Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2011

Bell finally ends quest for Ashes ton

Ian Bell has played some sublime innings on this tour, and after 18 Ashes Tests he has finally registered a hundred against Australia
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It is typical of the manner in which Ian Bell's career has developed that his finest moment as an England cricketer should have been so monumentally overshadowed, first by his team-mate Alastair Cook and his gargantuan appetite for runs, and then by a controversy involving the Umpire Decision Review System. Nevertheless, when Bell punched Steven Smith through the covers to bring up his maiden Ashes hundred, it was the end of a quest that must have seemed never-ending.

Bell's batting at times in this series has been sublime. At Brisbane and Perth he scored a brace of half-centuries of such effortless poise that you wondered how and why the rest of the batsmen had failed to negotiate the conditions. But as England's designated No. 6, he found himself running out of partners on the few occasions he made it to the crease, and denied opportunities when the going was at its best, particularly at Adelaide, where his 68 not out was entirely overshadowed by a Kevin Pietersen double-century.

Finally, though, he has cracked it. After 11 half-centuries in 18 Ashes Tests, he has now converted to three figures and laid to rest the ghost of failures past, particularly those of his first full season as a Test batsman in 2005 when the intensity of that summer's incredible tussle was too great for such an inexperienced cricketer. In 10 visits to the crease he fell in single figures on seven occasions, and in the grandstand finale at The Oval, he finished with a first-ball duck and one of the most ignominious pairs of recent English history.

Bell has spent most of his career living down that initiation at the hands of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, much as England's batting coach, Graham Gooch, also struggled to establish himself after bagging a pair on debut against the might of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Max Walker at Edgbaston in 1975. For a variety of reasons, including a run-out for 99 in Perth and a rebel tour of South Africa, he had to wait a full decade to record his first hundred against the Aussies. But it did not stop him forging an exceptional career.

"It's the best knock I've played in an England shirt against Australia, so it's a fantastic moment to get a hundred against Australia," said Bell. "I felt like I'd been in pretty good nick and good touch throughout the tour, and I felt I put it together. I put on a partnership with Cooky and then Matty Prior at the end, and it was really nice to build those partnerships as we have done all tour."

"It's been a great tour for our batting unit," he added. "I've done a great deal of watching the guys really tough it out against the new ball and cash in, so it's nice today to go on. At times we had to work pretty hard for our runs, because we were desperate to keep batting and working on our partnership. It wasn't about trying to be fluent, but keeping the momentum going. Every run counts for us in this innings. We want to score as many as we can."

Bell may consider himself fortunate to have been at the crease long enough to post three figures. On 67, he appeared to feather an edge through to Brad Haddin off the bowling of Shane Watson, and turned to the review system as a last resort, given that England had two chances left and no specialist batsmen left in the innings. The system worked in his favour on that occasion, and luck was also with him 17 runs later, when Smith spilled a sharp caught and bowled opportunity on 84.

But in the final analysis, Bell has earned his reward for a run of form that has led many to demand he moves up the England batting order, at least to Paul Collingwood's current berth at No. 5, and maybe even higher than that. "It's another tick on an already outstanding career," said Cook. "He's grown over the last 12 months into an outstanding batter, and his stats are phenomenal over the last year and a half. It's always nice getting those monkeys off your back, and you can always say 'I scored a hundred against Australia'. I think it will be the first of many."

"I've always thought he's been a good player," said Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, who has seen him at close quarters in each of his four Ashes campaigns. "He always had talent and he's come up against a couple of good bowlers in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne throughout his career as well, which would have been very hard especially starting as a young player. He's had a really good series, he knows his game quite well and he's been able to execute that. Full credit to him."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jonesy2 on January 6, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    worst batsman ive ever seen still yet to make a100 against the mighty aus

  • Rooboy on January 6, 2011, 1:13 GMT

    @5wombats - there was evidence! Enough evidence for the central umpire to give it out, and the 'technology' provided nothing to confirm or deny the accuracy of that decision. Bell got a ton and good luck to him, but he scored it after he was out and then reprieved by an umpiring mistake in reversing an intially correct decision ... if you don't consider that to be discredited circumstances then I don't think you're being realistic. lol @Stuart Brooking - no sour grapes in my mouth - England have been far too good and this incorrect decision was hardly going to change anything! The wheel has (finally!!) turned and well done to england ... but if you think all Australian fans are sitting around whining and moaning .. well, sorry to disappoint you. As for the crowd showing 'good sportsmanship' by not clapping, they clapped Cook cos he deserved it, Bell did not, and how can any pom talk about Aussie sportsmanship after english crowds booed Ponting all last series like puerile schoolkids?!

  • righthandbat on January 5, 2011, 23:09 GMT

    I cannot believe Chappell wants Bell to bat at number 3. Firstly - you have J. Trott, who is currently one of the best first-drops in the world. Secondly, he was woeful at number 3, sure he was a different player when he batted there, but still. Collingwood announcing his retirement only means one thing for Bell and that is taking his number 5 position (which he averages over 60 at) and making the top 5 very imposing.

    I think there may be an argument, just like with Brad Haddin, to move Prior up to six and Broad coming back at seven and focusing a bit more on batting and becoming a more genuine batting-allrounder. Swann/Bresnan should bat eight and nine depending on the situation and the overs they have bowled, Tremlett ten and Anderson at eleven. This certainly gives the team a more all-round flavour and more bowling options (particularly with the retirement of Collingwood) and gives the quicks more rest during the course of fielding.

  • CustomKid on January 5, 2011, 22:29 GMT

    @Sat Matharu he he I kind of agree with your comments there. I'm still not convinced just yet. 18 months of good form doesn't make a career. That said it's not the way you start but the way you finish. If he continues his career in this fashion he'll finish as a very fine player no doubt.

    What I do find amusing is that the people going in to bat for him now saying he's the best thing since sliced bread are the same ones who were calling for him to never play for England again only 2 years ago. A fickle bunch to be sure.

    I've seen a lot of his cricket and I'm still not convinced. He was horrid against Warne and Co and despite his class he leaves a huge gap between bat and pad just like his non dismissal yesterday. Good bowlers will exploit that and he's been bowled or LBW through that gate a lot.

    I saw his ton in SA last year which was a great knock, yesterday was pretty good with a little luck against a rubbish attack on its knees. He's on the right path though, time will tell.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 20:52 GMT

    "Australianism," wrote John Arlott, "means single-minded determination to win - to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them........" Note; "TO THE LAST LIMIT WITHIN THEM". That is all that is happening here with the "Hughes incident" and the "Bell incedent". Thank you @landl47; for reminding our friends about the "Hussey incident" - which was nailed on OUT no argument.

  • on January 5, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Sat Matharu - if the jury is stil out for you, there's no hope for you. Bell is a classy batsman who is delightful to watch. He is now also making important innings for England. I think you are now in a minority in saying he hasn't shaken off the tag of performing on the back of other players' deeds. This idea has veen well and truly buried over the last 18 months when he has played crucial innings against top teams to save or win games for England. There is a stubborn and very vocal minority who cling to their views about Bell against all the evidence. Here in Australia, coming in at 6 after a very out of form Collingwood, and twice coming in at 7 because of the nwm, he has been top scorer twice, and was well on course for centuries at Brisbane and Adelaide if he hadn't run out of partners or run out of time as England declared.

    Very well done Bell, a century against Australia at last, and very well deserved!

  • TheDoctor394 on January 5, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    Congratulations to Ian Bell! I've been a fan of his virtually from the outset, and have sometimes been bemused by the constant put-downs he's had by many, despite forging a good career. Of course, even this hundred will be questioned by people for a variety reasons - unfortunately, that seems to be his lot in life. But the century was fully deserved, and I'm very, very happy for him.

  • on January 5, 2011, 18:24 GMT

    Trott 3. Bell 4. Pietersen 5. Morgan 6.

    Simple.

  • AJ_Tiger86 on January 5, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    Ian Bell is far better than any batsman in the Australian team. He has an impeccable technique. And he is a very elegant and classy player. The most eye-pleasing player since Brian Lara. Fully deserved his 100 and Australia have been destroyed.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    @Sat Matharu ; Rubbish - utter rubbish.

  • jonesy2 on January 6, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    worst batsman ive ever seen still yet to make a100 against the mighty aus

  • Rooboy on January 6, 2011, 1:13 GMT

    @5wombats - there was evidence! Enough evidence for the central umpire to give it out, and the 'technology' provided nothing to confirm or deny the accuracy of that decision. Bell got a ton and good luck to him, but he scored it after he was out and then reprieved by an umpiring mistake in reversing an intially correct decision ... if you don't consider that to be discredited circumstances then I don't think you're being realistic. lol @Stuart Brooking - no sour grapes in my mouth - England have been far too good and this incorrect decision was hardly going to change anything! The wheel has (finally!!) turned and well done to england ... but if you think all Australian fans are sitting around whining and moaning .. well, sorry to disappoint you. As for the crowd showing 'good sportsmanship' by not clapping, they clapped Cook cos he deserved it, Bell did not, and how can any pom talk about Aussie sportsmanship after english crowds booed Ponting all last series like puerile schoolkids?!

  • righthandbat on January 5, 2011, 23:09 GMT

    I cannot believe Chappell wants Bell to bat at number 3. Firstly - you have J. Trott, who is currently one of the best first-drops in the world. Secondly, he was woeful at number 3, sure he was a different player when he batted there, but still. Collingwood announcing his retirement only means one thing for Bell and that is taking his number 5 position (which he averages over 60 at) and making the top 5 very imposing.

    I think there may be an argument, just like with Brad Haddin, to move Prior up to six and Broad coming back at seven and focusing a bit more on batting and becoming a more genuine batting-allrounder. Swann/Bresnan should bat eight and nine depending on the situation and the overs they have bowled, Tremlett ten and Anderson at eleven. This certainly gives the team a more all-round flavour and more bowling options (particularly with the retirement of Collingwood) and gives the quicks more rest during the course of fielding.

  • CustomKid on January 5, 2011, 22:29 GMT

    @Sat Matharu he he I kind of agree with your comments there. I'm still not convinced just yet. 18 months of good form doesn't make a career. That said it's not the way you start but the way you finish. If he continues his career in this fashion he'll finish as a very fine player no doubt.

    What I do find amusing is that the people going in to bat for him now saying he's the best thing since sliced bread are the same ones who were calling for him to never play for England again only 2 years ago. A fickle bunch to be sure.

    I've seen a lot of his cricket and I'm still not convinced. He was horrid against Warne and Co and despite his class he leaves a huge gap between bat and pad just like his non dismissal yesterday. Good bowlers will exploit that and he's been bowled or LBW through that gate a lot.

    I saw his ton in SA last year which was a great knock, yesterday was pretty good with a little luck against a rubbish attack on its knees. He's on the right path though, time will tell.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 20:52 GMT

    "Australianism," wrote John Arlott, "means single-minded determination to win - to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them........" Note; "TO THE LAST LIMIT WITHIN THEM". That is all that is happening here with the "Hughes incident" and the "Bell incedent". Thank you @landl47; for reminding our friends about the "Hussey incident" - which was nailed on OUT no argument.

  • on January 5, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Sat Matharu - if the jury is stil out for you, there's no hope for you. Bell is a classy batsman who is delightful to watch. He is now also making important innings for England. I think you are now in a minority in saying he hasn't shaken off the tag of performing on the back of other players' deeds. This idea has veen well and truly buried over the last 18 months when he has played crucial innings against top teams to save or win games for England. There is a stubborn and very vocal minority who cling to their views about Bell against all the evidence. Here in Australia, coming in at 6 after a very out of form Collingwood, and twice coming in at 7 because of the nwm, he has been top scorer twice, and was well on course for centuries at Brisbane and Adelaide if he hadn't run out of partners or run out of time as England declared.

    Very well done Bell, a century against Australia at last, and very well deserved!

  • TheDoctor394 on January 5, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    Congratulations to Ian Bell! I've been a fan of his virtually from the outset, and have sometimes been bemused by the constant put-downs he's had by many, despite forging a good career. Of course, even this hundred will be questioned by people for a variety reasons - unfortunately, that seems to be his lot in life. But the century was fully deserved, and I'm very, very happy for him.

  • on January 5, 2011, 18:24 GMT

    Trott 3. Bell 4. Pietersen 5. Morgan 6.

    Simple.

  • AJ_Tiger86 on January 5, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    Ian Bell is far better than any batsman in the Australian team. He has an impeccable technique. And he is a very elegant and classy player. The most eye-pleasing player since Brian Lara. Fully deserved his 100 and Australia have been destroyed.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    @Sat Matharu ; Rubbish - utter rubbish.

