Sunday, 5 November 2006

Not looking for a repeat performance

In 2005, Ian Bell was bafflingly picked in the Ashes side ahead of Graham Thorpe. Save for a pair of impressive fifties in the Third Test at Old Trafford, his series was a disaster: seven single scores from 10 innings amounted to an average of just 17.

But thankfully, Bell’s scarring summer does not look as if it will have long-term implications. The boyhood prodigy has grown in confidence (he believes body language is key) since his rather traumatic series 14 months ago. Playing classical and increasingly authoritative shots all round the wicket against Pakistan, he recorded three consecutive centuries to secure his place on tour and, almost certainly, selection for the First Test.

Australians will believe he is easy meat. But they will be surprised. Bell has matured and, providing he can assert himself against Shane Warne (he strike rate was just 31 against him last year), he should prove many Aussies wrong. Bell’s chief problem against Australia last summer was in his mind. If, as it seems, this facet of his game has been improved, then Bell could just be England’s most successful batsman down under.

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