Ian Bell has been in England’s wing for years it seems – four, to be precise – and has had praise lavished upon him by all who coached and watched him. And today, he made his first Test century without somuchas breaking a sweat. Given the attack he was facing, his celebration was more Atherton than Slater – but comparisons between him and Atherton have been common in the past week or so, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re pretty similar in their textbook techniques, and both are calm at the crease. If you say “Mike Atherton” to most cricket fans, they’ll say “Dogged,” “Amazing concentration,” or “Jo’berg.” But it was only towards the latter period of his career that his shots became limited. He was one of my first cricketing heroes, as I watched him almost from his first Test – and his off-drives and, in particular, leg-glances were always exquisite.
Bell seems similar, but a lot stronger square of the wicket – pretty fierce through point too. Andrew Miller makes mention of Bell’s class, something many observers might feel sheepish about discussing given the opposition. But, as TMS were saying, the runs still have to be scored whatever the bowling’s like: class is class, they felt, and this article seems to agree.
To score your first Test century against Bangladesh may devalue the experience a fraction, and Bell’s understated celebrations were considerably more restrained than Trescothick’s cartwheels, who now has three Bangla hundreds to his name. But Bell is at least in good company. Among his international contemporaries, West Indies’ Ramnaresh Sarwan and South Africa’s Jacques Rudolph both made their first hundreds against Bangladesh, and to judge by his demeanour at the crease, Bell has the technique and temperament to be better than either.
The article also suggest that Pietersen’s time is not now – this is Bell’s, and Pietersen must wait. I’m so confused about the Pietersen/Bell issue that I can’t comment any more. Who’d be a selector?