x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bell’s form is worth the wait for England

It may have taken a while, but Ian Bell is now finally fulfilling his potential for England as a Test batsman.

It has been frustrating, at times, watching Ian Bell. The most gifted of all English batsmen in the current set-up, few have ever doubted his ability and elegance.

Many, however, questioned his temperament and doggedness in adversity, which in an England side of a few years ago, was almost a prerequisite.

Those who have stuck by the Warwickshire batsman have finally seen the fruits of his labour with a magnificent 235 against India in the fourth Test. Thankfully, those who doubted, are happy to be proven wrong.

Bell is fortunate not to have been a Test batsman in the 1990s. His inconsistency since making his debut against the West Indies in 2004 would not have been tolerated under previous management.

Since 1990, England have given out 108 new caps - more than any other Test nation. Selectors have hardly needed an excuse to wield the axe at a player's shortcomings. Yet, the treatment towards Bell has been curiously different.

England's approach to talent identification has changed dramatically after the 2006/07 Ashes defeat and, while Bell has been scrutinised after each failure, only four rival batsman have been capped since. As a result, Bell has blossomed and England's perseverance paid off.

While a new crop of batting talent stands England in good stead, Bell with an average of over 86 since 2010, is no longer seen as the weak link in the order.

The only question is whether he will remain at No 3 when Jonathan Trott returns from injury. Simply for the aesthetics of how he plays, it would be a pity if he moved back down.

snelmes@thenational.ae