Ian Ronald Bell
April 11, 1982, Walsgrave, Coventry, Warwickshire
Right hand Bat
Right arm Medium
Top order Batter
Princethorpe College, Rugby
Ian Bell, much admired by the purists, who could swoon over his cover drive when he was in full flow, filled English cricket with elegance in a career that brought 118 Tests, 169 caps in limited-overs formats and a stack of first-class runs for Warwickshire. He never quite achieved the greatness that some predicted for him as a teenager, but he was a very fine player at international level and English cricket lost a little grace when he played his last Test against Pakistan in Sharjah in November 2015.
Even after his international days were over, Bell retained that boyish image at the crease for Warwickshire that in the most physically-demanding periods often made him appear a slight and slightly vulnerable figure, but one unfurled cover drive later and his game could flow like few others.
Once described by Dayle Hadlee as the best 16-year-old he had ever seen, Bell had been earmarked for greatness long before he was drafted onto the England tour of New Zealand in 2001-02, as cover for the injured Mark Butcher. He was immediately burdened with similar expectations when he made his England debut. His most fluent early efforts tended to come about when the pressure was off, a trait that belied an average above 40 and a record of a century every five or so Tests.
However, on the tour of South Africa in 2009-10, Bell set about changing those perceptions. A perfectly paced century while batting at No. 6 in Durban set England up for an innings victory that ranked, at the time, among their finest overseas performances for a generation, but he surpassed that effort in the very next Test in Cape Town, with a backs-to-the-wall 78 that saved the match and ensured a share of the series. On the subsequent tour of Australia, he continued to save his best for when the chips were down, particularly during England's first-innings struggles at Brisbane and Perth. He finished the tour on a high with his maiden Ashes hundred at Sydney, and a reputation transformed.
When in form, Bell was always been adept at leaving the ball outside off stump, and he received glowing reviews from coaches at every stage of his development, not least from Rod Marsh at the England Academy, a man not given to hyperbole. A former England U19 captain, Bell had played just 13 first-class games when called into the England squad, though in 2001 he scored 836 runs for Warwickshire at an average of over 64, including three centuries.
He didn't immediately translate that success and talent into runs at the international stage - he was found out by Australia's champions, McGrath and Warne, and mustered just 171 runs in ten innings - but he gradually found his feet and his form at the top level. In 2010 and 2011, he averaged more than 65 in five successive series, including the 2010-11 Ashes. But obviously that run wasn't going to last forever: he was brought back to earth by Pakistan's offspinner Saaed Ajmal in the three-Test series in 2012, managing only 51 runs in six innings.
The year was a largely forgettable one in Tests, for Bell and England, though pride was salvaged in India. A first series win in the country since 1984-85 was sealed in Nagpur, where Bell's second-innings hundred made certain of the requisite draw. A reminder of Bell's class came in 50-over cricket, where he made an immaculate transition to opener. That continued into 2013, with his third ODI hundred in lofty Dharamsala, although England were eventually thwarted in their attempts to win global silverware in the Champions Trophy final. He was a casualty of England's grim World Cup campaign in 2015, however, when he seemed unable to translate his talent into the bold stroke-play required and, having been dropped after the tournament, announced his retirement from the format later in the year.
His reputation for producing when England needed him in Test cricket, meanwhile, had been all but banished by a series-defining performance in the Ashes of 2013. Bell scored centuries in each of England's three victories, becoming the first man to reach triple figures in three successive Ashes Tests since Chris Broad in 1986 in the process. He was rewarded with the player of the series award and a place on the shortlist for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.
He struggled to maintain his form in the return Ashes series in 2013-14 - he averaged just 26.11 compared to 62.44 in England - and then endured a run where he passed 1 only three times in 10 Test innings and averaged 26.87 in the 2015 Ashes. He was dropped from the ODI side after the 2015 World Cup and from the Test side after the year-end tour to the UAE. He was soon appointed captain of Warwickshire and insisted that he retained further ambitions for a Test career that had already included five Ashes-winning series.
Though England recognition did not come again, Bell enjoyed a fruitful start to his county captaincy, guiding the club to the Royal London One-Day Cup in 2016, before claiming another T20 trophy with Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash. He did not make a Championship century as Warwickshire were relegated in 2017, and he stepped down as skipper towards the end of the season.
Finally came the realisation that he would never play for England again which led to a run-glut in Warwickshire's promotion season the following year - including two hundreds in a match against Glamorgan at Edbaston - and even encouraged a final burst of speculation, as if for old times' sake, that he might be the man to solve England's batting collapses.
The entire 2019 season was lost to injury and, by the end of the year, Bell had been announced as batting coach for the England U19 side at the World Cup; an indicator of his future direction. He plays into 2020, however, with a cover drive as elegant as ever and as the last remaining member of the side of 2005.
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