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England player ratings for Durban

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Oliver Brett | 10:55 UK time, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

England began the decade as the weakest team in Test cricket, but they end it in rather better shape, with two home Ashes series wins and now this, a first Test win in Durban - achieved by an innings and 98 runs - since 1964.

Here are my ratings for the 11 players who took the field at Kingsmead Park on Boxing Day, and who walked off four days later with a 1-0 series lead.

Andrew Strauss - 7
His performance will be overlooked when this scorecard is dredged up years from now, but if one act wrested the initiative from South Africa then it was Strauss's 54 at the start of England's innings. On a wicket where all the other specialist batsmen struggled to score quickly, England's skipper made his runs at a fearsome lick and gave the rest of his batsmen confidence that South Africa's 343 could be overhauled.

Alastair Cook - 9
Found reserves of concentration that he has not always been associated with to bat for more than six hours in crafting a terrific 118. Overcame the untimely departures of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen to forge the key stand with Paul Collingwood, and he did it as the critics began to circle following some slightly off-key performances of late.

Jonathan Trott - 5
Got a very good delivery from Morne Morkel when the South African paceman was at his best on the third morning and had to depart for 18, the lowest score of any dismissed English batsmen.

Kevin Pietersen - 4
Went into auto-pilot mode to sweep Paul Harris and was out lbw. Having already been dropped off Harris earlier on, this was bad bit of misjudgement and when he was out England were far from ideally placed at 155-3. Left-arm spin is something of an Achilles heel for Pietersen.

Paul Collingwood - 8
Having shown fine form in the one-day series, Collingwood seemed set to score his third Test century in 2009 until losing his momentum late in his innings and finally departing to the under-rated spin of JP Duminy. England were 155-3 when he arrived at the crease and 365-4 the ball before he departed - so he certainly did his bit.

Ian Bell - 9
Some of Bell's harshest judges will not change their views of the Warwickshire man despite his score of 140 in Durban. They will say that yet again he has had to wait for someone else in the team to reach three figures before he does the same, but the fact is that Bell is in the team on merit - and he coped particularly well with the dangerous Morkel at the start of his innings.

Matt Prior - 7
Was the main aggressor on the fourth morning, when he and Bell faced a tricky task. They had to be positive to stretch England's lead while ensuring wickets stayed in the bag. Had he played more selfishly he probably had time to get a century. First blemish in a long time with the gloves when he dropped Morkel off Graeme Swann.

Graeme Swann - 10
If there's one country on the Test cricket map where the spinner is supposed to merely "hold up an end" while the quicks get among the wickets then it is South Africa. Somebody forgot to tell the irrepressible tweaker from Notts, however, who took 5-110 in the first innings in Centurion, and added a further nine wickets here. The 10 marks are not doled out lightly, but who can say he doesn't deserve a maximum?

Stuart Broad - 9
An ever-present in 2009 for England, Broad nevertheless went through a bit of a lean patch before finding his feet in the last two Ashes Tests. When Swann left South Africa's door ajar before tea on day four, Broad blew it off its hinges with three massive wickets soon after the interval to leave victory a mere formality. Still bowls some innocuous stuff, but we can forgive him that when he produces magic spells.

James Anderson - 6
Bowled well on the first morning but had only the wicket of Ashwell Prince to show for his efforts as Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis defended Anderson well. Added two further wickets in the match and could be a big threat in the final Test in seamer-friendly Johannesburg.

Graham Onions - 5
A quiet match for the man from Gateshead, who was a trifle disappointing and had only the wicket of JP Duminy on day one to show for his efforts, though he was only given four overs in the second innings.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The 4 rating for Pietersen to me is harsh, he has looked in good form and one would have felt that had he been given the chance he would hve clicked on. I don't think he has a problem of sorts with left-arm spinners, it should be a matter of time before he is able to cope well enough and deal with them. A little concentration would be desirable, but I would give him a 5. Apart from that, Strauss deserves an 8 for his captaincy and the second-innings blitz.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think that Broad really bowled that much better than Anderson or Onions over the course of the match, certainly not 3-4 points better. But should ratings be given on performance or figures?

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Can’t really disagree with any of that............although saying that I’m not sure Swanny deserves a straight 10. I mean he didn’t win the game entirely on his own, if ever the team worked together to win the game it was this match.

    Not that I want to take the glint off swanny's game, just don’t think its a bish bosh wam bam 10 that’s all. (Its like calling a hot dog awesome. They can be tasty alright but not awesome)

    Safe.

  • Comment number 5.

    Harsh on Onions. He bowled an excellent opening spell on day 1. Went past Smiths outside edge time after time and could easily have had 4 or 5 wickets. 6 or 7 at least for me.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interesting comment about Bell Oliver.

    To those who believe that Ian Bell can't score runs under pressure consider the following: He has scored runs under pressure in 17 of his 51 tests, that's 1 match in every 3 where he has got runs under pressure. Its time people started getting off his back and started to give him some well deserved credit

    Year - score when coming in - score

    2005 97-2 Aus 3rd test scored 65 (out going for quick runs.)
    2005 19-1 Pakistan scored 71
    2005 2-39 Pakistan scored 115
    2005 2-30 Pakistan scored 92
    2006 2-50 against India scored 57 out of 181 in the 3rd inning. Great rearguard innings over almost 3 hours in intense heat, only specialist bat to score more than 14.
    2006 110-3 against Pakistan scored 119.
    2006 2-28 Aus scored 50 out of 157
    2006 2-45 Aus scored 60
    2006 1-0 Aus scored 87. 4th innings, batted over 4 hours to try and save match. Cook and Bell partnership of 169 which should have seen England save the match, England capitulated after Bell was out - 350 all out.

    2007 Aus 1-45 scored 71 out of 291.
    2007 WI 132-4 scored 97 turned match around and England won from a precarious 1st innings position.
    2007 4-124 63 top scored and allowed England to get to a respectable 345 and get a draw. Also scord 67 in 2nd innings to secure the draw.
    2007 SRI L 1-0 scored 87 and gave England the platform for a 97 run 1st innings lead
    2007 SRI L -4 74. 2nd innings of above match. England 4-55 at one point. Bell batted for over 5 hours in an effort to save the match almost single handedly for England. Only support came from Prior and just failed to save match in one of the great rearguard innings of recent times.
    2008 SA 3-117 scored 199
    2008 SA 3-74 scored 50
    2009 Aus 2-60 scored 53
    2009 Aus 1-12 top score 72 gave England platform to win Deciding Ashes test.

  • Comment number 7.


    Dominant performance. Only the last wicket stand of 60 odd kept SA in it.

    Big contributions from Ali C and Swanny.

  • Comment number 8.

    @lightsjp4 - when Broad started bowling, SA were in trouble. When he finished, the middle-order was gone and they had pretty much lost. It was a match-winning spell.

    Anderson and Onions did great in the first innings, and Onions especially should have had more wickets. But neither bowled much in the second innings.

    I would say that destroying a team in one innings but bowling relatively poorly in the other is worth more than bowling well in both and picking up a few wickets.

  • Comment number 9.

    Stuart Broad deserves his 9 in my opinion, he is greatly under-rated.

    There was a telling stat on the TV yesterday, which was a comparison of Broad vs Flintoff at this stage of their respective test careers. Broad outmatched Flintoff in every category - averaging better with both bat and ball.

    Now we all know that Flintoff's test career didn't get off to a great start, but by a similar measure I would venture that many would say Broad's test career hasn't exactly exploded on to the scene.

    I think his is an exciting talent, emerging at just the right time to take Freddie's reigns and perhaps even out-perform him in the long term.

  • Comment number 10.

    As a Saffer, firstly, congratulations to England. No complaints or excuses, you lot totally outplayed us and got the result you deserved.

    I think the ratings here however are extraordinary. Obviously Anderson and Onions were not amongst the wickets, but both of them bowled pretty darn well. 7s at least for both, SA batted under pressure from start to finish because of the efforts of the whole attack, not just because Broad and Swann filled up the W-column.

    Prior as well had a very good game, at least an 8 for him; Trott and Pietersen didn't do much, proof maybe that South Africans can't play in Durban(!!); and Strauss finally, to stick with the team that came unstuck at Centurion and then captain that team in a crushing defeat of SA at home, give the man some credit. At least an 8, and arguably a 9.

  • Comment number 11.

    How does KP get a rating of 4 yet Trott gets a rating of 5? Neither outperformed each other in the field so considering that the ratings must be on the solitary England innings which KP outscored Trott. They must surely both get 5.

  • Comment number 12.

    Think KP's rating is a bit harsh, so he thinks Harris is nothing special an thought he could easily sweep some runs, so what? Just about every commentator in the world thinks the same! Yes it was his fault he got out, but you could say the same about most of the batsmen, there were very few killer balls from the Saffers bowlers. If your kocking marks off for getting yourself out then no batter would get above 7. And remember KP's only just come back from injury. The rest of the marks are about fair, providing of course like i said that you don't apply the deductions for getting yourself out.

  • Comment number 13.

    This first batch of comments represents what an invidious position one is in when doing ratings. On the one hand it is suggested I have unfairly marked down Onions on the basis that he bowled very well despite only taking one wicket. On the other there is a query as to how Pietersen gets less than Trott despite scoring more runs.

    When rating a player one is combining actual statistical evidence with what you don't see on a scorecard. Eg - KP, dropped once, throws his wicket away = one fewer than Trott - who may have scored slightly fewer, but was defensively playing a really good ball so was "got out" by the bowler.

    With Onions, I take the point that his new-ball spell on day one was good. However, he did not take a wicket either then, or when given the new ball again at the start of SA's second innings. And, however much Onions contributed to the "team cause" he did not really produce one of the leading performances. Interesting with seam bowlers like him, who rarely bowl rubbish... Botham used to say Mike Hendrick - who never had the Test figures to back up his performances - actually earned him (Botham) lots of wickets by bowling so accurately and draining so much concentration from batsmen whose eyes would then light up and nick a swinging half-volley from Both to someone like Graham Roope in the slips.

  • Comment number 14.

    I understand that the ratings aren't done just on the face value of the scorecard, just thought that KP and Trott deserved the same rating that's all.

    More importantly, well done to the team as a whole. Great performance and was worth getting up that little bit earlier during the Xmas break to watch it. Hope we can keep our focus and see out the series.

  • Comment number 15.

    "This first batch of comments represents what an invidious position one is in when doing ratings."

    Well, er, don't do it then... Seriously, not sure how you could put yourself up this "job" if you don't expect to attract criticism. Surely the main idea here is to attract debate, and not grumble about how difficult it is to find people who agree with you?

  • Comment number 16.

    Interesting ratings. Broadly I agree, although 4 for Pietersen is ridiculously harsh. We knew even when he played for England A in India that he was quite likely to follow a blazing century with three failures and then two more blazing innings: the way that he plays he will always take risks and sometimes look pretty stupid but, an average of over 50 shows that it comes off more often than not.

    Maybe the 10 for Swann also includes one mark for coming in when quick runs were needed and blasting the ball instantly to all parts?

  • Comment number 17.

    Trott 5 and Pietersen 4?

    Not sure how you worked that one out, harsh on KP?

  • Comment number 18.

    Post number 6... are you somehow related to Ian Bell?!

  • Comment number 19.

    Agree with all of the marks, especially Swann, whose impact on the fortunes of the England team has still, I think, to be fully acknowledged.

    Two thoughts: don't worry about Onions; he's been playing test cricket for under a year, and is still learning - he's also given batsmen, especially Smith, a problem at times. He'll be great when he gains consistency, as he will do.

    Someone should tell Pietersen that, however much he doesn't rate Paul Harris, that he can't afford to keep making mistakes against him - otherwise, when their two careers are finished, history, and statistics, will show that Harris was the winner every time.

  • Comment number 20.

    I actually always give my own marks, before reading yours, to see how we compare, and usually find myself off by one or two here or there, but this time, we match each other all the way.
    I think KP underperformed, and threw away his wicket, when he looked like he was getting set (after being dropped). This isn't to say he is suddenly a poor performer, but that in this case he didn't do as well as we know he can do. As for Trott, I would say that he was 'got' by the ball of the series so far.

    Just a quick response to the_real_Eddie_George; I don't read any complaint in Mr Brett's comment. It looks to me that he simply notes the fact that his subjective observations are met with such widespread comments. We all have our take on the performances, and obviously, we are all right in our own mind.

    Three things excited me most of all in this Test. First of all, Cook's and Bell's respective innings. As Bell is probably my favourite batsman to watch, when he's in full flow, I'm extatic!
    Secondly, I'm really pleased that the team managed such an impressive total, despite KP and Trott - our main batsman and the one that has showed most form and promise of late - not contributing too much. It shows that we can depend on others as well!
    Finally, people used to value the talisman effect of Flintoff. When things weren't going the team's way, he could turn the momentum or the feel of the match. Swann has taken over that particular role, in my humble opinion, with the way he strikes in his first over so frequently. It might not work too much in the near future (batsmen will be on the look out), but I can see him being the go-to-guy when they need to be uplifted in the field.

    I'm chuffed to bits with this performance, and (dare I say) rather excited about the prospects... Not there yet, though, chaps!

  • Comment number 21.

    To score 10 is ludicrous,consequent of watching TV game shows. What would his score have been if he'd done a Laker.How can anyone or anything be perfect.

  • Comment number 22.

    If Pietersen scored 376 and then got out to a stupid shot, he'd still get no more than 5 from the BBC cricket team.

    What DID he do to anger you so much?

    How can any England player be part of a team that wins in Durban (by an INNINGS!!), against possibly the world's best side, yet only be rated 4 out of 10?

  • Comment number 23.

    Interesting to see that Pietersen got the lowest ranking of the entire team. When are England going to drop this reckless fool?

  • Comment number 24.

    Oliver,

    I think some people are being a bit harsh on you. I agree with the Pietersen rating and he is my favourite player. He got dropped and got himself out but of course made 31 so 4 was about right.

    As for them I agree with most of what you said. Onions couldn't have scored higher no matter what people say, yes he bowled well but no one taking 1 wicket in the match can possibly score more than 5! It would be like giving someone who scores 10-15 runs a 6! It would be ridiculous. I would have given him a 5 too.

    I agree with a 10 for Swann, 9.5 at least. He did bowl excellently. People need to realise it wasn't exactly a spinner's paradise, especially in the first innings. Agree with the rest apart from Trott I'd have given 4.5 and Strauss an 8. Perhaps 8.5 for Colly too. But these are minor changes.

    A great all-round performance though from England, nice to see so many big performances in one game. Hopefully we can maintain this form into the 3rd test.

  • Comment number 25.

    Dougie (25) He is not a reckless fool and he certainly won't be (and should not be) dropped! I am a huge fan of KP's despite what some people here seem to think and am certain that before long he will be totting up the tons once again.

  • Comment number 26.

    Douggielee

    If you genuinely think that KP should be dropped then you are a fool.

    If it is a wind up attempt, well then you are still a fool.

  • Comment number 27.

    In the 2005 Ashes series we saw the Enland bowlers really performing as a unit. Finally, we seem to have the same. We also seem to have a set of batsmen of whom if one or two fail, the rest can usually post a big score between them. Well done the England management for sticking with the team in the face of considerable hostile critisism (even when they win!!!). And well done the team - to bounce back so emphatically after clinging on by the skin of their teeth at Centurion is brilliant. We used to roll over and capitulate - now we seem to roll up our sleeves, snarl, and fight back. Splendid stuff.

  • Comment number 28.

    Generally agree with the ratings. The one point not made about Bell is his fielding - the best close fielder in the England team. Why does Strauss use Cook or Trott at short leg?

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm sorry, did I just read "left arm spin an achillies heel for Pietersen"?

    Harris has got him a couple of times through a couple of mis-judged shots. It's nothing to do with pressure being generated by the bowler

    The biggest frustration with these dismissals is that he is too comfortable with the likes of Harris, it's like he slips into complacency now and then. But, he'll always have people talking, no matter what he ends up doing

  • Comment number 30.

    Kapnag, from memory Yuvraj Singh, Daniel Vettori and Sulieman Benn have all dismissed KP on more than one occasion... It is definitely a weaknesss

  • Comment number 31.

    Post 29 you hit on a very important point re mis-judged shots against the trundlers and Pietersen.

    How many batsmen play superbly against the front line bowlers only to turn off against the make weight bowlers and play a silly shot to get out.

    Some of the criticism Pietersen gets and in my opinion deserves, is down to the annoyance that many fans see over a player with undoubted ability playing at times sublimely yet too often throwing his wicket away with a careless; flashy and often inappropriate shot.

    I would be interested to see how many times he has got himself out on the verge of a big score with a silly shot?

    Great players convert fifties to centuries and make centuries big centuries at crucial times.

  • Comment number 32.

    Re: Comment 6 - Most of those innings you listed underline the problem with Bell. He somes in when big runs are needed, and makes a very attractive 50 or 60, and then gets himself out before doing the real damage. Yeah, it keeps his average hovering around 40, but that doesn't win games. I'd rather have a scratchy Collingwood 110 than a fluent and pretty Bell 40 any day.

    Also regarding KP's 4 rating - I think it's about fair because it was an unforced error. He looked in superb touch and really ought to have known better than to sweep a straight ball from a pie-chucker like Harris. I'd tell my 9 year old boy off for doing that. But I still back KP to smash a match-winning ton on this tour sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ Stargazer: Re: Pietersen.
    But surely the point here is to rate his performance in this match, not over his entire career. When it comes off and he plays a stellar hi-octane innings for 200 off 100 balls, give him a 10. When he throws his wicket away, give him a 4. You can't give him a high score all the time based on what might have happened.

    @greenmarkfo: Interesting stats for Bell there. I've always had the impression of him digging England out of trouble a few times, and there are the numbers to back it up. I think the figures (and peoples' perceptions) get skewed by when he gets his centuries when in reality, if you are 30-2, someone scoring 92 is just about as useful as someone scoring 102.

  • Comment number 34.

    Agree with your ratings if the five for Trott seems a tad harsh. Delighted that the two weak links - Cook and Bell - showed what Englishmen can do!

  • Comment number 35.

    Generally spot on, OB. I agree with 9s for Bell and Broad due to their key performances and very pleased to see you award Swann 10. This guy is fast becomming a destroyer with both bat and ball, and developing into a fantastic cricketer. Who would've thought an England spinner would rack up 50+ wickets in a single year. Wish I'd throw a ten spot on that down at Willy Hills. I also agree with 4 for Pietersen. I stuggle to understand where his head is these days. His reckelss batting during the summer was blamed upon injury, injury aggrevated by a bad call to play in the IPL. He now continues to throw away his wicket at crucial times instead of getting his head down. Let's hope 2009 was KP's annus horribilis and not the start of serious decline.

  • Comment number 36.

    Re 21: I think Brett has recognised and justified his superlative, no? Surely you do not mean to steer us toward a Platonic debate about attaining to perfection? No one is saying Swann is "perfect". Brett writes, "The 10 marks are not doled out lightly, but who can say he doesn't deserve a maximum?" And I should agree. I had actually rated both Broad and Swann at 9, but reading Brett's ratings, I don't have a strong disagreement.

