England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, Durham, 3rd day August 11, 2013

Bell creates his Ashes legacy

With his side in trouble again, Ian Bell produced another innings to transcend the situation and write his name in the Ashes history books
42

In years to come, when we reflect on the summer of 2013, it may well be that we remember it as "Bell's Ashes".

Ian Bell has been magnificent in this series. While his team-mates have batted with nervous fragility, Bell has combined the sweet timing with which his batting has always been characterised with the reliability and steel with which it has not. He has scored not just pretty runs, but match-shaping runs. He might well prove to have been the difference between the sides.

Bell will gain plaudits for having registered three centuries in the series. Certainly, it is a fine achievement: only two England players - Maurice Leyland and David Gower - have previously managed such a feat in Ashes series in England. It should also be noted that, following his century in Sydney at the end of the 2010-11 series, he has scored centuries in four of the last five Ashes Tests.

But such statistics tell only part of the story. The important thing about Bell's batting has not been the personal milestones, but the fact that he had come in with his side in trouble and produced under pressure.

This innings at Durham provided a perfect example. Coming to the crease with his side only 17 ahead and three wickets down, this game was in the balance. What is more, Ryan Harris was bowling with pace and skill and the pitch was starting to exhibit signs of uneven bounce.

But while every other batsman in the game has made batting appear a grim struggle for survival, Bell batted with an ease that has transcended the situation, the pitch and the bowling. His cover driving and late cutting, in particular, were things of beauty but, though less obvious, his shot selection and judgement at which balls to leave and which to play - for so long the Achilles heel in his game - was just as impressive. When Bell bats like this, he makes it seem absurdly easy.

It seems almost unthinkable now, but Bell entered this series with questions to answer about his long-term future. After a modest 18 months - he had averaged 32.07 in Test cricket between January 2012 and July 2013 - all the old questions, questions about Bell's mental strength and his resilience under pressure, were starting to re-emerge. All those innings in South Africa or against India in England, or even as recently as in Auckland were in danger of being forgotten.

Those questions have surely been answered permanently now. It is only surprising it has taken 20 Test centuries - only six England players have scored more and two of them are in the same side as him - more than 6000 Test runs and an average of 47 to convince the doubters. And, aged 31, the best should be ahead of him.

So soundly did Bell negate the low bounce, playing straight, late and low, that it appeared this pitch had eased. In truth, that probably owed more to the softening ball - the batch of balls used for this series appears to lose more hardness than normal, increasing the value of the new ball - but it did show what could be achieved if batsmen took their time, retained their composure and refused to be drawn into rash strokes.

The lead is currently 202 but until England have taken it over 300 they will not be comfortable. It will not comfort Australia to hear that England have not lost any of the 19 previous Tests in which Bell has scored a century.

"I'd rather have 200 on the board than be chasing them," Bell said. "But we've seen already with Australia that they will go all the way. That Trent Bridge pitch didn't deteriorate like we thought and this might be very similar. So if we start to get the lead over 300 I might be a little bit more confident. But this Australian team will keep coming and some of their batters are in form now. It will be a scrap over the next two days."

Bell's excellence has helped compensate for the failures of England's top order but concerns about the form of Joe Root and Alastair Cook, in particular, continue to grow. While worries over Cook's form are alleviated by the knowledge that he has a track record of success opening the batting at Test level, Root does not. Indeed, in 10 innings as an opener in red-ball cricket for England - eight in this series and two against Essex - he has passed 41 only once and then only having been missed behind the wicket.

England are not about to lose faith in Root. They knew when they promoted him to open the batting that he was not the finished article and this was always going to be a long-term project. But by promoting him, aged 22 and in an Ashes series, they risked damaging his confidence and, as a consequence, his long-term development. In retrospect, it may well have been wiser to allow him to continue his development in the middle order.

That decision would have had consequences for Jonny Bairstow. They are not necessarily negative consequences in the long term, though. While Bairstow looked more comfortable in the second innings, he has come into this series - through no fault of his own - hopelessly underprepared for the rigours for which he has been confronted. He did not have a single first-class innings between the Test series against New Zealand and the start of the Ashes - almost seven weeks - and, as an unused played in England's limited-overs squad - hardly batted in white-ball cricket.

For a team that prides itself on long-term planning, which monitors players' progress through the age groups, through Lions sides and through assessing every aspect of their physical and mental characteristics, it seems an oddly ramshackle piece of organisation.

Bairstow's career, Root's career and certainly the career of Nick Compton - a man who has enjoyed none of the continuity of selection afforded his former team-mates - might all have been better served had England persisted with the plans that won them the Test series in India.

Bell's form has allowed England to avoid such uncomfortable suggestions for now, but England cannot rely on individuals masking team failures if they are to retain the Ashes in Australia.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jmcilhinney on August 12, 2013, 0:59 GMT

    Bell has been my favourite batsman to watch for some time and he's providing me with plenty of opportunity to watch him this series, which is great for everyone concerned. There were those who said outright that he should be dropped before this series and a great many more who thought that his place should have at least been up for discussion. I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt for this series but must admit that I was wondering about his long-term future. He really has looked a class apart from the rest of both teams though, and could well be the main reason England win this series. Long may this purple patch continue but it will be interesting to see whether he's learned some lessons the next time England play in the subcontinent, particularly against Ajmal, who had it all over him (and everyone else) in UAE last time.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 11, 2013, 20:44 GMT

    Easily England's BEST batsman alongside KP. However, Bell is a lot more reliable than KP in many ways because this is twice in a row within the same series that Ian has come to the rescue of his team. This is why I feel he will be remembered as a great of the game many years from now. A class act which ever way you look at him. I even recorded the highlights package and labelled it "Bell's Finest". He makes batting look so easy and wonderful, much like the Little Master Tendulkar himself. I wonder what Don Bradman would say had he seen Bell play. England well on their way to a series win, thanks to Ian Bell. Well played.

  • ScottStevo on August 15, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    And when Bell actually leaves the turf the first 2 or 3 times Aus actually dismiss him, then possibly things would be different not only for Bells personal achievements, but for Eng's too. That said, fair play to Bell, at least he's made the most of his opportunities.

  • Yevghenny on August 14, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Dustbowl, you don't get 20 centuries at an average of nearly 50 by being carried by the rest of the team. Bell has forever had his critics, I've never understood why. This series has made these same critics squirm to find some angle to criticise him on. Of course they can't, so they just resort to talking about the UAE tour.

  • 5wombats on August 14, 2013, 0:12 GMT

    @DustBowl - if you are trying to damn Bell with faint praise forget it. It seems to me that you what you would like to say is that Bell is rubbish because he's always been rubbish. Forget it. Look up Bells hundreds at Faisalabad, Durban, Napier, Sydney and Nagpur and then decide whether he is rubbish. Add in these match winning knocks in the 2013 Ashes and I'm afraid that in Ian Bell you have a world class batsman. Wondering if you can see it though.

  • DustBowl on August 12, 2013, 21:52 GMT

    This article is written NINE years after his debut, any others when he did this well? He has tended to score when others have done so; eg Eng v India is quoted as a high- but everyone else helped themselves in that series. However well done, he came to the rescue three times very elegantly. But he didn't face the new ball as Rogers did - who outscored him. (Batting was very difficult for the first 10-15 overs of the new ball.) He also did an Ahmadabad AGAIN in the first innings.

  • on August 12, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    I think it should be hats off to Bell. "Give that man a Bells". Bell was no doubt the difference between the two sides. I was somewhat dissappointed at the quality of the batting of both sides in all the tests. Bell was the exception - he really batted very well and was seldom troubled by the Australian bowling which generally lacked venom apart from Harris who bowled his heart out. Siddle was not at his best - had it something to do do with the fact that he was thrown the ball only at third or sometimes fourth change?

  • Batmanindallas on August 12, 2013, 15:53 GMT

    Of Ian bells 20 hundred 14 have been scored in England. Before him anoint him as the next big thing, this fact needs to noted.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    Bairstow is a curious one. The flaws in his technique are obvious and he doesn't strike me as a man to play well against spin as he has a Robin Smith-esque hard push at the ball. Prior is totally out of form and there's no indicator who our second-string keeper is. If we win in Durham, is it beyond the realm of possibility that the Oval may be used as a trial match for potential Ashes tourists? Compton in at the top, Root back down the order, perhaps Chopra or Carberry to come into the side to replace Pietersen as a man who needs to be looked after, Bairstow as wicketkeeper, Tremlett into the side, perhaps Kerrigan as well?

    Yes, I know England's selections tend to be more conservative than a Texas Republican fundraiser but still I live in hope.

  • Guthers007 on August 12, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Bell has been excellent for England and clearly the difference.

    The series can be known as "The Summer of Ian."

  • jmcilhinney on August 12, 2013, 0:59 GMT

    Bell has been my favourite batsman to watch for some time and he's providing me with plenty of opportunity to watch him this series, which is great for everyone concerned. There were those who said outright that he should be dropped before this series and a great many more who thought that his place should have at least been up for discussion. I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt for this series but must admit that I was wondering about his long-term future. He really has looked a class apart from the rest of both teams though, and could well be the main reason England win this series. Long may this purple patch continue but it will be interesting to see whether he's learned some lessons the next time England play in the subcontinent, particularly against Ajmal, who had it all over him (and everyone else) in UAE last time.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 11, 2013, 20:44 GMT

    Easily England's BEST batsman alongside KP. However, Bell is a lot more reliable than KP in many ways because this is twice in a row within the same series that Ian has come to the rescue of his team. This is why I feel he will be remembered as a great of the game many years from now. A class act which ever way you look at him. I even recorded the highlights package and labelled it "Bell's Finest". He makes batting look so easy and wonderful, much like the Little Master Tendulkar himself. I wonder what Don Bradman would say had he seen Bell play. England well on their way to a series win, thanks to Ian Bell. Well played.

  • ScottStevo on August 15, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    And when Bell actually leaves the turf the first 2 or 3 times Aus actually dismiss him, then possibly things would be different not only for Bells personal achievements, but for Eng's too. That said, fair play to Bell, at least he's made the most of his opportunities.

  • Yevghenny on August 14, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Dustbowl, you don't get 20 centuries at an average of nearly 50 by being carried by the rest of the team. Bell has forever had his critics, I've never understood why. This series has made these same critics squirm to find some angle to criticise him on. Of course they can't, so they just resort to talking about the UAE tour.

  • 5wombats on August 14, 2013, 0:12 GMT

    @DustBowl - if you are trying to damn Bell with faint praise forget it. It seems to me that you what you would like to say is that Bell is rubbish because he's always been rubbish. Forget it. Look up Bells hundreds at Faisalabad, Durban, Napier, Sydney and Nagpur and then decide whether he is rubbish. Add in these match winning knocks in the 2013 Ashes and I'm afraid that in Ian Bell you have a world class batsman. Wondering if you can see it though.

  • DustBowl on August 12, 2013, 21:52 GMT

    This article is written NINE years after his debut, any others when he did this well? He has tended to score when others have done so; eg Eng v India is quoted as a high- but everyone else helped themselves in that series. However well done, he came to the rescue three times very elegantly. But he didn't face the new ball as Rogers did - who outscored him. (Batting was very difficult for the first 10-15 overs of the new ball.) He also did an Ahmadabad AGAIN in the first innings.

  • on August 12, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    I think it should be hats off to Bell. "Give that man a Bells". Bell was no doubt the difference between the two sides. I was somewhat dissappointed at the quality of the batting of both sides in all the tests. Bell was the exception - he really batted very well and was seldom troubled by the Australian bowling which generally lacked venom apart from Harris who bowled his heart out. Siddle was not at his best - had it something to do do with the fact that he was thrown the ball only at third or sometimes fourth change?

  • Batmanindallas on August 12, 2013, 15:53 GMT

    Of Ian bells 20 hundred 14 have been scored in England. Before him anoint him as the next big thing, this fact needs to noted.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    Bairstow is a curious one. The flaws in his technique are obvious and he doesn't strike me as a man to play well against spin as he has a Robin Smith-esque hard push at the ball. Prior is totally out of form and there's no indicator who our second-string keeper is. If we win in Durham, is it beyond the realm of possibility that the Oval may be used as a trial match for potential Ashes tourists? Compton in at the top, Root back down the order, perhaps Chopra or Carberry to come into the side to replace Pietersen as a man who needs to be looked after, Bairstow as wicketkeeper, Tremlett into the side, perhaps Kerrigan as well?

    Yes, I know England's selections tend to be more conservative than a Texas Republican fundraiser but still I live in hope.

  • Guthers007 on August 12, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Bell has been excellent for England and clearly the difference.

    The series can be known as "The Summer of Ian."

  • BradmanBestEver on August 12, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    Don Bradman would say to Bell: well done! - now go out and play without a helmet on uncovered pitches and a standard cricket bat and average 99.94. Then you you will be in my league. But otherwise a fine effort young man.

  • MrPud on August 12, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    I blame Warnie for Bell's success. By putting him through the mental wringer as a young man, Bell is now battle hardened.

  • on August 12, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    He is England's Rahul Dravid.

  • Batmanian on August 12, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    What a time for this innings! Australia can still win it, but they have to get Bell (or five of his partners) out ASAP, and then back it up with a solid chase.

  • ozwriter on August 12, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    replace bell's hundreds with 10 or 20 as we've had with smith and hughes and australia would have won the 1st test, lost the 2nd and won the 3rd. bell has been the difference between the two sides. (and probably swann to some extent)

  • 158notout on August 12, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    HEARTOUT - I am sorry I do not see the relevance of mentioning the tour to UAE to play Pakistan here. Firstly it was over 18 months ago and Bell has had ups and downs with form over his career, as has every single player. I do not think Bell would look so clueless if he faced the same spin attack now. Also, you can only play against what the opposition put out. In fact he was in a bit of a slump from the start of that Pakistan series right through to this series, a couple of fifties (mostly against the Windies) and one very classy hundred in Nagpur aside. However you look at his record starting from the last tour to South Africa up to the India home series and it is very impressive. Why not applaud a batman who is in form and is head and shoulders above the rest of the batsmen on either side in terms of runs this series rather than concentrate on if's and but's and hark back to a lower point in his career?

  • Kitschiguy on August 12, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    I'm pleased Bell is having a potentially career defining series and an Ashes one to boot. I've always been a fan of Bell, I've never once thought he should be dropped as he's had a fairly hard time being moved about the order (and being dropped).

    In the past it's been difficult to watch him, not because of his stroke-play which is easily the best looking in world cricket but because you often thought would give his wicket away at any time. He's finally put that to be d as well. He's simply world class in every way.

    It's also interesting to note that people are talking about Cook and Trott as being out of form even though Cook as already registered 3 half centuries in this series. it just shows his class. If he were on the Australian team people would be talking up a form batsman.

  • tickcric on August 12, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    Bell is like Gower. A class act who may not be remembered as a true great. Yet as the most exquisite batsman of his era will be cherished forever . One can't fully appreciate them seeing record books alone.

  • Gupta.Ankur on August 12, 2013, 6:20 GMT

    If bell continues in this fashion.......it won't be long before pietersen says that he will break SRT's records.

    Anyways good knock but people have done it against tougher bowling attacks.Still remember Dravid's 3 100's in 2011 vs England against a good attack on a custom made swinging as hell pitches.

  • Shan156 on August 12, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha, yes, England got lucky in 2010-2011 in Aus., England got lucky in 2012-2013 in Ind., and Australia are always unlucky. In recent memory, there has been no victory more hollow than Aus.' victory in Sydney 2008 against India. There has been no game where so many decisions went in favor of one team. Bell is superior to every Aus. batsman sans Clarke. If anything, Eng. batsmen, sans Bell and KP, are hopelessly out of form and yet Eng. have retained the Ashes. Every Eng. batsman averages more than their Aus. counterpart except Clarke where the difference is not that high. The Aussie pacemen have better averages but they have played far less games than the English. Swann is way, way better than Lyon. England are 2-0 up because they are the better side. cricinfo, please publish.

  • Shan156 on August 12, 2013, 4:01 GMT

    Ian Bell is technically the most correct batsman in either side. While Clarke has better numbers than him, Bell is more pleasing to watch and when in form, he reminds me of Tendulkar - you wonder if he could be dismissed at all. Except for his first innings rash stroke right after tea, he has been near perfect all through the series. IMO, of all the current players, he would rank very highly, probably right next to Tendulkar (who has all the strokes in the book plus more) when it comes to technicalities.

  • Liquefierrrr on August 12, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    An incredible series for Bell. He has been the difference.

    Aus pace attack ahead of England, no real surprises there. Lyon into some wickets has reduced the huge gap between Eng and Aus spin this series, though still England's to rightfully claim by a big margin. Both batting sides have been mostly feeble, but for one mountainous innings each.

    Through all of this has been Ian Bell. His 100 was the difference in the 1st test, his 100 was the defining moment in setting up the hiding in the 2nd test, in the 3rd test at 4/110 he combined to put on over 100 with Pietersen to provide much-needed stability, and now this 3rd 100+ score has put England ahead on what is quite an uneven surface.

    A target of 250+, especially with our lineup, is going to prove incredibly difficult. Congratulations to Bell, he's endured many ups and downs in his career, but this has been defining and also exemplifies the potential the cricket world was told of by ENG long before they saw it. Wonderful.

  • TheBigBoodha on August 12, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Wasn't it because Australia let Bell score? This seems to be Dobell's attitude every time Australia actually play well - England let them.

    It has to be said Bell got very easy batting conditions compared to the day before, when the ball was moving everywhere, both in the air and off the pitch. England can thank the Gods yet again for their position. If they'd had to bat on day two-like conditions Australia would have just about wrapped up the game by now. But these things tend to even out in the long run. England has had an extended run with good fortune. Let's see what happens when it starts running the other way.

  • CricketGuzzler on August 12, 2013, 3:16 GMT

    May be not the right place to discuss as this article is about Ian Bell. But then was just wondering, when the author talks about the England team future, commentators have been talking about Trott not been given the due respect for his consistent performances, but then coming from the 3rd test, the commentators have shied away speaking about him. Whats happened to Trott's form?

  • on August 12, 2013, 2:55 GMT

    Root is such a fine player. He has it in him to be one of the best batsmen from England, if only he is allowed to play in the middle order. Dont forget that he is a very good player of spin and that ability is rarely put to use by making him open.

  • on August 12, 2013, 2:46 GMT

    I do not hesitate to call him " Sir" Ian Bell. England Finally has produced a "Sir" after Mr. Ian Botham. What a coincidence both name has " Ian" :)

  • on August 12, 2013, 2:45 GMT

    I remember watching a 'batting masterclass' here in Australia on Channel nine featuring Viv Richards. After giving his tips on batting he specifically gave the example of Ian Bell. He said he had everything but confidence and once he found his confidence the natural talent just came flowing out. My favourite English batsman alongside KP! :)

  • realthog on August 12, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    PS: When are you at Cricinfo going to start giving proper commentary to the Women's Ashes game?

  • realthog on August 12, 2013, 2:37 GMT

    Thank you for such an excellently perceptive piece. I'm not talking solely about your comments on Bell but about those on Root and Bairstow; they're two of the most promising young cricketers England has had in ages, and I'm desperately worried that they (and Compton) find their careers blighted by stupid short-termism.

  • class9ryan on August 12, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    This England team can boast of their world-class Batsmen - Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Prior. Of all of them Bell is the only one who has not shown weariness against a serious pace attack. Cook, Trott, Prior have just being throwing their wickets. Kp has looked comfortable cut has thrown his wicket at Chester-le-Street. This might be the best batting line-up England have had for a decade or even more but it won't be that easy when England go to Oz for the return Ashes.

  • Moutarde on August 12, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    Bell at his best is better than Tendulkar at his, I'd say. Whether or not Bell can keep this going, is the question.

  • landl47 on August 12, 2013, 0:25 GMT

    Bell has had a wonderful series, all the more so because had he failed England would have been in deep trouble several times. Having watched him since he was knee-high to a Jack Russell (terrier or wicket-keeper, take your pick) it has always been obvious to me that he had the ability to be one of England's best and most successful players. Now he has truly earned that distinction.

  • MrKricket on August 11, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    Bell is the difference between the two sides, no doubt about it. A long way from Warne's 'Sherminator' in 2005.

  • on August 11, 2013, 23:04 GMT

    Excellent analysis on Bell. Currently Englands best batsman. The hidden gem though is the "throw-away" criticism of England's attitude to Compton, Root and Bairstow.

    I think the real issue for England was Compton's age. I believe there is a long-term agenda based on introducing test-match players only for the long-term. No new players will be introduced that are older than Cook (28) - captain until 2020!

    Bairstow is seen as the long-term replacement for Prior (if Bairstow's wicket-keeping develops) or Pietersen as middle order "enforcer".

    Root is seen as an opener for 15 years (rather than Compton's five years).

    I guess that James Taylor is seen as the long-term replacement for Trott/Bell.

    Replacement for the bowlers will always be on age and two/three years form: Swann (34) has probably got another three/four years at the top. Anderson (31) about the same. Current view might see England's 2017 bowling attack as Broad, Finn, Kerrigan, ANO 24 year old.

  • kennyg on August 11, 2013, 22:46 GMT

    My man, Ian Bell, without a doubt, England's best and will yet again put England in a commanding position for a win in this Ashes series. Cool, calm and collected, Bell went about the task representing England's needs in a highly professional manner. And all the while, producing some exquisite shots. Sir Ian Bell, you are the best.

  • on August 11, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    A couple of years ago I recorded a days play where Bell & KP both smashed double hundreds, and still to this day, it remains as the most enjoyable batting I've seen .. So pure, so graceful, such a pleasure to watch .. I thought Root would be ok at the top with Cook & Trott but with Cook struggling & Trott not quite at his best the top 3 has looked vulnerable .. Aus bowling is ok but no better than NZ attack which performed well in most recent 2 series ..

  • 2.14istherunrate on August 11, 2013, 22:29 GMT

    There is something Elysian about the sight of Bell and KP together-in today's terms there is nothing better on offer when watching England unless you factor in Prior and Broad for the second helping. After the relative drought of Bell's career after 2011 these few weeks have mended the problem with interest. Not only has he made 3 tons but a couple of other top innings as well-his 60 at Manchester was brilliant. Today he was in rescue mode and hopefully he can go on in the morning with Bresnan. If Bell had not returned to form we would certainly have been on the wrong end of it in this series. If we win it will be in no small measure attributable to his efforts.

  • Exiled-Tyke on August 11, 2013, 22:28 GMT

    Now now Cpt.Meanster. Let's not get carried away here. As George points out, Bell's contribution to this series has been fantastic, significantly above any other batsman on either side. But you seem to be talking longer term. You say "easily" England's best batsman alongside KP, despite the fact that there are two others (Cook and Trott) who average more. Maybe you think he is aesthetically better than those two - no arguments there, but this is a game where stats tell you a lot. Graeme Smith and Shiv Chanderpaul are both much uglier batters than Bell, but surely you'd have either of them over IanRon every time.

  • jlw74 on August 11, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    We Aussies like to think that we had Old Trafford in the bag before the rain came. Ian Bell was at the crease. We didn't have anything. Bell may have been a bunny to Warne and McGrath when he was younger but he wasn't alone there. He is just 31 and is without doubt the player of the series with plenty more test runs and centuries to come, a player who will be remembered. . Australia might get nothing from Durham now either cause Ian Bell is at the crease.

  • HEARTOUT on August 11, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    I wish that you have mentioned Bell's performance against top quality spin bowling attacks and against Pakistan on clean sweep Bell was clueless and the has seen how Ajmal and Rehman made mockery of England batting. Bell is a player to watch but in seaming conditions but on top spin bowling he looks ordinary. Please share his all records if Austrlia had Warnie things would have been different......

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on August 11, 2013, 21:16 GMT

    A memorable innings. Almost flawless and enough to fill entire DVDs on batting technique. What a masterclass from Bell, if he can kick on tomorrow and make it 150+ then England will be in a winning position.

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    Very good player and excellent batsman. Australia have only one batsman who exceeds his record and that is Michael Clarke. They must persist with Chris Rogers, who looks a very fine opener.

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    Very good player and excellent batsman. Australia have only one batsman who exceeds his record and that is Michael Clarke. They must persist with Chris Rogers, who looks a very fine opener.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on August 11, 2013, 21:16 GMT

    A memorable innings. Almost flawless and enough to fill entire DVDs on batting technique. What a masterclass from Bell, if he can kick on tomorrow and make it 150+ then England will be in a winning position.

  • HEARTOUT on August 11, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    I wish that you have mentioned Bell's performance against top quality spin bowling attacks and against Pakistan on clean sweep Bell was clueless and the has seen how Ajmal and Rehman made mockery of England batting. Bell is a player to watch but in seaming conditions but on top spin bowling he looks ordinary. Please share his all records if Austrlia had Warnie things would have been different......

  • jlw74 on August 11, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    We Aussies like to think that we had Old Trafford in the bag before the rain came. Ian Bell was at the crease. We didn't have anything. Bell may have been a bunny to Warne and McGrath when he was younger but he wasn't alone there. He is just 31 and is without doubt the player of the series with plenty more test runs and centuries to come, a player who will be remembered. . Australia might get nothing from Durham now either cause Ian Bell is at the crease.

  • Exiled-Tyke on August 11, 2013, 22:28 GMT

    Now now Cpt.Meanster. Let's not get carried away here. As George points out, Bell's contribution to this series has been fantastic, significantly above any other batsman on either side. But you seem to be talking longer term. You say "easily" England's best batsman alongside KP, despite the fact that there are two others (Cook and Trott) who average more. Maybe you think he is aesthetically better than those two - no arguments there, but this is a game where stats tell you a lot. Graeme Smith and Shiv Chanderpaul are both much uglier batters than Bell, but surely you'd have either of them over IanRon every time.

  • 2.14istherunrate on August 11, 2013, 22:29 GMT

    There is something Elysian about the sight of Bell and KP together-in today's terms there is nothing better on offer when watching England unless you factor in Prior and Broad for the second helping. After the relative drought of Bell's career after 2011 these few weeks have mended the problem with interest. Not only has he made 3 tons but a couple of other top innings as well-his 60 at Manchester was brilliant. Today he was in rescue mode and hopefully he can go on in the morning with Bresnan. If Bell had not returned to form we would certainly have been on the wrong end of it in this series. If we win it will be in no small measure attributable to his efforts.

  • on August 11, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    A couple of years ago I recorded a days play where Bell & KP both smashed double hundreds, and still to this day, it remains as the most enjoyable batting I've seen .. So pure, so graceful, such a pleasure to watch .. I thought Root would be ok at the top with Cook & Trott but with Cook struggling & Trott not quite at his best the top 3 has looked vulnerable .. Aus bowling is ok but no better than NZ attack which performed well in most recent 2 series ..

  • kennyg on August 11, 2013, 22:46 GMT

    My man, Ian Bell, without a doubt, England's best and will yet again put England in a commanding position for a win in this Ashes series. Cool, calm and collected, Bell went about the task representing England's needs in a highly professional manner. And all the while, producing some exquisite shots. Sir Ian Bell, you are the best.

  • on August 11, 2013, 23:04 GMT

    Excellent analysis on Bell. Currently Englands best batsman. The hidden gem though is the "throw-away" criticism of England's attitude to Compton, Root and Bairstow.

    I think the real issue for England was Compton's age. I believe there is a long-term agenda based on introducing test-match players only for the long-term. No new players will be introduced that are older than Cook (28) - captain until 2020!

    Bairstow is seen as the long-term replacement for Prior (if Bairstow's wicket-keeping develops) or Pietersen as middle order "enforcer".

    Root is seen as an opener for 15 years (rather than Compton's five years).

    I guess that James Taylor is seen as the long-term replacement for Trott/Bell.

    Replacement for the bowlers will always be on age and two/three years form: Swann (34) has probably got another three/four years at the top. Anderson (31) about the same. Current view might see England's 2017 bowling attack as Broad, Finn, Kerrigan, ANO 24 year old.

  • MrKricket on August 11, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    Bell is the difference between the two sides, no doubt about it. A long way from Warne's 'Sherminator' in 2005.