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."

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

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy