Bell makes strong claim for the magic number

 

Cricketers, at least those with ambition, love to give the selectors a headache. Or so they say. What they really mean, of course, is that they would like to stake such a rock solid claim that no one with an ounce of common sense could possibly look in any other direction. Step forward Ian Bell

The Warwickshire batsman has not had to worry about his right to a place in England's Test team for a couple of years now. But while he has hit a wonderfully rich vein of form while batting at No 5 or 6, there is no doubt which position he would choose to occupy, given half a chance.

Bell made his thoughts plain as long ago as 2007 when he was most definitely not nailed into any spot, despite possessing all the talent in the world. "I told Mooresy [the then England coach, Peter Moores] that I would bat anywhere but I also said my long-term ambition was to bat at first drop," he wrote in a newspaper column after Michael Vaughan had returned to the team after injury. "What batsman doesn't?"

Since then, and thanks to a sequence that has seen him score eight centuries in 20 Tests, spread over two years, Bell's figures have combined to produce pinch-me averages of 58 and 65 at Nos 6 and 5 respectively. On the other hand, even though he completed his first double hundred at the highest level during yesterday's continued demolition of India's bowling, his return at No 3 is around the 40 mark.

Lies, damn lies and statistics? Well, there is a bit of that, for sure. Most of Bell's 36 innings as a Test No 3 came at a time when he had all the style but not half the substance of the man we see now – as in the 2006-7 Ashes whitewash series when Australia's bowlers brushed him aside on almost every occasion.

"I always knew I had some unfinished business at No 3," he said last night. "At times when I was up the order before, I was probably not mature enough and I believe I'm a much better cricketer now. I've enjoyed the challenge in this series of showing everyone what I can do at No 3." And show us he has, to give England's hierarchy some food for thought.

Moving up two places in Nottingham after Jonathan Trott damaged his shoulder severely enough to miss the rest of the series, Bell batted sublimely to make 159. It was his first hundred, at the 34th attempt, as a No 3. At Edgbaston, his home ground, the 29-year-old forgot to play himself in before trying to make hay. But in this match, with England under a touch of pressure for once, he did the basics beautifully, then blossomed so spectacularly even partner Pietersen was happy to stand back and watch the show.

So what is the problem? Well, there isn't one, really, except that England already have a No 3 who has an average of 54 after 30 innings, and he was named Cricketer of the Year only a couple of months ago. His name is Trott. Come their next Test, against Pakistan early in 2012, Trott is likely to be the first player padded up after the openers. "We are looking forward to getting Trotty back and I'm pretty sure next series I will be back at No 5," said Bell.

Spoken like a realist. But you cannot keep a good man down for too long. Before any of that, though, England are keen to complete a 4-0 whitewashing of India. The knives are out for the visitors, and the criticism will only get sharper if they lose again here, but bowling coach Eric Simmons bridled last night when asked whether India were ashamed. "I don't think that is the right word to use," he said. "Disappointed."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee