For Australia the Bell tolls

If you were a mad billionaire who hosted parties that people came to just because there was loads of booze and freaky shit going on, you’d hire Ian Bell, strip him naked, oil him up and make him practise his cover drive for hours on end in a giant birdcage.

Jarrod Kimber on Ian Ronald Bell MBE in his book When Freddie Became Jesus (2009)

Unfortunately we’ll never know if this was to be the inevitable capstone to Allen Stanford’s involvement in English cricket, but it provokes a captivating image nonetheless. That Ian Bell is a stylish and prodigiously gifted batsman has never been doubted. Now, though, at the age of 30 he can be saluted as a world class player fulfilling his massive potential.

By the end of the 2009 Ashes series, Bell had amassed a career Test average of 39.79, since then he has averaged 65.85. Like many of his England colleagues (the freakish KP and Eoin Morgan notwithstanding), he has taken a little longer to translate his Test form into the 50-over format; recently averaging 89.5 in the two-game series against the Windies and currently sitting on 58 after two matches against the Aussies, but still with a career average of only 35.64 in ODIs.

Those are some of the stats. More evident than the numbers at hand, it’s clear he now realises that before anyone else will he needs to be the one to back himself. Neither Duncan Fletcher nor Peter Moores seemed convinced they could make Ian Bell a fixture in the Test side. Andy Flower made him the scapegoat after his first Test in charge, dropping him for Owais Shah. Bell has since credited the paternal Graham Gooch (and, bizarrely, some cagefighters) for improving his understanding of his own game and, in particular, his confidence in it.

The result is that while in the past he apologetically emerged from the sheds, he now walks tall to the crease; in the early days he was often cowed by opponents (notably Shane Warne), now he blatantly nicks behind but stands firm. Having previously struggled as an ODI opener, he has now been asked to fill KP’s boots at the top of the order, and flourished.

With England two nil up with three to play in the current series – and arch-nemesis Shane Warne in the comm box – it’s time to put the hurt on Australia; with The Sherminator leading the way.

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