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Bell confident on England future

Bell wants to crack number three spot

By Ben Dirs

Ian Bell says his best years as an England player are to come, despite his place in the squad being queried ahead of the Test series in South Africa.

Ex-England fast bowler Andy Caddick has disputed the batsman's mental strength, while former captain Michael Vaughan has questioned his place in the side.

"I find it crazy people would question me at 27," Bell told BBC Sport.

"People are entitled to their opinions. I believe I can play at this level. My best years are ahead of me."

Warwickshire right-hander Bell made his Test debut as a 22-year-old in 2004, hitting 70 in his only innings against West Indies at The Oval.

He has played 49 Tests in total, scoring 3,144 runs at an average of 39.79, with eight centuries and 21 fifties.

Ian Bell
I've made it clear I want to crack number three and I'd love to have another opportunity against a world-class side like South Africa

England batsman Ian Bell

Some observers believe his fifty-to-century conversion rate is a sign of mental fragility, and the fact that all eight of his hundreds were made when a team-mate had already passed three figures is also used as evidence to support this theory.

Having been dropped after the first Test of the West Indies tour in the spring of 2009, Bell returned for the third Ashes Test against Australia after an injury to Kevin Pietersen and responded with two half-centuries, including a nuggety 72 in the Ashes-winning game at The Oval.

However, doubts remain over his value to the team with Vaughan recently saying Bell, and not Paul Collingwood, should be dropped from the side when Pietersen returns for the first Test against the Proteas at Centurion on 16 December.

"Those questions have been asked of me over the last 12 months, I've been in and out of the side, so it's nothing new," said Bell of the recent criticism.

"But the ECB [England & Wales Cricket Board] have given me another central contract, so that's a boost of confidence, they obviously believe I can play at this level.

"It's important for me to make an impact in South Africa, personally and for the team, and I'm young enough to still have opportunities down the line to perform for England.

"I average 40 [actually 39.79], which is a decent average at Test level, but I'm desperate to move forward from that.

"The one question mark against my name is my conversion rate. I've proved I can play at this level, it's just converting those fifties into hundreds."


Should England decide to go with only five specialist batsmen in the four-Test series against South Africa, as they did in the Ashes, Bell is likely to be jettisoned if England opt for a top five of captain Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Pietersen and Collingwood.

However, Strauss and team director Andy Flower may opt for six front-line batsmen against the world's top-ranked side, in which case Bell could be retained.

And although Bell averages 49 batting at six, 54 batting at five and only 31 batting at three, he believes he can be relied upon to score runs at first wicket down.

"I'd like to be batting anywhere in that line-up," he said. "I've done well at five and six, but I've made it clear I want to crack number three and I'd love to have another opportunity against a world-class side like South Africa.

"I've learnt from some great players such as Michael Vaughan and they've given me a lot of confidence, telling me I can play 100 Test matches.

"I'll concentrate on this tour, take it Test by Test, and not worry too much what gets said outside of that."

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see also
England call up Plunkett as cover
17 Nov 09 |  England
Cook defends England's strategy
15 Nov 09 |  England
England crash to massive defeat
15 Nov 09 |  England
England triumph in rain-hit match
13 Nov 09 |  England
Pietersen recharged for SA tour
11 Nov 09 |  England
Victorious England regain Ashes
23 Aug 09 |  England
Bell a victim of Twitter hoaxer
12 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Bell 'ready' for England call-up
22 Jul 09 |  Warwickshire
England overlook Bell and Vaughan
29 Apr 09 |  England
Who's best at three?
01 Feb 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
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England in South Africa 2009-10
17 Jan 10 |  England

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