Bell far from three and easy as sternest test of his career awaits

They are all on trial for their Test lives, of course, but a slight, diffident chap with strawberry blond hair and freckles will be at the front of the Oval dock. Ian Bell has everything to bat for this week: the Ashes for the second time in four years, a place in England's winter touring party to South Africa, his future career.

By now Bell should be the most illustrious member of the team's middle order. Well, perhaps just behind Kevin Pietersen, but not far behind.

Bell was virtually groomed for a job as an international cricketer. Other people may train to be lawyers, accountants, fitters and turners, but he spent his formative years as an apprentice batsman. It was always a matter of when not if, and when he stepped out against West Indies at The Oval in 2004 the "when" seemed to have been perfectly timed.

Bell presented himself at the crease that day in August as if it was his territory and he would be dominating it for some years to come. He scored 70 with ten boundaries of crisp assertiveness. If he had not arrived he still looked here to stay.

It has never quite unfolded as intended. He has sometimes been as authoritative as he was that day five years ago but he has not regularly taken Test batting by the scruff and shown it who the boss is. Eight hundreds, four at number six and none in his 31 innings at number three, have been sporadic. They might seem to represent a reasonable return, but not from 81 Test innings for a player of his talents.

Bell made the 2005 Ashes team as the junior batsman. It was a series that seems now to have embodied his middle-order career since. He ended the series, as he will this one, at The Oval, and bagged a pair, the nickname given him by Shane Warne of "the Sherminator" ringing in his ears.

Suffice to say he did not treat the crease as a personal fiefdom, rather as somewhere from which to beat a hasty retreat.

He has become maddening to supporters of his obvious talent and makes it too easy for those who question his character to succeed. Sometimes he has tried too hard to be hard when he should just be himself.

As a batsman, Bell was not meant to be one of life's nightclub bouncers but one of its computer nerds and he has never seemed quite able to come to terms with it. Hence the confused approach.

Dropped last winter after a lean run in the number three berth he should have made his own, he was recalled for the third Test this summer when Kevin Pietersen was injured. He made a reasonably constructed 50, though he was perilously close to being leg before twice. Unlike in many periods of his England career he has not always seemed in particularly rich form.

It is worrying that he has been out three times to the left-arm pace of Mitchell Johnson because he also been dismissed five times in Test cricket by India's accomplished left-armer, Zaheer Khan, four times to them lbw. It may bespeak a weakness.

At Leeds a week last Saturday he came out with England in desperate trouble and prodded limply outside off to give Ricky Ponting the sort of chance he does not put down at second slip. More fuel to his tormentors: 58 for 2 was 67 for 3.

And now here he is, willing as ever, back at number three (average 31), where he has performed considerably worse than at four (42), five (54) and six (49). The jury is praying for some compelling testimony.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum