Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Multan, 2nd day November 13, 2005

It's been a character-building experience - Bell

Cricinfo staff

Bell: 'To be bowled by the doc isn't the most pleasant of feelings' © Getty Images
After being heralded as England's next great middle order hope for so long, Ian Bell's burgeoning career was in danger of being completely derailed after a chastening Ashes series. Although included in the squad to Pakistan, he was unlikely to make the playing XI for the first Test. If any fortune resulted from Michael Vaughan's knee injury, it was for Bell, who was thrust into the crucial one-down position.

After scoring an accomplished 71, his fifth half century in nine Tests, he said of his knock, "It was a big one for me obviously with Vaughany's injury and me not expecting to play this Test. It's nice for me to get the confidence back. The wicket is exceptional, just a matter of time, I would have liked to have gone on and got a hundred, and I should have been still out there now, after getting in but I enjoyed going out there and spending some time in the middle."

He acknowledged that he had been out for form for some time before this innings, to the extent that he was even bowled by Peter Gregory, the team doctor, during practice. "It's been hard work and a character-building experience. To be bowled by the doc isn't the most pleasant of feelings. Fortunately, I went back to a few things that helped me, simple things like focusing on watching the ball, things that I was doing before last season."

His innings was more impressive because of the uncertainty over his place in the team. "Of course, it was a blow to not be part of team. I really want to establish myself and work hard for that, but what I realise is that there are a lot of guys vying for places, and I understood why I was going to be left out of this Test match. I just tried to make sure I got myself prepared just in case the opportunity came around and be in the best position if it did happen."

He enjoyed a little bit of luck in his 161-ball innings, being bowled by a slower ball from Shoaib Akhtar only to be reprieved by Billy Bowden's call of no-ball. "At the time I was so focused and watching the ball that I didn't realise the screen was still positioned for round the wicket for Trescothick. I didn't pick it up at all. Luckily it was a no-ball and it didn't make me look too much of a fool. It went high into the windows and if the screen was in the right position, it wouldn't have made much difference. It was a fantastic ball and did me all ends up."

Bell's 180-run partnership for the second wicket with Marcus Trescothick, captain for this Test, has put England into a strong position in the opening Test and Bell was quick to recognise his captain's contribution. "Marcus really helped me out there, always talking to me. We ran well between the wickets and it was nice to be out there with someone of his experience. He was keeping it simple, watching the ball, playing as straight as possible, running hard, turning twos into three. He carried on the way he plays and captaincy hasn't changed him at all. It was fantastic really to watch from the other end when he's in such good form and stroking the ball so nicely. If I can learn off these guys at the top of their game it is a great help to me.

"I was a little bit disappointed after last summer but I still back myself as a good player. I really want to prove to people that I can play at this level, and that I can do this for a long time."

Bell was also full of praise for the bowlers who did so exceptionally well to bowl out Pakistan for 274 on such a placid pitch, calling their performance "exceptional". He added: "It was a pretty great performance and we had to capitalise on it. We are now in with a definite chance. It's not a bad position to be in."