Peter Roebuck: Bell heralds arrival as Test star after defiance and endurance in duel with the master

Although he has a baby-face, Bell is a steely character

Ian Bell's joust with Shane Warne was the highlight of a gripping fourth day. Greater responsibility had been put upon his shoulders and he had to produce something substantial. Man cannot remain forever young. The time had come to add his name to the list of proven performers.

Far from balking at the challenge, Bell contributed a fine innings. His effort began at the end of a discouraging day in the field. England had tried hard, only to be hammered. Andrew Flintoff's side was on the rack. What better time for a young man to show his mettle?

Having survived till stumps, Bell could start afresh and with a few runs to his name. A batsman always sleeps easier when he has broken his duck. At first the Australians tried pace. Bell and his partner stood firm. They were a contrasting pair, Alastair Cook with his height, style, left-handedness and leg-side game counterpointing a stocky partner fond of back-foot punches and off-drives.

Bell's confrontation with his nemesis was critical to England's prospects. In 2005 he had looked out of his depth. Often he had been left stabbing at leg-breaks like Macbeth at Banquo's ghost. Once his victim's mind was in sufficient turmoil, the spinner would direct a straight delivery at his pads and roar at a complicit umpire. Warne's beauty also contains slivers of cruelty.

Although he has one of those baby-faces that generally leads either to gangsterism or, worse, membership of a boy band, Bell is a steely character. Not to be intimidated, he countered with back-foot play and attacks from down the pitch. He did not allow Warne to work him over or fieldsmen to gather like wild dogs at a corpse. Nor did he sweep.

Bell showed he was not scared in the spinner's first over. Twice he stepped down the pitch to lift the ball back over his head. Since the ball was turning and the spinner was fresh, these were brave strokes. Warne sent a man back, whereupon the batsman took singles. It was a game of cat and mouse. Warne began to push the ball through and the batsman moved back to counter the spin, not once letting the ball strike his pads. Several sharply-spun breakers defeated his outside edge but that did not bother him.

And so the battle continued. Widening his repertoire, Bell stepped forwards to clip through mid-wicket. He passed 50 and moved towards three figures. By now the leggie had been bowling for a long time on a hot day. Ricky Ponting ought to give him more breaks. His body and temper were fraying but his spirit was not broken. Desperate for a wicket, he started appealing for everything, a strategy that displeased the umpire.

Bell moved within sight of his hundred. Warne was not to be denied. At last, concentration wavered and the right-hander played a loose stroke. Australia rejoiced. Bell cursed himself. But he had made his point. England were not going to go down without a fight, not on his watch.

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

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf