Haryana v England, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 8, 2012

Time at the crease enough for Bell


When Ian Bell is an old man, reflecting on his career, it is unlikely he will recall his runs in this match against Haryana with particular pleasure. On a flat pitch and against a limited attack, England's batsmen were rarely troubled. This was a case not so much stealing candy from a baby, as allowing the baby to pop the candy in your pocket to save you the bother. Batting is rarely more straightforward.

England amassed 408 for the loss of just three wickets on the first day of the game, with all of their batsmen enjoying valuable time at the crease. While Kevin Pietersen will dominate the headlines after an imperious innings of 110, Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Bell also recorded half-centuries, while Jonathan Trott fell only four short. None of them will have enjoyed many softer innings at first-class level.

But even if this was not the most meaningful encounter, Bell, at least, faced a couple of challenges. Not only was he required to face the bulk of the bowling from Amit Mishra, the one quality spinner to have confronted England on the tour to date, but Bell was obliged to start his innings against him. Mishra did not come on until the 51st over and then claimed two wickets in his first six overs, dismissing both Compton and Trott leg before. But Bell dealt with him comfortably. Although his innings started with a mis-hit lofted shot over mid-on, Bell was soon skipping down the pitch to lift Mishra for two sixes and barely played a false stroke. He resumes on day two unbeaten on 57.

"That was exactly what I needed going into the Test," Bell said afterwards. "He's a quality spinner. He's played a lot of Test cricket. I know he didn't bowl for quite a period of time, but it was nice for me to start against quality spin. That is pretty much what is going to happen in the Tests.

"I feel confident coming down the wicket. It was a super wicket - it skidded on quite nicely - and I just want to be busy. We've talked a lot about using our feet - forwards and backwards - and it's getting as much good footwork going as possible."

India's tactic - and it does appear to be a deliberate tactic - of presenting England with little meaningful warm-up cricket may yet backfire. While it is true that England will go into the Test series having enjoyed little opportunity to bat against good quality spin bowling - or quality bowling of any type, really - they will have benefitted from time at the crease and with the confidence of runs under their belt. Sometimes clever tactics can prove too clever by half.

Certainly that was the view taken by Bell. "We've faced a lot of seam on this trip so far," he said. "But we can't control that. We play what we come up against. Mishra bowled a few overs in the end which was great for me and KP to spend a bit of time against him. And there's the new ball in the morning which is good for me and Samit Patel. The second new ball is going to be crucial over here as well as playing spin, so it's going to be a good challenge for us in the morning."

England are also trying to see the bright side in the unavailability of three first choice bowlers for this game. While it seems most unlikely that Steven Finn, who has a thigh injury, will be fit to play in the first Test, England are hopeful that Graeme Swann, who has returned home due to family illness, and Stuart Broad, who has a heel injury, will both be available. Neither will, perhaps, have enjoyed the warm-up they may have desired, but Bell expressed a belief that the experience given to England's second-string bowlers may prove valuable later in the series. England also rested James Anderson from this game.

"If one of our main bowlers get injured in the first Test, we need backup," Bell said. "These guys have overs under their belt which can only be a good thing for us. When we were in Australia, the reserve guys got an opportunity when we played Australia A in Tasmania and that helped us win the Ashes."

Pietersen is not injured. While the scoreboard may show that he retired hurt, it was only with a view to providing his colleagues with an opportunity to bat. It speaks volumes, however, that even after a commanding century, Pietersen was either not willing or not trusted to speak to the media. The last time he did so freely - the infamous "it's not easy being me" press conference following the Headingley Test in August - precipitated chaos in English cricket and it seems there is some caution being extended to ensure there is no repeat.

In his absence, it was left to Bell to describe Pietersen's feeling upon completing a century. "Kevin is a guy who likes to get bat on ball so I think he'll be happy to go into the Test with that innings under his belt," Bell said. "Everything has gone pretty well. He's trained well. He's hit the ball well. I'm sure he'll be a lot happier having scored a hundred, but he'll be even happier if he scores a hundred in the next Test.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on him to be the main reason why we win a series. It would be great if he could come out and play some innings like he has in recent times, but as a batting unit if we all have a good series we give our bowlers the opportunity to take wickets. We know if he gets in, we know he can change a Test so we want him in the best nick he can be."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brendan on November 11, 2012, 7:17 GMT

