Ian Bell: I love being at the top of the order and my runs can keep us at summit of ODI game

View From the Middle: Chris Woakes can become a genuine all-rounder, which we are desperate for

When I was dropped for the one-day matches against Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi earlier this year, the thought crossed my mind that I might never play for England again in this form of the game.

How quickly things can change. We begin a five-match series against South Africa today and not only have I forced my way back into the team, I did well enough to win the man-of-the-series award against both the West Indies and Australia earlier in the summer.

I've loved being at the top of the order, when the field is up and you can play normal cricket shots rather than having to improvise all the time, as you do when you come in lower down the order. Our one-day cricket has been excellent this year and, after losing the Test series to South Africa, and with it our No 1 ranking, it's important we respond well, starting in Cardiff today.

We can't take any of the stuff that happened in the Test series into these one-day matches, in the same way that beating Australia 4-0 in 50-over cricket earlier this year will have no relevance to next summer's Ashes. Everyone was disappointed at losing to South Africa but let's not forget that English cricket is still in a great place. We're ranked No 1 in one-day cricket and No 2 in Tests and Twenty20. That's still very impressive.

It's been a hard year for everyone in Test cricket but we want to bounce back and get better, and that's a good, hungry place to be. People have talked about our being more comfortable chasing the No 1 spot than being chased, but that shouldn't make a difference. You should have the same level of hunger in everything you do, regardless of whether you're No 1 or not.

If we get the chance to get to No 1 again, we'll learn from our mistakes and about how to improve. From my point of view, the South Africa series wasn't about protecting the No 1 spot: it was about beating South Africa.

They were the better team than us in that series, we didn't play to our potential and they deserved to get to the top. It shouldn't, though, be about surviving and trying to stay at No 1, and if we learn our lessons, that's what we'll do better next time.

Perhaps it's about forgetting the No 1 status and just trying to win every series, which is what we did when we were moving up the rankings and it automatically took us to the top. If we get there again, let's not think about staying there. Let's think only about winning the series we're contesting. That's what the great Australian teams of the past managed to achieve and that's what we're all aiming for.

Just as the Test team struggled in 2012, so I didn't have as good a time as in 2011, when I scored five Test hundreds. In contrast, my one-day form has been excellent, but that can happen in cricket sometimes. You'll be flying in one form of the game and not doing so well in another, and then it will flip around. So it's been frustrating, but nothing has changed. My work ethic has remained the same and I can assure you that it won't change as I look to recapture the kind of form I was showing last year.

There are a few fresh faces in this one-day squad, which should benefit us all, and I have high hopes for my Warwickshire team-mate Chris Woakes, who will be hoping to make a big impact in this series. We speak quite a lot and I try to pass on information to him, as I try to with all young players.

He is very good under pressure, while the strength of his batting means that if he keeps developing, he can become a genuine all-rounder, something every international team are desperate for. He's having a great time at Warwickshire and he's come into this series in really good form.

There's a great opportunity for him to do well, as there is for us all. We have to make sure we take it.