Bell to the fore for England
Ian Bell will approach his 100th one-day international innings tomorrow hoping he can “put his name” on England’s number four position.
Bell has filled all but numbers eight and nine in his 103 ODI appearances so far, but at the age of 29 has yet to establish himself in the batting spot that looks made for him.
Kevin Pietersen’s inhabitation of that position has meant Bell and several others have had to make themselves adaptable - as either openers or middle-order hitters - to stay in the 50-over reckoning for England.
But with Pietersen rested for the current NatWest Series, opportunity knocks for the Warwickshire batsman to make himself at home in the batting slot from which he made two half-centuries in England’s stuttering World Cup campaign in India this year.
One of those came in the tied group match against the hosts in Bangalore and, facing those same opponents in the second NatWest Series match at the Rose Bowl, the portents are good for Bell.
He made his sole ODI hundred at this venue, against India, four years ago, but appears, typically, to be determined to let his bat do the talking.
Bell knows he could yet be shunted around the scorebook again, and if so would unsurprisingly much prefer to go up rather than down.
“I would say anywhere in the top four - to go out and bat and build an innings and go through the gears,” he said, on his favoured position.
“That would be a strength of mine - be aggressive up front and bat through the spinners and then accelerate.”
He is under no particular orders apparently, so will stick to what he does best.
“I’ve got an idea about how to play in one-day cricket and I guess I’ve seen glimpses of that,” he added. “This is an opportunity to go out and do that.
“I’m not the kind of guy who is going to hit the ball into a few rows back and I have to go over extra-cover or whatever and use the skills that I have and find boundaries that way.
“I try to learn off Morgs [Eoin Morgan] in how he plays the spinners and scores boundaries off the front and back foot.”
Bell believes he is a more rounded batsman than when he first tried to make a name for himself in the top four.
“I wasn’t as good a player as I am now, so it’s nice to get that opportunity again,” he said. “I’ve got to be flexible, and we have a batting order that can chop and change.
“Whether I bat six or four or open, I just have to be flexible. Not having one position that I have stayed in for a long period of time has not allowed me to score the number of runs that I would like.
“But if you take squads to competitions you are going to need that flexibility. I see that as a strength - even if I haven’t stayed in one place long enough to nail one down.”
He may have to adapt again when Pietersen returns, although he hinted that he is unlikely to let the demands of batting down the order affect his naturally stylish game unduly.
“I can try,” he said. “You have to practise it - clearing your leg. But speaking to Goochy [batting coach Graham Gooch], there are different ways to score runs.
“You can pick the ball over midwicket; you can lift over extra-cover. There is no point me trying to become something I’m not. I have to play to my strengths.”
England are expected to welcome back Graeme Swann tomorrow, the off-spinner having recovered from the stomach upset that kept him out of the washed-out opener at the Emirates Durham ICG on Saturday.