Ian Bell: Steyn may be fierce but I'm out to tame my old Bears team-mate

View From the Middle: Cape Town was one of my most satisfying moments in an England shirt

England against South Africa is almost on a par with the Ashes in terms of excitement and competitiveness, so it's a shame it is only a three-Test series. It deserves four matches, maybe even five.

Whenever you play South Africa, you know you'll be in for a really tough contest. These are the best two bowling teams in the world and two pretty good batting units as well, so both sides are full of strength all the way through.

We are top of the ICC Test rankings and although South Africa are only third, I'm 100 per cent convinced that these are the best two Test teams in the world at the moment. It will be a great series. Everyone has been waiting all summer for this series so let's just hope the weather doesn't have too much of an impact.

For Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, who were born in South Africa and have had many important cricketing experiences there, there is possibly some extra motivation coming into the series. It's a big series for all of us but we want to go out and play as we would against any other team. We've had our team meetings and our chats, so those guys will know how they want to approach the series, and we're right behind them.

The last time we played Tests against South Africa was during our 2009/10 tour, and it was definitely a turning point in my England career. My innings of 78 at Cape Town, which helped us to draw the first Test, was one of my most satisfying moments in an England shirt.

At that time in my career, people were used to me scoring nice-looking runs but never ugly runs when it was needed. That was the first knock I'd played when the team were really counting on me and since then, I've done it more often. After I'd played an innings like that, it helped my confidence a great deal and I now believe I can do it when required.

We'll have to be at our best to keep out the South African bowlers over the next five days at The Oval and during the rest of the series. Dale Steyn is the top-ranked Test bowler in the world and I believe the time he spent at Warwickshire in 2007 was an important period for him in that respect, because he learned how to bowl in English conditions.

In the county matches where we were team-mates, he didn't tear in and bowl as quickly as he could. He just pitched the ball up and swung it really nicely. He really learned how to get the ball up there and swing it, something he does consistently now, and he was phenomenal for us.

Just as we have, South Africa have a strong bowling line-up, and Steyn is a big reason for that. He bowls at good pace and he bowls an attacking length, he's always hitting the stumps. He can cause a lot of problems for tail-enders, because of the length he bowls, and there's no doubt he's one of the best I've faced. He's been incredibly consistent for a long period of time.

I've felt in good form this summer in both Test and one-day cricket, after things didn't go so well for me during the winter against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Maybe that was the reality check I needed, though, because it proved I needed to keep working harder after I'd done well in 2011.

I learned little things, such as the need to keep batting when I'm in form. That's why I played for Warwickshire against Sussex last week, and I know now that if I'm fit and fresh, I'm better off in the middle than the nets. Sometimes, you are tired and you do need a break but, equally, it can be the easy option.

I'd been playing really well all summer last year, then I had two months off after our tour of India, went to Dubai and Abu to face Pakistan and realised I hardly remembered one end of the bat from the other. There is a lot of cricket in the schedule, but it's a privilege to play for England, and I want to play every single minute that I can.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?