRP100 on June 19, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    bell is no doubt a good player, but his stats by the time he retires will lead you to believe he is a great when in fact he has piled most of his runs against low quality bowling attacks (averaging 118 against poor indian , sri lankan and australian attacks in 2011) and failing against the better attacks (pakistan in england in 2010, south africa in 2012, the 2005 and 2007 ashes and almost every tour he has had to india against harbajhan). It's disappointing that he will be compared to, or even thought to be better than the likes of damien martyn, mark waugh, laxman, ganguly, younus khan and mohammed yousef when these batsmen never had the chance to score 5000 odd runs against such low quality bowling attacks like bell has.

  • PeerieTrow on June 19, 2014, 17:35 GMT

    @Sir_Francis: Those data you invoke appear to have been selected to support a pre-ordained argument. What's your point here?

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2014, 15:50 GMT

    @Sir_Francis, arnt you just cherry picking stats as you seem to omit his two most successful series in 2011, and considering he mentions 2009 as the turning point, I don't know what point you are making.

    If we look at his stats since 2009 the ascribed turning point he has averaged 49.7 which is more than KP in the same time frame.

  • on June 23, 2014, 11:28 GMT

    As a Saffa, when the English side came last, we openly disliked KP the most (because of his bravado), but feared Bell the most. It was Bell that gave the English the drawn series (almost won). We were better in bowling, batting, fielding, and tactics; but for Bell, that should have been a clean sweep. KP may have ballasted our bowlers for one session - we expected it to happen at least once - but Bell was the standout performer, and easily the best batsman on the English team sheet. Kudo's on 100 tests, may we see more Bell class in the future (just not against us, eh? ;))

  • TheDoctor394 on June 20, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Congratulations, Ian. I've been a fan of yours from the start, and have been bewildered how some people never seem to have accepted you, no matter what you've done. Well done on 100 Tests, and may there be many more to come.

  • on June 20, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    I'm not sure what Titch Taylor has got to do to get a look at the Test side again. He's certainly got the temprament for it and was harshly treated by England when he was axed after just two Tests.

  • m0se on June 20, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    There used to be stat that Bell had never scored a century when he was the only centurion in the innings. He fixed that a couple of years ago and especially after he won England the Ashes in England. But, the suspicion was always that he would pile on the runs when there was no pressure and then wilt even with the slightest bit of pressure. I can't remember a match saving dogged century from Bell or a match turning century. It has all been pleasant little affairs. I remember more innings from Collingwood than Bell.

  • IndianInnerEdge on June 20, 2014, 2:39 GMT

    Congrats to Bell....a fab under rated batsman and a decent bloke - am sure. Really pleasing on the eye to watch him bat...wishing him luck on his 100th test.

  • xtrafalgarx on June 20, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    @dunger.bob. No he de doesn't. He hadn't scored a century against AUS till the last test in 2010/11. Even after the 3 he got, he still averages under 40 vs Australia overall.

  • vatsap on June 20, 2014, 1:13 GMT

    Congratulations Bell. For all the nonsense he has had to put up in his career, he has done very well on the field, looks mentally strong and has really put his head down to do the job. With no Trott, he seems to have taken the mantle from Thorpe. If he was an Indian Cricketer, he would have been the likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS. Feel happy for this quiet achiever.

  • JRP100 on June 19, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    bell is no doubt a good player, but his stats by the time he retires will lead you to believe he is a great when in fact he has piled most of his runs against low quality bowling attacks (averaging 118 against poor indian , sri lankan and australian attacks in 2011) and failing against the better attacks (pakistan in england in 2010, south africa in 2012, the 2005 and 2007 ashes and almost every tour he has had to india against harbajhan). It's disappointing that he will be compared to, or even thought to be better than the likes of damien martyn, mark waugh, laxman, ganguly, younus khan and mohammed yousef when these batsmen never had the chance to score 5000 odd runs against such low quality bowling attacks like bell has.

  • PeerieTrow on June 19, 2014, 17:35 GMT

    @Sir_Francis: Those data you invoke appear to have been selected to support a pre-ordained argument. What's your point here?

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2014, 15:50 GMT

    @Sir_Francis, arnt you just cherry picking stats as you seem to omit his two most successful series in 2011, and considering he mentions 2009 as the turning point, I don't know what point you are making.

    If we look at his stats since 2009 the ascribed turning point he has averaged 49.7 which is more than KP in the same time frame.

  • Sir_Francis on June 19, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    Turning point? Since 2011/12 he's averaged per series 31.28 47.70 58.88 27.01 38/65 30.47 32.44 and then over the last 2 Ashes 48.57 44.76 That's an average of 36.84 over that period (compared to his career average of 45.24)

  • CodandChips on June 19, 2014, 13:26 GMT

    @Chomolungma Yep I agree with what you say.

    Re Vince as a future captain, for that to happen England should let him develop his captaincy with Hants. He's done alright this Blast as skipper. Scored runs. Managed his bowlers pretty well imo. Perhaps he'll take over white-ball captaincy next year if this Blast campaign goes well. I hope people don't forget James Taylor.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2014, 10:36 GMT

    @jackiethepen, I have seen bell bat (Edgbaston, Oval, Lords, Ashes last year)and hes a very good stroke player and very easy on the eye when batting, a little like Gower was, as for the 'racehorse' I didn't label Cook as such, hes another workhorse.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 19, 2014, 10:06 GMT

    The likes of Bell, Trott and Thorpe always go down first on my test team sheets. Regardless of what the media/fans/detractors say, these are the guys more valuable to test teams than spotlight-driven poster pin-up boys like KP.

    dunger.bob is spot on, and it's embarrassing at times when it takes an Australian to point out a cracking player for England, while all the while many England fans are moaning and demanding fast-scoring, but nowhere near as reliable players to replace the top contributors of the team.

  • jackiethepen on June 19, 2014, 9:48 GMT

    Yorkshire Pudding. Bell is a workhorse? And who is the racehorse, Cook? I suggest you take a look at their batting styles before you make a comment like that. Have you never seen Bell bat? (This is the problem).

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2014, 9:17 GMT

    @dunger.bob, unfortunately bell is a workhorse and all the media care about are the racehorses. Every team has a workhorse but they fall under the media spotlight when they do well and are flogged when they do badly.

  • dunger.bob on June 19, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    I can only give you my view as one solitary Aussie on Bell. He's a tough little nut who saved your bacon in the home leg of the double header. .. I know that's open to much conjecture, but's that's my view. .. He's a cracker. So what if he doesn't want to be Captain or the team pin-up boy. Who cares. .. I can't believe the flack he gets. He's a bloke doing his best and it's just about always very good when he plays against us. .. That's all I know and all I've got to say.

  • PeerieTrow on June 19, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    @balandeer, you made the statement, "as Hampshire fans will tell you." Well, as both CodandChips and I are Hampshire members and regular contributors to these discussion groups, we are well placed to respond. C&C has laid out the case for not calling up JV as yet, and I can't disagree with one word of his assessment of the situation. I firmly believe that JV will play a role in the future of England cricket at the highest level, and who knows, he may even be the one 'allowed' to pass the Gooch run record. Hopefully C&C will support me in saying that this young man has a very mature head on his young-ish shoulders and could even be a future England captain in the making. In the meantime, I believe they should give 'Titch' Taylor a chance. His career has roughly followed the 'Bell model' of called up too early, failed, crirticised by senior cricketers who should know better, returned to the counties to develop and mature. Like Bell, he's a class act and should be given the chance.

  • CodandChips on June 19, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    @landl47 I hear what you're saying. But for me Taylor is more ready, as he has consistently performed well in all formats in county cricket and for the Lions. He has also played for a bit in Division 1, whereas Vince's big runs have come in division 2. Also, although I usually ignore career averages as they tend to ignore the fact that players can improve, Taylor's career averages are high in all formats, which to me shows there is something very special there.

    Either way, both Vince and Taylor are fine young batsmen. The fact we have them waiting in the wings, plus Root and Ballance in the side atm, shows that batting looks good for the future.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    A nice milestone to reach and congratulation to him (providing he doesn't get injured), but its interesting to see that he's received 100 caps in 10 years, played at almost every position in the top 6, and has been a steady middle order player for England over the years, its not been an outstanding career while he may not go down as one of the greats of the English game, one has to recognise the contribution he makes with a 50+ every 3 innings, and converting every third fifty to a 100.

    I see Vince is mentioned, I don't know enough but the weight of runs should have him knocking on the selectors door, though its difficult to see where he goes in the order, short of dropping Moeen, Root or Ballence.

  • jackiethepen on June 19, 2014, 8:07 GMT

    Westmorlandia typifies the fan who doesn't use his own eyes but depends on the media for who's who and celeb status. It's quite hilarious that Bell's 2011 is described as 'the icing on the cake' after the 'big boys' got runs. Bell batted at 3 against India when Trott was injured and got 157 and 232. Against Sri Lanka he was out only once with two tons and two 50s. Tom Moody said he was the thorn in their flesh (then Sri Lanka coach). The problem is perception created by lack of free-to-air TV. Bell might be quiet off the field (though Polite Enquiries revealed a wry, jokey personality) but on the field he is thrilling to watch as a stroke player like Jayawardene and he's a dynamic fielder. A lot of it is to due to his classical batting now out of fashion in England. He may be the last of his kind. In the future his stroke play may be the remembered as the last glow of a golden age.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 19, 2014, 6:17 GMT

    Its ironical that there are some who question Bell's mental toughness after countless sterling contributions. 3 centuries in the 2013 Ashes, that crucial 72 at the Oval in 2009, the match saving century in Cape Town in 2009-10, the counter attacking century that knocked the stuffing out of the Indians in 2011- those are but a few of his monumental contributions, all of which came under extreme pressure. He may not be the flashiest, but he's surely one of the most dangerous batsmen around

  • St.John on June 19, 2014, 6:10 GMT

    In cricket (and in most walks of life) it's always the flamboyant types that get all the attention...That's the nature of the beast, and it will never change. Bell has been the quiet one, unobtrusively going about his business that has produced 20 centuries and 40 fifties in 99 tests.

  • xtrafalgarx on June 19, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    I have never really rated Bell to be honest. I don't know, i have always felt that his runs weigh less. A hundred from Cook or Trott or Pietersen always seemed to 'hurt' more for me as an Australian fan than a Bell hundred, even when he got those 3 in the winter.

    I think it is telling that even after 100 tests people are still talking about him 'toughening up' and 'coming of age'. I mean..he is 32! There has been many a great player who have made long lasting impacts on our memories in less than half the tests he has played.

  • landl47 on June 19, 2014, 4:53 GMT

    @CodandChips: if Vince isn't ready, he's doing a remarkably good impression of someone who is. 1100 runs @60 in the county championship last year, and over 1000 with an average of 80 in 9 games so far this year. A double century at more than a run a ball in his most recent innings didn't hurt, either.

    I'm sure Hampshire would be sorry to lose him, but it won't be long before they'll have to get used to it. I think Taylor is also a fine young player, but if you asked me to predict which of them will be the better test cricketer, I'd pick Vince.

  • landl47 on June 19, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    Bell has never pushed himself forward, but if you actually look at what he has done it includes not only match-winning but a lot of match-saving innings. He's going to be defined by the 2013 Ashes in England, when he was hands down the best player on either side, but no doubt Sri Lanka will remember 2011, when in 4 innings he had 2 hundreds and 2 fifties and was three times not out for an average of 331.

    I think he would have made a better captain than Cook; on the rare occasions when he has been available to captain Warwickshire he has done well both as captain and player. As Cook's vice-captain, his chance may yet come.

  • pandian_ikku on June 19, 2014, 1:22 GMT

    KP was the only match wining batsmen England produced in recent past.

  • lebigfella on June 18, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    I like Ian Bell... however always feel he is a bit of an underachiever... we need him to stand up and get the important runs over the next few seasons as 'the main man'... almost the Damien Martyn of England? Congratulations on your 100th test

  • CodandChips on June 18, 2014, 18:29 GMT

    @Balladeer I'm a Hants fan and I hope Vince is left alone. He is 1.Not ready for test cricket yet 2.Too important to Hants 3.Would be of much more importance to Hampshire than he would be to England.

    As for number 4s waiting in the wings: James Taylor. He may be without a championship century this year but is clearly deserving of a chance.

    Well done to Bell. People forget how crucial he was in 2011, when he was absolutely prolific and many people believe he is was better than Trott and Cook. I am usually overly critical of Bell, and I firmly believe he should take more responsibility, but well done to him for earning 100 tests. Now he needs to deliver like he did last summer, and show it wasn't a one-off.

  • jackiethepen on June 18, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    Why no tributes to Bell? Bell has never been a media favourite. In fact he was hounded in his early career. His toughness really needs no further evidence. Anyone who has survived relentless criticism and sneers has to be made of strong stuff. Cook has some inkling of what Bell has gone through in recent months. Until now Cook has not had a breath of criticism, never been dropped, never lost the support of his coach Flower, also an Essex team mate, even though he did fail at times. That kind of support must seem a dream to Bell but he's now on the brink of his 100th Test. He's too modest. His 72 at the Oval must win Ashes 2009 was game changing under pressure coming in 12-1 (Cook failed). His 199 overtook KP's century at Lords against SA so can hardly be criticised for easy runs. His century at Faisalabad in 2005 was not on the coattails of another bat. He was batting at 4 ahead of KP. Dropped again he got 3 consecutive centuries against Pakistan in 2006. Lazy assumptions from Dobell.

  • Westmorlandia on June 18, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    His 100 tests do seem to have come slightly out of nowhere. Until last summer, he always had the air of the junior batsman. Even when his batting was exceptional in 2011, he was hardly needed much - just the icing on the cake once the big boys had scored the meat of the runs.

    It's telling that there isn't much talk of him being captain, even with Cook's struggles, and even though he is considered to be a good cricket thinker. He just glides by quietly in the background. If he got 150 tests, I expect no one would quite notice him doing it.

  • Balladeer on June 18, 2014, 17:28 GMT

    "I started to score runs when the team really needed them." Would be great if you could do that again, Belly, instead of getting a nice-looking fifty and then chucking your wicket away.

    Perhaps that's harsh, but it's a reflection on how well he's started off. Recently, after whatever happened in the winter (as an Englishman I've wiped it from my memory), he's started to score those lovely-looking runs again, but apart from winning that joke ODI with a 6 he hasn't really gritted his teeth and got on with it. He says repeatedly that he's in form, he looks like he's in form: now he needs to show that he is in form, and score a classy-looking century or two on his 100th Test.

    Congratulations on the milestone, Ian; but as Hampshire fans will tell you, if you get complacent, there's another very adept number 4 waiting in the wings...

  • on June 18, 2014, 16:49 GMT

    So much publicity to Cook and KP on their 100th but little to no for Bell? Why?

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • on June 18, 2014, 16:49 GMT

    So much publicity to Cook and KP on their 100th but little to no for Bell? Why?

  • Balladeer on June 18, 2014, 17:28 GMT

    "I started to score runs when the team really needed them." Would be great if you could do that again, Belly, instead of getting a nice-looking fifty and then chucking your wicket away.

    Perhaps that's harsh, but it's a reflection on how well he's started off. Recently, after whatever happened in the winter (as an Englishman I've wiped it from my memory), he's started to score those lovely-looking runs again, but apart from winning that joke ODI with a 6 he hasn't really gritted his teeth and got on with it. He says repeatedly that he's in form, he looks like he's in form: now he needs to show that he is in form, and score a classy-looking century or two on his 100th Test.

    Congratulations on the milestone, Ian; but as Hampshire fans will tell you, if you get complacent, there's another very adept number 4 waiting in the wings...

