Seeing is Believing

A recurrent theme in the first few years of this blog was the discrepancy between Ian Bell's transparently exceptional batting ability and his failure to establish himself in the England team. I well remember writing a sentence which began 'if Ian Bell ever realizes how good he could be...'.

Over the last year the disconnect between potential and performance has become less noticeable, largely as a result of his batting in South Africa last winter. After an injury-interrupted home season, his return to the Test side for the start of the forthcoming Ashes series appears a formality. At last, in his 29th year, there are signs that he's finally started to really believe in himself. And there's plenty to believe in.

Yesterday evening, as Bell steered Warwickshire to victory against Somerset in the final of the Clydesdale Bank 40 at a floodlit Lord's, he put together an innings which served both as reminder and confirmation of what he is capable of. Mark Turner is a journeyman seam bowler. He's just been released by Somerset and is joining Derbyshire, the team cricketers join when they can't go anywhere else. So, when he came on to bowl the 38th over of the Warwickshire innings with Bell facing, things didn't look good. Six balls later, with Bell having creamed Turner for twenty runs and the Warwickshire win assured, things looked even worse.

But, in fairness, it probably wouldn't have made much difference who was bowling. Bell was playing with such a potent mix of command, assurance and even, whisper it, arrogance, that many another more talented bowler would have gone precisely the same way. It looked to me suspiciously like the work of a player who finally knows how good he is, and that, my friends, is very good indeed.

Of course, attempting to hold together the England batting in the febrile cauldron of the Gabba, or amid the brutal partisanship of the MCG, is a different thing. We will see, but the signs are good.

The 'CB40' feels like an unloved competition, and Ian Bell has frequently appeared an unloved batsman. Defending his corner against the doubters has often been difficult; more than once I've given up and embraced the majority opinion.

Ian Bell won't be giving up any time soon. Last night he showed the British cricket community what he can do, but it's time he showed the world.


Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

It was a great innings, and I think you're probably right about it not mattering who the bowler was at the end.

The crunch will come down under, this is where we will see if he really can do it, whether or not the South Africa series was the new Ian Bell, or was it just a flash in the pan.

He certainly has the talent, he just seems to lack self belief, and at least he won't have Shane Warne getting to him mentally this time, at least not out in the middle.

Brian Carpenter said...

We will indeed see, Dean.

He wasn't quite so impressive back at Lord's on Monday against somewhat better bowling, so maybe I went over the top.

I think this winter's going to be quite important in determining how his career's viewed from here on. Should be interesting.

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