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Ian Bell: Forget good-looking shots, I want to be known as a tough operator


There are few better feelings in cricket than scoring runs under pressure to help your team win a game. I managed it at Lord's and I'd like to be able to do the same in the second Test against West Indies, starting today at Trent Bridge, where I was involved in one of the most bizarre incidents to take place on a cricket field in recent times.

I remember very well being given run-out against India last summer when I had 137, then being recalled during the tea interval and going on to make 159. It was really naïve on my part to assume the ball had gone for four and just to walk off for tea, and it's something I wish hadn't happened. It was lucky that it was handled in a good way, but it's not something I look back on with particular pride.

After that innings, I went on to score 235 against India at The Oval – my highest Test score. That month was probably the best I've batted in my career, and I scored those runs at No 3, because Jonathan Trott was absent through injury. I want to get myself up the order again, there is no doubt about that, but just to be part of this team, trying to contribute, gives me a lot of pleasure.

That knock at Trent Bridge came when we were under the cosh, and when I walked out to bat at Lord's on Monday, the West Indies were well in the game. I went on to score 63 not out and it's nice to play a pressure innings and be recognised for it. The bowlers had done really well to take 20 wickets on a good pitch, so I was keen to be able to back them up when my chance came.

People have always talked about me having a nice cover-drive and playing good shots but I want to be looked upon as a real tough cricketer and someone who is getting stronger all the time. If there was a certain perception of me in world cricket during the early part of my career, I hope it has changed now. I have really started to enjoy playing the ugly innings. Since 2009, I've turned a corner and become a much more reliable, consistent and mentally tougher player.

I'd never want to take away the Tests I played before 2009 but I'm certainly a better player now than I was then.

In the first part of my career, I probably wasn't ready, mentally, for the challenges of Test cricket, but that is no longer the case.

The 2006-07 Ashes series, which we lost 5-0, was the toughest cricket I've ever been involved in, but if you can get through that, you can get through anything. I now know that if I have a bad winter, as I did in the series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka earlier this year, it will turn if I just keep going. I'm 30 now and I've had some unbelievable experiences with cricket, which I hope will keep me in good stead over the next six to seven years. I never really felt that my place was in doubt at the start of this summer, but it was still good to get early runs at Lord's.

Plenty of things can boost your confidence before you go into a Test match and it was incredible, fantastic to read that Sir Viv Richards has been praising the way I bat. After a tough few months in the winter, it's great to hear he's said I'm England's "best technical batsman". I've played enough matches now at this level to have confidence in my ability to perform but compliments from someone like that are great.

I realise that Twitter has become a topic of discussion again during the build-up to this game, but I have to say that I've never really thought about joining it, although I can see the plus side of it. I'm not on Facebook, either. I like to have my private time and I've never contemplated starting a Twitter account, certainly not while I'm playing. I'm the kind of person that, when I have some free time, I'm on the golf course or out and about seeing people, so Twitter isn't something I really have too much interest in.