  • Westmorlandia on June 18, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    His 100 tests do seem to have come slightly out of nowhere. Until last summer, he always had the air of the junior batsman. Even when his batting was exceptional in 2011, he was hardly needed much - just the icing on the cake once the big boys had scored the meat of the runs.

    It's telling that there isn't much talk of him being captain, even with Cook's struggles, and even though he is considered to be a good cricket thinker. He just glides by quietly in the background. If he got 150 tests, I expect no one would quite notice him doing it.

  • jackiethepen on June 18, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    Why no tributes to Bell? Bell has never been a media favourite. In fact he was hounded in his early career. His toughness really needs no further evidence. Anyone who has survived relentless criticism and sneers has to be made of strong stuff. Cook has some inkling of what Bell has gone through in recent months. Until now Cook has not had a breath of criticism, never been dropped, never lost the support of his coach Flower, also an Essex team mate, even though he did fail at times. That kind of support must seem a dream to Bell but he's now on the brink of his 100th Test. He's too modest. His 72 at the Oval must win Ashes 2009 was game changing under pressure coming in 12-1 (Cook failed). His 199 overtook KP's century at Lords against SA so can hardly be criticised for easy runs. His century at Faisalabad in 2005 was not on the coattails of another bat. He was batting at 4 ahead of KP. Dropped again he got 3 consecutive centuries against Pakistan in 2006. Lazy assumptions from Dobell.

  • CodandChips on June 18, 2014, 18:29 GMT

    @Balladeer I'm a Hants fan and I hope Vince is left alone. He is 1.Not ready for test cricket yet 2.Too important to Hants 3.Would be of much more importance to Hampshire than he would be to England.

    As for number 4s waiting in the wings: James Taylor. He may be without a championship century this year but is clearly deserving of a chance.

    Well done to Bell. People forget how crucial he was in 2011, when he was absolutely prolific and many people believe he is was better than Trott and Cook. I am usually overly critical of Bell, and I firmly believe he should take more responsibility, but well done to him for earning 100 tests. Now he needs to deliver like he did last summer, and show it wasn't a one-off.

  • lebigfella on June 18, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    I like Ian Bell... however always feel he is a bit of an underachiever... we need him to stand up and get the important runs over the next few seasons as 'the main man'... almost the Damien Martyn of England? Congratulations on your 100th test

  • pandian_ikku on June 19, 2014, 1:22 GMT

    KP was the only match wining batsmen England produced in recent past.

  • landl47 on June 19, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    Bell has never pushed himself forward, but if you actually look at what he has done it includes not only match-winning but a lot of match-saving innings. He's going to be defined by the 2013 Ashes in England, when he was hands down the best player on either side, but no doubt Sri Lanka will remember 2011, when in 4 innings he had 2 hundreds and 2 fifties and was three times not out for an average of 331.

    I think he would have made a better captain than Cook; on the rare occasions when he has been available to captain Warwickshire he has done well both as captain and player. As Cook's vice-captain, his chance may yet come.

  • landl47 on June 19, 2014, 4:53 GMT

    @CodandChips: if Vince isn't ready, he's doing a remarkably good impression of someone who is. 1100 runs @60 in the county championship last year, and over 1000 with an average of 80 in 9 games so far this year. A double century at more than a run a ball in his most recent innings didn't hurt, either.

    I'm sure Hampshire would be sorry to lose him, but it won't be long before they'll have to get used to it. I think Taylor is also a fine young player, but if you asked me to predict which of them will be the better test cricketer, I'd pick Vince.

  • xtrafalgarx on June 19, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    I have never really rated Bell to be honest. I don't know, i have always felt that his runs weigh less. A hundred from Cook or Trott or Pietersen always seemed to 'hurt' more for me as an Australian fan than a Bell hundred, even when he got those 3 in the winter.

    I think it is telling that even after 100 tests people are still talking about him 'toughening up' and 'coming of age'. I mean..he is 32! There has been many a great player who have made long lasting impacts on our memories in less than half the tests he has played.