In a world of ever-changing variables in the cricketing world, Ian Bell is quite a constant. And his constancy only improves with each match that he plays. A fine testimony to this statement would be of the way he carved a century – his third for the series – in the fourth Ashes Test at Durham.
Bell’s overall run-count for the series has been staggering. He has amassed 500 runs, averaging over 71 runs and is, without any surprise, the series’ leading run-getter. But while the English team can take heart from this statistical truth, it also presents a different side of the story of England’s retaining the Ashes this year.
For a team that boasts of strengths, from player to player, it comes as a surprise that it’s been only Bell who has taken the onus of carrying his team’s batting through. As powerful and decisive his centuries have been, allowing the English bowlers to defend and take charge, it’s hard to believe that aside of Bell there’s not been any batsman who’s given the English batting a more powerful thrust. Even the likes of Trott and Pietersen – apart from a couple of cameos – have been eerily quiet, leaving a minefield of questions for the jubilant English team.
Each of Bell’s centuries has come at a time when England’s batting ebbed and the team needed a bed-rock of solidity to support its journey forward. Partnerships may have been built, even the record-equalling one between him and Pietersen; but the untimely exits of his partners – including that of Pietersen’s – meant that it was again up to Bell to restore England’s pride. Though both the English openers find their place amongst the top five run-getters for the series, the fact that there are two Australians who follow up Bell on the second and third place reveals a vulnerability of sorts for the hosts.
Joe Root may have shone through with a brilliant knock in the first test but in all of his innings thereafter, he’s barely lasted in the middle. As with Cook, who may have hit a few half-centuries but has failed to turn it into a bigger score; leaving himself, his team and his fans utterly disappointed. Amongst the entire English batting order it should have been these two batsmen who should have laid the foundations for Bell to potentially later in the innings thanks to their class act in the previous few test series. But that it’s been Ian Bell – who had a particularly unmemorable cricketing season – who’s come up tops for England, yet again showcases his distinctiveness
Bell’s play-making thus also becomes even more significant considering that for a player coming in at no.5; he’s been the one who’s had to take the centre-stage, combining cautious maturity with sensible aggressiveness to meet the needs of the team. Perhaps then it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bell’s painstaking efforts at the crease have troubled the Australian bowlers far more than any other English player. There again emerging as a constant.
Amongst the various elements of topsy-turvy that the 2013 Ashes will be known for – umpiring goof-ups and technological bloopers, to name a few – Ian Bell’s name would be probably taken with awe and respect. For not only have each of his centuries given England a noteworthy win, but they have gone on a long way to emphasise what Bell’s presence constitutes to the English line-up. A disappointment he may be at times, invoking the ire of one and all, but when it comes to the toughest of situations, there’s none who can be tougher than Bell. That then is the constancy that can be reiterated about Ian Bell.