x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Centurion Bell indebted to England selectors

Ian Bell, the England batsman, repaid the faith of the selectors with a hundred against Australia A at the Bellerive Oval.

Ian Bell yesterday said he did not expect to get his place back in the England line-up. The batsman, on the sidelines with a foot injury, was given a nod ahead of the in-form Eoin Morgan for the upcoming Ashes. 

And Bell repaid the faith of the selectors with a hundred against Australia A at the Bellerive Oval yesterday. 

England were struggling a bit on 137 for five in reply to the hosts' 230, but Bell added 198 with Paul Collingwood (74 not out) before stumps on the second day of the four-day match to lift the touring side to a healthy 335 for five.

Bell also made 61 against South Australia last week but was not about to get carried away with his form.

"The Ashes series hasn't started. It would be nice to take this into the Ashes," the 28-year-old said.

"There's no doubt when you lose your place, through injury or whatever, you're going to have to fight hard to get it back."

"I feel like I'm getting into the right place I need to be to be playing Test cricket, mentally and physically and I think I'm maturing as a player.

"But it counts for nothing yet," he added. "It's great practice, and great to go out and get hundreds, but the big stuff starts in Brisbane."

Meanwhile Troy Cooley, the Australia bowling coach, has backed Mitchell Johnson, the fast bowler, to avoid a repeat of the meltdown in the last Ashes series. The left-armer's form was poor when he disappointed in last year's Ashes in England. 

Said Cooley yesterday: "Our pitches definitely suit his style of bowling. He hits the deck hard, he's got a good quick bouncer and he's found ways of getting wickets."

None of the batsmen named in Australia's expanded 17-man first Test squad have taken the opportunity to bat themselves into the side.

While captain Ricky Ponting ground out a dogged 27 from 53 balls for Tasmania against New South Wales, Shane Watson has made 6 and 15 and Simon Katich 1 and 36 in the same match.

Mike Hussey made an 18-ball duck for Western Australia in its Sheffield Shield match against Victoria on Wednesday, increasing the pressure on him in the middle order. Marcus North made 17 from 51 balls for Western Australia.

"Australia are a poor side," former England great Ian Botham said. "I really don't think they are very good. There's infighting, there's whingeing, they are moaning about who should be captain.

"This is wonderful for English cricket."

The first Test starts in Brisbane on Thursday.