Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Ian Bell is born - perfect technique, imperfect temperament
April 11, 1982 - The selfless Ian Bell batted everywhere from one to eight, and was one of the best close-in fielders in the game. But, for a player of his talent, a Test average of 42.69 left a thing or two to be desired.
After scoring 40 in his last Test against Pakistan on the 2015 tour of the UAE, Ian Bell was never recalled to the England side. He had a couple of great county seasons and promised a perfect end to Test career, but unfortunately for him, he missed that by a cat's whisker.
Bell made his Test debut against West Indies in August 2004, stroking 70 in his only innings, before returning the following summer to lift his career average to an astonishing 297 with two unbeaten innings against Bangladesh, including his maiden Test century at Chester-le-Street.
He struck three elegant centuries in successive Tests against Pakistan and went to Australia with a new-found belief, having been named ICC’s young player of the year for 2006. He was targeted by the Australian sledging but managed four elegant half-centuries to confirm his status as a Test batsman.
In the 2010-11 Ashes, Bell started off the historic series against the home side Australia well, however, it was not until the 5th Test in Sydney that he could score his first Ashes century after eleven 50s. Bell was one of England’s finest with the bat, and helped to contribute to a 3–1 series victory, England’s first in Australia since Mike Gatting’s men in 1986/87.
During the 2011 summer, Bell was an integral part of the team that inflicted a 4 – 0 Test whitewash over India, helping England to become the number 1 team in the world and scoring a career best of 235. 2011 was a great year for Bell, having reached a landmark 5,000 career test runs and in 2012, he was voted England FTI Most Valuable Player.
The 2013 Ashes, also known as Bell's Ashes, was the career high-point for the Warwickshire batsman. 2013 saw Bell’s standing in the game rise as he hit centuries in consecutive Tests during the Ashes. He just missed out on being the first Englishman ever to hit centuries in four consecutive Ashes tests after being bowled for 60. His contribution meant England retained the Ashes in the shortest period since the war and he was rightly awarded the Man of the Series after scoring a remarkable 562 runs.
Despite his brilliant cover drive, technical superiority and easy on the eye approach, Bell was often criticised for being fazed by pressure, not least when Shane Warne had his number. At points in his career, he tried to emulate Pietersen and Collingwood, but in the process, his true less got lost somewhere.
Bell didn't play for England after 2015. He finished with 5416 runs from 161 ODIs at an average of 37.87 including 4 tons and 35 fifties. The batsman played 118 Test matches scoring 7727 runs at an average of 42.69 including 22 tons and 46 fifties. His career best of 235 came against India. His 8 T20Is have produced 188 runs at an average of 26.85 including one fifty - his top score of 60 not out against New Zealand.
In 2018, Bell had said that he still wanted to play for England. “It’s been quite a tough adjustment not being an England player anymore. But I felt even when I finished with England that I had a lot of cricket left under my belt. I spoke to a lot of ex-players and they all said ‘You’re a long time retired, don’t look back with any regrets. I’d simply like to be playing as long as I possibly can if my body can stay together.”
That opportunity seems long gone, though full marks to the copybook batsman for his efforts.
After Bell missed the entire Warwickshire Championship campaign following a knee injury in 2019, he was appointed the England U19 batting coach. The 38-year-old has a fulfilling coaching career ahead of him.
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