    Re 23: Surely Dougie you're being sarcastic? Personally I'd put KP at 5 but I don't think anyone is suggesting that he ought to be dropped!

    Re 33: I agree with you and with greenmark (is that a pub?) on Bell. Just waddled through some statistics myself and realised that my dull notion that Bell digs us out of trouble is not merely subjective. But I suppose this is where ratings become difficult: can we perhaps say that Broad gets rated 9.2 and Bell gets 9.1 and Swann gets 9.3? Bell did do well to defy his critics (and I concede I am one of them), but don't you (Brett or anyone else) that Broad's overall contribution, in sheer viewing not statistics, was greater? Put another way, who in our XI could have done what Broad did except Broad?

  • Comment number 37.

    Don't see how you can rate Bell and Cook the same. Cooks innings was a sublime example of an opening batsmen displaying a lot of patience, grit and determination when the going wasn't easy. Bell, on the other hand, came in when all the hard work was done (again) and bullied his way to a ton. Great, except the jury's still out, because when things are hard, Bell fails. The stat about scoring hundreds when other batsmen already have is a very valid one. Good player, but terrible temperament. Needs to be dropped.

  • Comment number 38.

    I agree with the majority of it. I think KP deserves a 5. I do agree it was a silly way to get out and he does need to stop getting out that way. Both Bell and Cook deserve their high mark but I still don't see Bell's place solid in the team as if we were to go back to 6 batsman and 5 bowlers; someone would have to be dropped and the most likely is Bell.

  • Comment number 39.

    Look i think Englang players are generally riding high after Ashes success and narrowly escaping Centurion.All credit goes to Strauss and his boys.South Africa have to poick themselves up and shrug off 9 months of dormancy on the test scene going into the 3rd test.SA Bowling department needs a review ,I wouldnt mind seeing De Vet being given a crack ahead of say Ntini.Ashwell has to pick his game like Cook and i think the Proteas will be okay

  • Comment number 40.

    HowlingBell, that's a pub too. Really though, I agree with you, which is why we need to rate with decimals. Does anyone want to go through this again with decimals? I'll put a few suggestions in here:

    KP 4.5
    Onions 5.5
    Broad 9.1
    Bell 8.9 (yes, I've back-pedaled already)
    Cook 9.0
    Swann 9.3

    How does that look? I think it's fair to give a 1 point distinction between KP and Onions for largely subjective reasons but I think the decimals help differentiate between, e.g., the contributions of Bell and Cook as HowlingBell points out. But I must disagree re dropping Bell: surely we should not drop him but simply recognise him as a faute de mieux selection. With whom would we replace him if we dropped him? I'd be curious to know what a non-England supporter thinks about the psychological and tactical impact on our opponents when they know Bell is coming up. Do they think he'll be easy to play? Do they adjust their tactics based on where in the order Bell bats? Do they anticipate and ignore the hundreds he may or may not score? Purely agnoetic questions. I'm wondering.

  • Comment number 41.

    " And the award for commenting without reading the thread goes too...

    ...damned envelope...

    ...it's howlingbell!"

    *applause*

    Cook set the platform, Bell set us in a winning position by piling what was ultimately a terminal amount of pressure on the South Africans.

    And the myth that Bell fails whenever things are hard was exploded 32 posts ago, for those that bothered to read it. He puts in a match winning performance and so needs to be dropped?

  • Comment number 42.

    Ste Thomas: I think if someone were to be dropped tomorrow morning it might be KP before Bell. KP in my opinion is still not back to full fitness. His concentration just looked off and his face often had a confused expression. I'm not advocating the dropping of KP, mind you; but I don't think Bell should be dropped. With whom would you replace him? And what do we do about KP going out cheaply and repeatedly?

  • Comment number 43.

    howlingbell:
    I fear any attempt to talk about Bell will always result in both sides sounding like scratched records. I do find it interesting however that when Bell plays a good innings it's described as "bullying" but when someone like Pietersen does it it's called "destructive" or "taking the game away". People just don't seem to like Bell and the beauty of stats is that they will always have something to point at to back up their criticism.

    On the marks: I'd also give Strauss an extra point. People talk about "captains' innings", usually referring to big scores. Here though, Strauss came out and took all the pressure off Cook and put the bowlers on the back foot. He scored quickly and aggressively presumably knowing that he was likely to get out before making a big score that way, but it really gave the England innings critical momentum. Deliberately doing that rather than playing for your own glory? That's a captain's innings.

  • Comment number 44.

    Well done England - a famous win (and one that slightly surprised but delighted me).

    Swann was suberb and Broad bowled very well. We shall see whether their centuries mark a turning point for both Cook and Bell - i really hope so.

    The mark of 4 for KP is silly - he was going well and remains vital for our side.

  • Comment number 45.

    England management are unlikely to change a winning side but Bell again flatters to deceive.....and I agree with a number of the posts so far. (I have also been one of Collingwood's greatest detractors too so maybe the selectors can at least take credit there.) If England lose the next 2 test matches with Bell only scoring single figures in each of his 4 innings will he be dropped once and for ever?

  • Comment number 46.

    ThatWasDeliberate

    It is with a heavy heart that I'd drop Bell as I am a huge fan of his. He is a superb batter when he is in the right frame of mind. I do agree that KP isn't back to full fitness but I wouldn't drop him as on his day he is a world beater. I'd only drop Bell if we were to go to 5 bowlers and I'd bring in Sidebottom personally.

  • Comment number 47.

    Plugmonkey: didn't read the thread - I was responding to the article. You've summed the problem with bell - that is - that one innings means he's got his place for a while when long-term he needs to be dropped. That's long-term. I've been saying it for 4 years since he kept failing against australia in 2005, after scoring a boat-load against bangladesh. It's not a myth about his temperament, but people do have short-term memories! There were even people suggesting cook should be dropped before this test. I wasnt one of them

  • Comment number 48.

    Still suggestions as to who supposedly ought to be dropped, but few alternatives as to whom we would include. Andrew (post 45), can we make a gentleman's bet that your hypothesis will never obtain?

    Plugmonkey: thanks for pointing out quite bluntly what I was trying diplomatically to hint at!

  • Comment number 49.

    I hate to comment on KP because he gets way too many column inches as it is, but a 5 is harsh. When I was watching him bat, Cooky seemed to have gone in a very deep bunker (1 run in an hour) and it was a relief to see KP look positive.
    What an utter joy it is to watch Graeme Swann - he clearly enjoys every minute, and being that bit older you really feel he deserves the reward for his years on county cricket.
    Broady is developing a very healthy habit of making magic things happen. I hope he leaves us with these positive thoughts of him by growing up a bit and leaving the stroppiness behind. When the great Tendulkar makes the "because of Dad" comment, he really should take note and put all the nonsense aside.
    Compare and contrast the first test of 2009 (51 all out) with this. Thanks for an amazing year guys!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Ste Thomas

    I like the suggestion of Sidebottom; however, I think the issue is not team selection right now but concentration. Some solid training and I'm content with the side as it is.

  • Comment number 51.

    ThatWasDeliberate

    I do agree with you. If we concentrate and train well then who knows. I was just speaking hypothetically in case the pitch doesn't suit 7+4.

  • Comment number 52.

    Crikey! 9 out of 10 for Bell.

    That must be a first. Well done, Oliver.

    To those who say KP should have a higher mark: why? He made 32 when nearly everyone else got half centuries. He's allowed an off day, but doesn't have to have a higher mark than his performance deserved just because he's Kevin Pietersen. Neither should he have a lower mark than Trott.

  • Comment number 53.

    Plugmonkey

    If Bell is so great, why has he returned single figure scores 31 times out of 91 innings. Collingwood (who is supposed to have by far the worse technique) has scored 22 times in single figures in 95 innings. What of the 74 innings greenmakfro does not list? 14 over 50, with the other 60 of relative failure.

    Whay does he so often look clueless like a startled rabbit at the crease?
    Why has his average been in general decline since he started?
    Why does he struggle to keep his average out of the 30s in a decade thats favoured batsmen?
    Why does he seem to produce only when his career is on the line?

    Like most here, I'm exacerbated by Bell because he's probably secured his place for the summer only to fail again in the next 4 or 5 test and then save his skin again with one decent knock. This guy fails more often than not.

  • Comment number 54.

    Middle_Stump

    Bell has you quite miffed indeed! I don't quite share your reaction from a tactical perspective, but, yes, from a personal perspective I find him exasperating (which is what I think you meant) on account of his careerism. But as I asked Ste Thomas (who duly indulged me), with whom would you replace Bell?

    Anyhow, I'll pour you a restorative spot of Bowmore 12 to take the sting out of your annoyance with Bell. Incidentally what is your cricket pub of choice? Not to change the subject but just to lighten the tone.

  • Comment number 55.

    Ste Thomas

    Fair point on the putative pitch putatively not suiting a putative 7 + 4. And yes, Sidebottom is whom I'd go for in such a situation, but with trepidation, for I'd fear an insufficient terminus.

    However, I'm afraid you give the English management too much credit. They are more likely to go in with 7 + 4 regardless, and then observe as their players criticise the 'playing conditions' because no one wanting to book his spot (cf. Bell) would fault selection. Nor would Bell say, 'Look, lads, the pitch does not suit 7 + 4 so I shall step down and may I nominate Sidebottom for my vacated spot'. Middle Stump, your appraisal of Bell is a touch cynical but perhaps not untrue. You remind me of Paul Fussell's voice in "Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic"! Whether you rate Bell 9 out of 10 or don't rate him at all and wish him dropped, I'm afraid that Bell is here to stay. And let's be patient with KP: he has yet to return to full match fitness and when he does I'm sure we'll be rating him well above the 4s and 5s he's gotten on this thread.

  • Comment number 56.

    ThatWasDeliberate

    I do agree with you again! They are likely to continue with the same lineup as they won't want to interrupt a winning team and the momentum. Who knows it may have a positive impact on Bells next innings! Only time will tell. I just hope the right result happens at the end of it.

  • Comment number 57.

    i always think Bell is unfairly criticized. Get off the poor lad's back!!!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    I think England should stick with this team for the foreseeable future, as I don't see the need for them ever to revert to playing 5 bowlers. Swann has a useful habit of bowling lots of overs with a huge amount of control, and as long as he keeps this going there is no need to change. Also, Australia became the dominant force in world cricket playing only 4 bowlers (Warne, McGrath, Lee, Gillespie), so why can't England?

  • Comment number 59.

    Gooner4Life

    I don't think you've been following the thread, both actually and metaphorically. No one is on Bell's back. The question Ste Thomas and I were pondering was, briefly, IF we were to drop Bell on the premise that his hundreds are superfluous (and I disagree with this protasis as I think I've made clear), THEN whom would we put in his place, and would that replacement be contingent upon a different tactical approach? Hence the suggestion of Sidebottom--not because we are on Bell's back. If anyone is on anyone's back, I'd say England supporters ought to be more appreciative of KP's contributions in the past and not just knock his tomfoolery at Durban. He's done it before and I fear he'll do it again, but again I set down this: it's not enough just to say "so-and-so should be dropped". Put forth a suggestion.

    The point does remain though, and I should be surprised if anyone disagreed, that Bell was set up for his display by valiant players whose own ratings we now diminish. If Bell were to do his ratings, the likes of Collingwood would be rated higher because Bell would (if he's being honest) acknowledge that his job was made easier for him by the sacrifices his teammates made. This point brings me to a larger question: Who among you actually has played, or plays, cricket? Surely if you've played, you would place Bell and Cook on the level at 9 each because their contributions were symbiotic. It's not just down to numbers, folks. The same could be said in defense of Collingwood; and no, having played, I don't think Bell's technique is appreciably better than Collingwood's. Being conservative in selection, I'd keep this XI and, as said before, simply train not only physically but also, and perhaps more important, mentally.

    And for Mr Brett:
    I don't think that one can have two Achilles' heels as your cliche applies the term. Is it KP's angle or his Achilles heel which is already suffered injury? I can't recall. But I'm not a journalist so I'll just sit back with the TLS and ask the barman for another Bowmore because Arsenal kicks off soon.

  • Comment number 60.

    PompeyPlayerPlayingUp

    I agree and disagree with you. Agreed that we should keep the XI as it is. Disagree with your comparison to Australia. Do you honestly think that, with the exception of Broad, our bowlers are comparable to Warne, McGrath, Lee, and Gillespie? On current form I'd have to say "no", in which case it is not so much the individuals whom I would be "dropping" as much as the formation that I would be changing. In which case I see Ste Thomas' wisdom in (an admittedly conservative) shuffling to 5 bowlers. On the other hand, if Swann and Broad between them can, respectively, bowl lots of overs and be extremely in their overs, then I see the wisdom of sticking with 4 bowlers. Is it just me or do you have to avert your eyes from the telly when Onions is handed the ball? I like the man; it's just that he makes me nervous, whereas I feel quite assured when Swann or Broad bowl. But if we go to 5 bowlers--again, that is just a hypothesis, not a suggestion or mandate--should we really drop Bell? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 61.

    Here are some figures I have found interesting. In 126 Test innings Strauus has passed 50 36 times. In 100 Test innings Pietersen has done so 32 times, Collingwood in 96 innings 27 times. Bell in 91 innings 30 times, Cook in 90 innings 30 times. Pietersen and Strauss are the most successful at converting 50s into 100s, but there are matches when a half-century may be more valuable than a century scored on other occasions. Bell's 72 in the first innings at The Oval last summer being a case in point. As to the suggestion that he has never played a match-saving innings, his 140 this Test set the stage for victory. England were still 46 runs behind the South African total when he came in, more than 220 ahead when he was dismissed. I would add that Bell and Cook both have their best years ahead of them. Bell is 27, Cook 25. Many great batsmen - Hutton and Graveney come to mind - were at their best in their middle, even late thirties.
    Finally, there's an old cricket saying: "if you can't win with four bowlers, you won't win with five". Certainly at Durban a fifth English bowler would have been superfluous.

  • Comment number 62.

    middle_stump: The truth, as always, lies somewhere betwixt and between.

    I'm not saying Bell is amazing. He's a decent test level batsman, with a respectable average of 40, and is a consistent county level performer.

    He's struggled a bit for form (who hasn't?) and to establish his position in the England line-up, but is quite legitimately in the team on merit as a sixth batsman.

    He has been unfortunate to pick up a reputation for not being able to score runs when his team are in trouble, when this is not entirely the case. He hasn't scored so many centuries in such circumstances, but when you look at the numbers, he has actually dug England out of a hole both regularly and consistently. It seems to be just one of those things that has become increasingly 'true' through constant repetition.

    Why has he returned single figure scores on 31 occasions, which is more than Paul Collingwood? I don't know. Because he's not as good? That doesn't mean that dropping him after a wonderful century is sensible, or the best way to bring him on. He's clearly got the talent if he can develop the mind set to match.

    Seeing as you're so keen on stats, here's some for you: Graham Gooch started his career on a king pair and took 36 innings to register his first test century. If he'd done that in the era of the internets, he would have never made it.

  • Comment number 63.

    ThatWasDeliberate

    Firstly, I disagree with you about Onions. He bowls wicket to wicket and a good full length. Not the best wicket taker in the team but he's great for holding up an end and creating pressure on the batsmen.
    Also, if we were to play 5 bowlers, there would be no option but to drop Bell. Every other member of the batting line up is either a reliable rock or a potential match winner- Bell is neither. He would have to go.

  • Comment number 64.

    Bell's rating is flattering. He scored a long overdue century on a flat wicket to add to an already healthy scorecard. As a Warwickshire fan I want to see him do well, but anything more than 7 is kind to the man. You keep talking about 'silencing the doubters' but I, and may others, remain unconvinced. Perhaps with a little more consistency he will silence his doubters, but not on this very issolated performance alone.
    The South African wickets were down to poor shots and excellent bowling, and nothing at all to do with the pitch.
    That said Pietersen... a 4?... One mistake in a well crafted 30 odd is a little harsh. Other than that he looked in very (and dangerous) good nick. Having only needed to bat once and losing the opportunity to get more runs in the second innings I think the rating is a little low. Perhaps a 6 in line with Jimmy.

  • Comment number 65.

    61

    I was waiting for someone to pull out that quote and that's what my coach always used to tell us! So as we were, Bell stays, and Ste Thomas' wise observation about playing conditions is mooted because England management won't think along those lines in any event.

    Pompey

    Point taken on Onions, which is why I didn't say he's rubbish or should be dropped: he's quality. I was all for him in the Ashes 2009. My point was simply about how I feel when he's up and I'm slightly nervous. But my broader point (no pun intended) is that it is daft to compare our 4 bowlers with Australia's. Anyhow, Arsenal and Pompey kick off soon. Cheers for now.

  • Comment number 66.

    "Graham Gooch started his career on a king pair and took 36 innings to register his first test century. If he'd done that in the era of the internets, he would have never made it."

    Lovely point here from plugmonkey... Not only that, he also spent time banned for being involved in a rebel tour to South Africa... Interesting to note that Gooch's young protege Ravi Bopara is out of the reckoning at the moment despite being rather quicker than Goochie to get his maiden Test ton out of the way.

  • Comment number 67.

    Since Gooch has been mentioned, let me point out that he was another whose best years came in his thirties.
    Bell was made the scapegoat, perhaps deservedly, for the second innings collapse in the First Test against the West Indies last winter. So he missed out on the next three Tests played on the easiest of wickets against a generally weak attack when pretty well everybody was scoring heavily, and also on the two in May aginst a West Indies side that didn't want to be in England. Bopara hit 3 hundreds in these five matches, then failed - sadly because he is a fine batsman - against Australia. So Bell got another chance, and, whatever his detractors say, his innings in Durban was as valuable to the side as it was delightful to the eye. Finally England are one up with two to play. I hope they win both matches, but their first aim should be to bat South Africa out of both of them. So it makes sense to play six batsmen. With no more than 90 overs ever bowled in a Test now - unlike the 120 that used to be the norm - a fifth regular bowler is likely to be be bowling no more than 10 or 12 overs a day.

  • Comment number 68.

    Post 18 I think you may find post 6 knows what he is talking about I could not have come up with these stats.

  • Comment number 69.

    Just had a glance through these replies since I made a comment earlier. The persecution of Bell continues, I see. May I remind posters that the marks Oliver has awarded are for performances IN THIS MATCH. Bell made 140, the highest score by any player from both sides in the series. He batted superbly with shots all round the wicket, and at a good strike rate; putting on a century partnership with Collingwood and a couple of half-century ones after that. He came in with the score 297/4 and took it to 568, an addition of 271 runs which gave England its extremely strong position from which to bowl SA out so cheaply. I've said it before, but if KP had played that innings in that batting position no superlatives would have been too great.
    Bell has been out of form, has been dropped and recalled, and had a bad game at Centurion. But all that is irrelevant when we are considering this particular match and this England victory, in which Bell played a key role - don't forget he also took a stunning catch to give Swann the first wicket yesterday afternoon.
    I hope Bell never reads message boards or he would be suicidal. This man can never do right in some so-called cricket fans' eyes. He is a classy batsman who should be appreciated for what he CAN and does do, not persecuted for not being what other people think he should be. Of course there are questions about his frequent dismissals for low scores and his tendency to "go with the flow", failing in a general collapse or prospering when things are going well. The evidence is there so can't be denied, although it should be said that it doesn't happen EVERY time. The distressing thing for Bell and his supporters is that whenever there is any discussion about him his failures are trotted out like a mantra. I suspect there are many message board posters who have never actually watched him bat who just bring out the stats and the preconceptions they have picked up from the broadsheets or heard on TMS.
    What it boils down to is that however Bell performs, be it a king pair or a double century, the comments will always be exactly the same.
    Oliver has quite rightly awarded Bell 9 points for a fabulous innings which was emphatically not irrelevant or worthless. Please can the rest of you give the man a break.