  • pandeypank on January 5, 2011, 17:14 GMT

    Great to See him bat so fluently.. Marvellous inning.

  • Spotty_Fixer on January 5, 2011, 16:26 GMT

    I love the way the Aussies are slating Bell when the UDRS has benefitted them throughout the series and has generally helped get to the right decisions. There will be grey areas as the system isn't 100% perfect.

    Remember Hussey in Brisbane where he was out for the plumbest of plumb LBW's, it even rapped him in front on both pads. We couldn't review it and he went on to make a massive hundred. He was able to successfuly overturn an LBW for height in this series by calling for an immediate review. He would also be able to tell one that was plumb. I didn't see the Aussies complain then and we sucked it up and carried on with the game.

    Give Bell some credit, he is a class act. Just like Pup for his sporting comments and genuine warmth.

  • on January 5, 2011, 15:00 GMT

    @hj07268 - why didn't Clarke walk then earlier in the series when exactly the same thing happened and why did Ponting abuse the umpires, the system and the audience by complaining for 5 minutes about the KP decision which was very clearly correctly not out? Try opening both eyes mate. G'day.

  • landl47 on January 5, 2011, 14:53 GMT

    I guerss, Mervo, you'd say the same thing about Hussey, who was given not out when he was plumb LBW in Brisbane and went on to get another hundred? It's strange that I don't actually remember any Australian fans saying that, but no doubt they did. Bell took his right to a review and was given not out. His hundred was no more discredited than Hussey's.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 14:51 GMT

    @Mervo; you're talking rubbish as well. "discredited circumstances" my eye.

  • 5wombats on January 5, 2011, 14:49 GMT

    @hj07268; Complete rubbish. You don't send a man to jail if there is no evidence. Bell was using the system correctly. Who are you to say otherwise?

  • MisterE84 on January 5, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    hj07268 i disagree with your comments (and Ian Botham's) regarding Hughes and trampling the spirit of the game. That ball was perilously close and you have to remember its probably less than half a second by the time it leaves the bat to reaching him. Its virtually impossible to tell whether it carried or not and if u watch the replay closely and listen to Cook's post-match chat he did mention that Hughes said he wasn't sure. No poor sportsmanship from Hughes in this case.

    As for Bell, well its probably out but I think this is a matter of the cricket gods smiling as no one deserves a ton more than this bloke. Ludicrous he is batting at 6 and has had to throw away two prior century opportunities chasing quick runs and sacrificed his own innings. Collectively, well deserved hundred. Whether or not he will be 'dodgy' with referrals remains to be seen.

    M Clarke full marks for handling the media - better than Ponting at this. Now just convert that form to runs in the middle!

  • on January 5, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    he didnt 'know' he was out. thats why he reviewed it. youd look pretty stupid having clonked it and then asking for a review. the book now says not out, so he was not out, scored a class ton, and the aussies showed their appreciation and good sportsmanship by not clapping it. those sour grapes must be tasting pretty fould in every aussie mouth right now. 3-1 in their own backyard and their only response is whinge, moan, whine.........

  • cricketdebator on January 5, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Congratulations to you Bell, and well done. I watched the start of your innings and immediately got the feeling you were going to score a century. Thankfully, you did not let me down. Now you've got your first against Australia, I hope it will be the first of many more to come, not only against Australia, but against all comers.keep going.

  • Itchy on January 5, 2011, 13:34 GMT

    @hj07268: In the words of Alastair Cook 'To be fair to Phil Hughes, he immediately said "I'm not sure" '.

    Bell, however, must have known that he hit it as it took him an eternity (including consulting Prior) before he called for a review. If he knew he hadn't hit it, he would have called for a review immediately

  • on January 5, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    Bell may well have got his first Ashes ton - by law of averages it was well overdue, just the 18 tests & 6 years - and he still hasnt shaken off the tag that he only performs off the back of other people's deeds or on flat tracks against undemanding bowling. He may act & talk hard, the impression remains he is powder puff. The jury is still out.

  • jackiethepen on January 5, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    If Bell thought he was out he would not have asked for a review on the smallest of chances that hot spot didn't show the revealing impact mark. He didn't feel it on the bat, he has reported in interview, hot spot confirms the failure of contact. If there was contact it wasn't discernable to Bell or hot spot. He didn't trample on the spirit of the game, he asked for a review by the third umpire. It was the umpire's decision to give him not out on the basis of the lack of technological evidence. You are questioning his honesty but hot spot verifies that no contact was felt.

