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Ian Bell's outstanding innings at Southampton against India suggests England might have found a stable No. 3batsman in ODIs
August 24, 2007
In 45 previous ODI innings, Ian Bell had put together 11 scores between 50 and 100, but till he struck that magnificent unbeaten 126 against the Indians - his third Man-of-the-Match performance - at Southampton, there were plenty of doubts over his ability to play the kind of authoritative one-day innings that could win matches. His 118-ball knock had everything to silence the doubters: he was dominant from the start and hardly took time to settle, he hit enough boundaries (ten fours and a six) to show that he could find the gaps and pierce the infield, he hardly wasted any scoring opportunities (only 45 dot-balls), and he paced his knock quite beautifully - the first 36 runs took 46 deliveries, and the last 90 came in a mere 72.
Admittedly one glorious innings doesn't mean Bell has suddenly transformed into a great one-day batsman - the runs were scored on an excellent batting track against a less-than-incisive bowling attack - but the knock has surely proved that he could be the answer to England's search for a solid yet enterprising No. 3 in ODIs.
Bell's knock also allowed him entry into the 1500-run club, a mark that been breached by only 19 England batsmen before him. An average of nearly 38 means that Bell finds himself among the top England batsmen in terms of numbers - only five have a higher average, and all of them have been recognised as terrific one-day players. By no means can Bell be termed one yet, but the signs and skills he showed at the Rose Bowl will delight England's think-tank.
|Batsman||ODIs||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Kevin Pietersen||53||2083||56.29||91.68||5/ 14|
|Nick Knight||100||3637||40.41||71.52||5/ 25|
|Neil Fairbrother||75||2092||39.47||72.06||1/ 16|
|Allan Lamb||122||4010||39.31||75.54||4/ 26|
|Robin Smith||71||2419||39.01||69.95||4/ 15|
|Ian Bell||48||1594||37.95||70.46||1/ 11|
|Marcus Trescothick||123||4335||37.37||85.21||12/ 21|
|Graeme Hick||120||3846||37.33||74.08||5/ 27|
|Graham Thorpe||82||2380||37.18||71.17||0/ 21|
|Graham Gooch||125||4290||36.98||61.88||8/ 23|
Bell was a part of England's limp top-order batting during the World Cup, scoring just 211 runs at 26.37. Five of his eight innings were at No. 3, where his highest was 47. Critics were justified in suggesting that his - and the openers' - conservative approach at the top of the order was just what England didn't need, but Bell's overall numbers at No. 3 indicate he has done pretty well at that position: the average is healthy, though the strike-rate could do with some improvement. Still, Bell's stats stack up favourably against those of the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Kumar Sangakkara.
|Batsman||ODIs||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Jacques Kallis||44||1677||49.32||74.46||3/ 11|
|Ricky Ponting||75||3095||46.89||87.06||8/ 21|
|Mahela Jayawardene||25||790||41.57||83.86||2/ 2|
|Ian Bell||29||1029||38.11||70.00||1/ 6|
|Ramnaresh Sarwan||38||1207||37.71||68.77||0/ 10|
|Shoaib Malik||23||814||37.00||74.67||0/ 8|
|Kumar Sangakkara||41||1369||36.02||75.80||1/ 13|
|Aftab Ahmed||42||1098||28.89||91.72||0/ 8|
The presence of Kevin Pietersen at No. 4 is a huge factor in England's one-day fortunes, and he's also the batsman Bell clearly loves to bat with. In 18 innings they average 56 runs per partnership, with eight stands of 50 or more.
|Partner||Innings||P'ship runs||Average stand||100/ 50 p'ships|
|Kevin Pietersen||18||841||56.06||1/ 7|
|Andrew Strauss||18||759||42.16||2/ 4|
|Ed Joyce||11||382||34.72||1/ 2|
|Paul Collingwood||9||312||34.67||1/ 1|
Bell isn't a naturally aggressive batsman who will bludgeon boundaries like a Pietersen, which is why he needs to work on the ability to rotate the strike and minimise the dot-balls. As the table below shows, his dot-ball percentage is 60, which is quite high in the modern one-day context. The high percentage can partially be explained by the fact that he is forced to come in early, when the Powerplays are on and the fielders are close to the bat, but that's a number he'll have to work on and reduce by a few percentage points.
|Batsman||Total balls faced||Dot-balls||Dot-ball %||Runs per over|
The silver lining, or not quite?
In the general gloom of India's dismal performance with both bat and ball at the Rose Bowl, one important show of discipline went almost unnoticed - the Indian bowlers didn't bowl a single no-ball. It was the 39th time they achieved it in a completed innings of at least 50 overs, but of late this has been a very rare occurrence. In the last three years (from August 21, 2004) this was only the third time they managed it; the other two instances were against Pakistan at Delhi in 2005, which was also John Wright's last game as India's coach, and at Durban against South Africa last year. Given that they've lost all three matches by more than 100 runs - the margins at Delhi and Durban were more than 150 - Rahul Dravid might just suggest to his bowlers that they overstep a few times in the next match.
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