Bell ready to go steady with Cook
Ian Bell is hoping his 'new' opening partnership with Alastair Cook can serve England’s one-day international team handsomely for years to come.
Bell is delighted to have been given another crack at opening the innings for his country - a prospect which seemed distant at best even a month ago.
Back then, Cook and Kevin Pietersen had between them scored hundreds in four successive England victories at the top of the order.
Yet Pietersen’s shock retirement gave Bell another chance - and he has responded with scores of 126 and 53 in two innings to date as England have wrapped up NatWest Series victory over West Indies a match early.
Bell was not even put off, or out, by his mishap in the Ageas Bowl indoor nets which left him with a broken jaw on the eve of the first match last weekend.
Instead, he posted just his second ODI hundred there - and is now looking forward to a future in which he and Cook will be setting the tone for England at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m really happy. I felt like I’d been playing some good one-day cricket with Warwickshire at the top of the order but batting four, five or six with England,” he said.
“One thing I wanted was another crack at the top of the order. KP’s retirement gave me that opportunity.”
Bell, sumptuously talented yet somehow understated in deed as well as word, is not one to shout the odds.
He can hardly help but be encouraged with the events of the past week, though.
“It has started nicely, and now I want to continue improving and keep the relationship and partnership with Cooky going,” Bell added.
“If we can continue to develop that platform but also playing quite aggressive, proper cricket shots then I hope we’ll get scores that allow our bowlers to win one-day games for England.
“We’ve always had a good relationship in Test matches batting together. It’s a new partnership, but then it’s not really.
“I think we’ve played 70-odd Test matches together, so we know each other inside out.”
English pitches and two new balls have allowed both Bell and Cook - who added a hundred of his own in yesterday’s win at the Kia Oval - the luxury of timing rather than having to clout their runs.
“He has some big strengths and - being a left-hand, right-hand combination - I hope we can work together over a period of time now,” added Bell. “I think we complement each other well.
“We both play quite well off the back foot and, with the new ball and pace coming on, there is the option to cut or pull.
“That fits our games nicely. Then with the left-hand, right-hand (partnership) it is never going to be easy for bowlers.
“If there is any slight width, Cooky is going to use his cut shot - and I’m quite similar. I hope we go quite nicely together.”
Bell is able to crack a smile about the favourable turn of events, but does still have to make some allowances for that painful hairline fracture to his jawbone.
“It’s okay...a bit sore chewing, if I get a tough bit of steak or something like that,” he explained.
“I was lucky. The guys who stitched me up were fantastic and gave me the peace of mind to go out and play.
“It doesn’t feel quite right (yet); the teeth still feel slightly out of line.”
There is no such imperfection in his batting at present, though.