By Jonathan Veal
England batsman Ian Bell exclusively revealed to ecb.co.uk that it is a “dream come true” for him to win 100 Test caps.
The 32-year-old will rack up a century of appearances for England when they take on Sri Lanka in the second Investec Test at Headingley on Friday.
Bell, who made his debut as a fresh-faced 22-year-old against New Zealand 10 years ago, has been one of the key players in a golden era for England, which saw them win four Ashes series and become the number-one ranked Test team in the world.
During that time Bell has scored 6,787 runs at an average of 45.24, with 20 centuries and a highest score of 235 in a style that has been a delight to watch.
And in going to his 100th game, the Warwickshire right-hander is delighted to join esteemed company.
“Winning 100 Test match (caps) is a great achievement,” he exclusively told ecb.co.uk.
“Looking at the guys who have done it are legends of English cricket so to achieve that and be part of that is an amazing feeling.
"(Mike) Atherton and (Alec) Stewart especially growing up were heroes.
“Sometimes you step back and have a look and it’s something you only dream of, so it’s incredible.
“I feel very lucky to have played in an era where we have been very successful over a period of time.
“I have really enjoyed it and feel really lucky. To play for your country is one thing to play for so long is a dream come true.”
Coming into the side at just 22, Bell initially took to Test level like a duck to water, scoring 297 runs in his first three innings, including a majestic 162 not out against Bangladesh.
But he found life a little tougher in his next 12 months as he had to find himself at the highest level.
“I’d scored my runs and did what I needed to do to get selected but I was never the finished article when I started and it took me a long time to get that right,” he added.
“I had to learn on the way and when you make your debut at 22 you’re going to make mistakes, but hopefully I am mature enough to be a lot more consistent now.”
Bell was part of the side which famously won the 2005 Ashes after a generation of hurt against the old enemy.
Although he did not score the amount of runs he did in last year’s contest with Australia, he was thrilled to be involved in a landmark series.
“To be part of that series was great; it was the first time that cricket got back on the map in this country,” he said.
“People were desperate to watch England win. It was an absolute honour to play in that series, it was a great Australian team that we managed to beat, even now people talk about it so it was special.
“Playing against the likes of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Lee, there were some phenomenal players in that side.
“The best series I have been involved in personally.
“Growing up as a kid you are desperate to be the player of the series in an Ashes, so to get that was amazing, hopefully there is more to come next year.”