  • jonesy2 on January 5, 2011, 13:12 GMT

    hahaha still hasnt got a century aganist australia he was out caught behind in the 70's

  • anver777 on January 5, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    As i predicted earlier in the series...... its nice to see stylish Bell scored his maiden ton against Aus, as he was in good nick throughout this Ashes !!!!! Very importantly his innings helped Eng to extend the lead & take the honors in the 5th test.......

  • jondavies01 on January 5, 2011, 11:09 GMT

    Congratulations to Bell for a richly deserved ton. He's been a joy to watch in this series and it's been unfortunate for him that he's been overshadowed by the accomplishments of his teammates. Clarke's gracious comments have really raised my estimation of him.

  • Mervo on January 5, 2011, 10:58 GMT

    One of the few English-born bats and he has done well. Pity he had to to get it under such discredited circumstances

  • hj07268 on January 5, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    To quote one of your fellow Cricinfo commentators Andrew, you seem to be having trouble opening the other eye. He was out, he knew it and he abused the sytem to gain what in any other circumstances would indeed have been a well deserved ton. Both he and Hughes have shown that in their desperation to be taken seriously in Ashes cricket they are willing to trample the spirit of the game.

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  • hj07268 on January 5, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    To quote one of your fellow Cricinfo commentators Andrew, you seem to be having trouble opening the other eye. He was out, he knew it and he abused the sytem to gain what in any other circumstances would indeed have been a well deserved ton. Both he and Hughes have shown that in their desperation to be taken seriously in Ashes cricket they are willing to trample the spirit of the game.

  • Mervo on January 5, 2011, 10:58 GMT

    One of the few English-born bats and he has done well. Pity he had to to get it under such discredited circumstances

  • jondavies01 on January 5, 2011, 11:09 GMT

    Congratulations to Bell for a richly deserved ton. He's been a joy to watch in this series and it's been unfortunate for him that he's been overshadowed by the accomplishments of his teammates. Clarke's gracious comments have really raised my estimation of him.

  • anver777 on January 5, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    As i predicted earlier in the series...... its nice to see stylish Bell scored his maiden ton against Aus, as he was in good nick throughout this Ashes !!!!! Very importantly his innings helped Eng to extend the lead & take the honors in the 5th test.......

  • jonesy2 on January 5, 2011, 13:12 GMT

    hahaha still hasnt got a century aganist australia he was out caught behind in the 70's

  • jackiethepen on January 5, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    If Bell thought he was out he would not have asked for a review on the smallest of chances that hot spot didn't show the revealing impact mark. He didn't feel it on the bat, he has reported in interview, hot spot confirms the failure of contact. If there was contact it wasn't discernable to Bell or hot spot. He didn't trample on the spirit of the game, he asked for a review by the third umpire. It was the umpire's decision to give him not out on the basis of the lack of technological evidence. You are questioning his honesty but hot spot verifies that no contact was felt.

  • on January 5, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    Bell may well have got his first Ashes ton - by law of averages it was well overdue, just the 18 tests & 6 years - and he still hasnt shaken off the tag that he only performs off the back of other people's deeds or on flat tracks against undemanding bowling. He may act & talk hard, the impression remains he is powder puff. The jury is still out.

  • Itchy on January 5, 2011, 13:34 GMT

    @hj07268: In the words of Alastair Cook 'To be fair to Phil Hughes, he immediately said "I'm not sure" '.

    Bell, however, must have known that he hit it as it took him an eternity (including consulting Prior) before he called for a review. If he knew he hadn't hit it, he would have called for a review immediately

  • cricketdebator on January 5, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Congratulations to you Bell, and well done. I watched the start of your innings and immediately got the feeling you were going to score a century. Thankfully, you did not let me down. Now you've got your first against Australia, I hope it will be the first of many more to come, not only against Australia, but against all comers.keep going.

  • on January 5, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    he didnt 'know' he was out. thats why he reviewed it. youd look pretty stupid having clonked it and then asking for a review. the book now says not out, so he was not out, scored a class ton, and the aussies showed their appreciation and good sportsmanship by not clapping it. those sour grapes must be tasting pretty fould in every aussie mouth right now. 3-1 in their own backyard and their only response is whinge, moan, whine.........