    Team for first test; Cook, Trott, Bell, Pietersen, Patel, Morgan, Prior (wk), Bresnan, Swann, Meaker, Anderson. 12th man: Panesar

  • Dummy4 on November 10, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    With the pressure cook faced, before the last ashes, i am surprised no one cranks up the same on Bell, he is undoubtedly a pleasure for the purist to watch, however his conversion rate is poor and runs come to him once the series is won or lost (Sydney/Oval). It is no coincidence that he has never dug England out of a hole or set the tone for an innings. As mark Ramprakash discovered, fifties do not cut it in the longer format and for Ian Ronald Bell, a proper, back to the wall, Daddy hundred is missing from his CV. Please don't try and throw his 235 at the oval, into the argument, the indian attack was riddled with holes by this stage, Kumar was spent, Khan was missing as well, even tendulkar had a bowl that day. I will be very surprised if Bell has the application to deal with the turning ball and equally surprised if he turns up for the ashes next year.

  • Sharon on November 10, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    @Vaibhav Gupta on (November 09 2012, 16:43 PM GMT) You say that ..."Also when India toured England last year, only B teams were fielded by counties as the season was under progress". Sir you are completely wrong. India played excellent and full-strength Somerset side in warm-up Somerset side made even stronger by inclusion of England captain (who normally play for Middlesex). India struggle in ALL warm up game, all test, all ODI and in T20 DON'T try to kid yourself that the struggle was caused by warm-up game Vs "B Team". India have shocking tour of England AND THEN shocking tour of Australia warm-up game have nothing to do with it. But if you want to believe that India would have won those tours if it hadn't been for those pesky warm-up game - then you go ahead and believe that if it make you happy.

  • Dummy4 on November 9, 2012, 16:43 GMT

    Its amazing how everyone keeps saying again and again how India lacks quality bowlers. Now India played their best 4 reserve seam bowlers in 1st warmup and had 40 overs of spin but still Indians are not giving adequate batting practice. We can play only the bowlers we got. Also when India toured England last year, only B teams were fielded by counties as the season was under progress, similarly we have our domestic competition right now.

  • Wicky on November 9, 2012, 14:36 GMT


  • Randolph on November 9, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    Bell has been shown up as a bunny by Warne and has never recovered.

  • John on November 9, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    Bell is a batsman I really like. When on song, there's no one in world cricket I'd rather watch. There's no doubt that he has performed below what his apparent would suggest that he should though. He was obviously one of the worst offenders in UAE and that would have to batter one's confidence. Yes, this was not the toughest workout England will ever get but one of the best signs for me was that Bell tried to immediately dominate Mishra, the one genuine spin threat in the game. England as a group will never be the best players of spin because of the conditions they play on in England but I believe that they are better than we saw in UAE. They all batted very negatively and we all saw the result. The first innings in SL was the same and things went down the same path. They looked more positive in the second innings but it was too little too late. KP played a great innings in game 2 but the whole team looked in a different frame of mind. They need that positive approach in India too.

  • John on November 9, 2012, 0:53 GMT

    @simon_w on (November 08 2012, 20:53 PM GMT), couldn't agree more. If KP had appeared at the press conference, how many questions would likely have been about his 100 anyway? One of the main criticisms of KP during the whole affair was that he acted without thinking things through, even from those who fell more on his of things. Why put him in a position where that might happen again so soon? There was a press conference during the SA series where KP kept saying that he didn't want to talk about anything but the game but no journalist was interested enough to ask about the game and they just kept at him and he ended up saying things that he obviously had not wanted too. I think he should have just walked out but then that would have been the story. Whatever the England players say, things will have been a bit tense and may still be, so why put any more pressure on KP than is required?

  • Simon on November 8, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    Thanks George. Going to take mild exception to one bit, though: "It speaks volumes, however, that even after a commanding century, Pietersen was either not willing or not trusted to speak to the media." I'm not so sure about that. I know it may be disappointing for the journalists, but surely it's better for everyone (okay, okay, journos excepted) for KP just to keep his head down and away from the media right now? We all know that if he appears in front of a mic he'll be on the receiving end of goads and leading questions, and it would hardly be out of character for him to put his foot in his mouth, would it? :)

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    There are 3 "under the belt" quotes in one article. Please could the cricketers think of some new phrases!

    This match does not fill English supporters confidence. One spinner of test experience (not good enough for the team) comes on and immediately takes 2 wickets.

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