Bell determined to take chance
Ian Bell insists he is looking forward to the challenge of deputising for Kevin Pietersen at number four in the third npower Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Bell has been called into the squad after Pietersen was ruled out of the remainder of the series by an Achilles injury and the Warwickshire batsman admits the task of replacing England’s premier batsman brings added pressure.
“I guess it does so in certain ways,” admitted Bell.
“But I think when you go into games like this, it’s a big occasion.
“The whole batting unit has to go out and perform. We can’t rely on one guy to go out and score the whole runs for the team.
“To me it’s a matter of contributing to that batting unit and knowing what I can do and offer to the team and play in a style where I know I play at my best.
“Of course with someone like Kev, a world-class player, you’re going to miss that.
“But we all have our own tempo. Kev has his methods, I have my methods and strengths.
“There’s no point me trying to go out and play like Kev. I have to play to my strengths. And think about how I want to go out there and score my runs and contribute to getting a big first-innings score.”
Bell, 27, has been shunted up and down the batting order throughout his five years in Test cricket.
When former captain Michael Vaughan announced his decision to step down from the captaincy a year ago, following defeat to South Africa, Bell jumped at the chance to make the number three spot his own, with Australia captain Ricky Ponting as his template for success.
But four poor matches at first-wicket down meant he was the victim of the axe following the innings defeat to West Indies in Jamaica in February.
His immediate reaction was to begin a regime of 6am fitness drills with ECB security officer Reg Dickason, on the beaches of the Caribbean, which he said “left me on my knees”.
That work meant he was up and running with Warwickshire as soon as he returned home and stacked up 647 runs in LV= County Championship action.
It was during an early match, however, that his situation struck home. England were playing West Indies at Lord’s while Bell was playing county cricket.
“For me, seeing it here on the big screen and being at Edgbaston, really hit home what it means to be involved in a Test match for your country,” Bell recalled.
“For that first 10 minutes I couldn’t think of anything else but that.
“I had to quickly get that out of my mind because I was playing a game here. That was one moment I realised how much it hurt.
“When you’ve been a regular and it suddenly gets taken away from you, how much that really means to you.
“So you do a lot of thinking inside about what you want to do when you get that next opportunity.”
Bell’s response to his last omission - he was left out of the 2006 Test series against Sri Lanka - was emphatic, as he returned with three hundreds in four Tests versus Pakistan.
And he is keen to make a similar impact this time around.
“I’m 27,” he insisted. “I still think I’ve got a lot to offer international cricket.
“I thought I’d have to wait a lot longer. I know it’s an injury but this is a chance I’ve got to go out there and show people how good a player I am and that’s something I didn’t think I’d get this summer.”
Although he was an Ashes winner in 2005, there is also a personal point to prove with his average against Australia just 25.
“I want to become one of the best players in England and I want to keep improving,” said Bell.
“I’ve played well against other teams and now I have to play well against Australia.”
Meanwhile, all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has been sleeping with a machine to keep alive his Ashes dream.
Flintoff, 31, has been wearing a Game Ready wrap around his injured right knee in a bid to ease the discomfort he experienced before, during and after the second npower Test win over Australia at Lord’s.
The special contraption was designed using NASA spacesuit technology and simultaneously supplies intermittent compression and ice treatment.
It works on the inflamed area, half an hour on, half an hour off, while individuals are in bed and is regularly used by Premier League footballers who have experienced joint injuries.
Flintoff, whose fifth-morning display with the ball eight days ago sealed a 115-run victory and the man-of-the-match award at Lord’s, today bowled at close to full capacity for around 10 minutes in the middle at Edgbaston.
That was an encouraging sign for England less than 48 hours before the third match of the series begins.
Andrew Strauss’ men, 1-0 ahead after two contrasting Tests, held a lengthy chat close to the match pitch before today’s practice session.