  • Comment number 70.

    By the way I'm not a new member, my computer somehow logged me out and I had to sign in again then forgot my password. And now as a longstanding member I have to wait for my posts to be modded.

    Nothing's fair in this world, is it?

  • Comment number 71.

    And my actual comment (more of an essay!) is still awaiting moderation...

  • Comment number 72.

    Pietersen 4? OK........I subscribe to that.

    Last year I recommended that the whole of the England team should be given yard-brooms: they could then go into their gardens and sweep to their hearts' content. When they play cricket they should forget this cross-batted curse - it usually buys one run at best, and their wicket at worst. KP is the biggest culprit.

  • Comment number 73.

    That list of Bell innings is hilarious. The fact that you consider coming in at 97-2, 110-3 (and you get this wrong by the way, it was 192-4), 45-1, 117-3 to be pressure situations explains it all really. Likewise, if you are considering innings of 50-odd on flat pitches where the top scores were 150+, you are redefining what pressure runs are.

    Even though some of the innings you mention - especially those ones in Aus 06/07 - were quality innings full of guts, they are almost irredeemably tainted by the fact that they weren't significant enough and that he got out to stupid shots before he could make them significant enough.

    It's interesting how few of the innings you've cited are centuries. Of Bell's nine Test centuries even you admit that only three of them are deserving of the title of pressure runs. Even you think that SIX of Bell's centuries weren't under pressure. I would even quibble with the two you say were pressure situations. The century vs. Pak in 2005 was on a supremely flat pitch with first innings scores of 462 and 446. Yes he came in at 39-2, but one of the openers was still there, 14 overs were off the new ball and the two main partnerships were with Trescothick and Pietersen, who played expansively and meant Bell didn't have to dictate the pace.

    The century vs Pak in 2006 he actually made coming in at number 6, with the score at 192-4, not 110-3 as you state. 48 overs had gone, and again KP was well set. I cannot see this as a pressure circumstance. His 119 was also one of five centuries scored in that match.

    The other century you cite as coming under pressure was when he came in at 117-3 against SA at Lord's. Again, I can't quite see this as a real pressure situation. First day on a featherbed at Lord's, both openers making solid 50s, not having to come in until the 44th over, well over three hours into the first day's play - I think most number fours would settle for that! Indeed, I think these last two centuries have come in situations that most captains, coaches and middle order batsmen would bite your hand off for! And these are two that you think are in MORE pressure situations than another six! That gives some indication as to how cushy things were in those other six centuries. You will notice that two of these scores were on flat pitches in matches that were eventually comfortably drawn, and that all three involved a sizeable partnership with KP in which KP dictated the pace and reached his century first, even if he started batting after Bell.

    So, Bell's reputation as a pressure player therefore rests on a bunch of half centuries you claim have been scored under pressure. And they are nearly all innings that are actually therefore actually proof of how weak Bell is under pressure, not how strong. For a middle order player to consistently get out in the 50s in pressure situations is a major weakness, not a strength.

    You could perhaps - perhaps - defend an opener for consistently getting out in the fifties, because a large part of his job is to see off the new ball, tire the fast bowlers and provide a platform for the team. Bell, whether batting at three, four, five or six, has no excuse. In most innings - there are a few exceptions on dodgy wickets, saving matches in the last innings, etc., - Bell's middle order half centuries have been inexcusable failures. He gets set, looks brilliant, hits a couple of lovely boundaries and then gets out to silly, silly shots, often at highly innopportune moments. This is true of many of the innings you have cited, not to mention plenty of others where he got out in the 20s and 30s to silly shots.

    Here is the cricinfo analysis of a few of the innings you have cited as important:
    2006 2-50 against India scored 57 out of 181 in the 3rd inning. Great rearguard innings over almost 3 hours in intense heat, only specialist bat to score more than 14.
    Hmmm. Only specialist batsman in that innings for England to get more than 14! That doesn't include Flintoff, of course, or indeed India's batsmen, or indeed England's in the first innings. And it doesn't include how he got out - cricinfo says it was like this Kumble strikes again! slightly short and turning away, Bell pokes at it away from his body, a nothing shot to say the least
    So what you are saying is England collapsed, Bell top scored in the collapse and got out to a silly shot which contributed to the collapse.

    2006 2-45 Aus scored 60
    61.4 the bouncer does the trick. Lee bangs it in hard and it's on to Bell too quickly, who shapes to hook but merely sends the ball directly up in the air. 'Miiine' calls Lee, as he nearly collides with Langer, but there was nobody getting in his way as he grabs on easily. Lee's face said it all at he ran into bowl that one, and Bell's face tells a story, too, for his moment of impetuosity

    2007 4-124 63 top scored and allowed England to get to a respectable 345 and get a draw. Also scord 67 in 2nd innings to secure the draw.
    86.2 the new ball brings another wicket, a tame dismissal, short and wide from Zaheer and Bell goes for a limp cut - more a dab, really - and gets an edge through to Dhoni. Deserved reward for Zaheer, but a soft end to Bell's innings
    105.2 a moment of madness ... Bell plays a premeditated sweep, he is as far forward as he could have been but it is full and straight and Steve Bucknor has no doubts 363/6

    As Geoff Boycott frequently says, there's nothing wrong with getting out to a good ball early in your innings. Nor is there any shame in getting out to a good ball at any stage in your innings. What is a problem is getting out when well set to silly shots. And that is what Bell does too much.

    Even if we allow your analysis to stand, how many of these 17 innings resulted in England wins or draws? By my calculation, THREE.
    2009 Aus 1-12 top score 72 gave England platform to win Deciding Ashes test.
    2007 WI 132-4 scored 97 turned match around and England won from a precarious 1st innings position.
    2006 110-3 against Pakistan scored 119. (you got this wrong it was 192-4)

    And of those three, in not one did he top score and in all three you can make a better candidate for the standout pressure batting performance, let alone the standout performance - in order, Trott and Broad, Cook and Panesar, KP, Strauss, Panesar, Saj Mahmood. And that's not just me - he didn't win the MoM in any of those matches.

    In case you think I am being too harsh, then I could go through the other five specialist batsmen in England's top order and give you examples of match winning pressure centuries and half centuries from all of them. And indeed from many other recent members of England's top six - Vaughan, Tres, Flintoff, even Ramprakash.

    I wouldn't advocate dropping Bell now. Despite the ease of the position when he batted in this last innings, he can still only do what is put in front of him, and it would be a return to the bad old days of the 90s to drop someone who has just scored a ton. However, Bell has been the greatest beneficiary of the post-90s continuity of selection. Every time he's been close to getting dropped, one big score has rescued him for another 15 innings or so of failures. Even when he has been dropped, the contract system and continuity has again benefitted him, making him first man in when someone is injured. He has been very, very lucky in his career so far. At some stage we are going to have to drop a batsman to play an extra bowler, and unless he does something very special that begins to dispel the image created by the above analysis, he should be the man to go.

  • Comment number 74.

    Scoring 140 is not easy under any circumstances, not least against a confident South Africa on home turf. SA had narrowly missed winning the first match and had the world #1 rated Dale Steyn back in their attack. The game was still in the balance when Bell came in to bat.

    When Australia beat South Africa 2-1 in South Africa recently, only one batsman on either side scored more than 117 in the first two matches (P Hughes' 160). (Prince and de Villiers both made big scores in the third match but that was a dead rubber).

    If it were that easy just because the team was doing reasonably well, then surely Prior should have found the batting even easier than Bell and scored a double hundred, and then perhaps Broad should have knocked off a triple hundred at a run a ball?

    Bell certainly deserves a 9.

    Bell's average since coming back into the team is now 36.00. Doesn't sound great at first glance, but not that bad considering all of the matches have been against Australia and South Africa. And it’s a significantly better average that Collingwood (28.86), Cook (28.00) and Prior (26.57) have managed over the same period.

  • Comment number 75.

    Another way to take an objective view on Ian Bell's performance is to look at the ICC test player rankings (http://www.iccreliancerankings.com/ranking/test/batting/).

    To quote from the FAQs on the ICC's website about how rankings are calculated:

    "If both teams score 500 in each innings, the computer rates this as a high-scoring match in which run-making was relatively easy, and therefore downgrades the value of runs scored. If both teams score 150, this indicates that runs were at a premium and a player gets greater credit for scoring well in this game."

    and..."the ratings take account of the opposition strength".

    So if Ian Bell only makes runs when the rest of the team is scoring, or only against weak opposition, he will have a low ranking.

    Indeed, his current ranking is a moderate (but useful) 33, the lowest of the current England batters bar Prior (ignoring Trott as he's only played a few matches).

    However, if you look at the graph on Bell's profile page, it shows that over the last few years his rating has generally been higher (around 650 to 700 points in their system) so if we assume his recent form is a temporary slump, that points figure would put him somewhere in the top 20 to 30 batters in the world at the moment - i.e. someone that most teams would be more than happy to have batting for them.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sostenurter, I disagree with your analysis of Bell's centuries.

    (With apologies to anyone who read most of the below as one of my comments on another thread on this site recently...)

    Century 1: Eng vs Bangladesh, 2nd test 2005. Bell comes in at 105 for 2 and shares a partnership of 155 with Trescothick (151), eventually ending his innings on 162 not out and England dominant with a 343 run first innings lead. England win.

    Analysis: Against Bangladesh so this match doesn’t really count either way in my opinion.

    Century 2: Pakistan vs Eng, 2nd test 2005. Pakistan make an imposing 462 in their first innings. Bell comes in with England struggling on 107 for 3 and shares a partnership of 154 with Pietersen (100) eventually making 115 himself. England score 446 and the match ends in a draw.

    Analysis: Bell made a century when the team was struggling.

    Century 3: Eng vs Pakistan, 1st test 2006. England bat first. Trescothick, Strauss and Pietersen all score no more than 30 before Cook (105) and Collingwood (186) share a stand of 233. Bell comes to the crease with the team on 321 for 4 and he and Colly put on a further 120, taking England to a dominant 528 for 9 declared with Bell not out on 100. However a double hundred by Yousuf keeps Pakistan in the game and the match is drawn.

    Analysis: Fair enough, there were runs on the board this time, but he still did better than several other batters in the top order.

    Century 4: Eng vs Pakistan, 2nd test 2006. Pakistan are skittled for 119. Trescothick, Strauss, Pietersen and Collingwood all fall for less than 50, but Bell joins Cook at the crease with England in a relatively strong position at 288 for 4. Cook falls shortly after for 127 but Bell anchors the rest of the innings, taking the team to 461 for 9 declared, with Bell unbeaten on 106. England win.

    Analysis: There were runs on the board, but still Bell did better than most of the other batters and made a significant contribution to the win. Not his fault he was coming in to bat so low in the order.

    Century 5: Eng vs Pakistan, 3rd test 2006. England bat first. Trescothick, Strauss, Cook and Collingwood all fall for less than 36. Bell joins an established Pietersen at the crease with the team on a mediocre 192 for 4 and shares a stand of 152 with Pietersen (135) which leads to the team scoring 515 all out, of which Bell has made 119. England go on to win.

    Analysis: Not many runs on the board this time. Bell played a key role in setting up the win.

    Centrury 6: Eng vs West Indies, 1st test 2007. England bat first. Strauss, Shah and Pietersen make no more than 33 each, but Cook (105) and Collingwood (111) pull England back into a reasonable but mediocre position and they are 219 for 4 when Bell arrives in the middle. Bell and Colly put on a further 144 together before Colly falls for 111, then Bell has a further stand of 190 with Prior (a quick fire 126 not out). Bell finishes 109 not out and England are 553 for 5 declared. Windies respond with 437 all out and the match is drawn.

    Analysis: Again not many runs on the board when Bell came to the crease.

    Century 7: New Zealand vs Eng, 3rd test, 2007/8. England lead by 85 after each team has had its first innings. Cook, Vaughan and Pietersen all fall for no more than 37. With England on 140 for 3, Bell joins an established Strauss (177) in a stand of 187. Bell makes 110 and the team declares on 467 for 7. England wins.

    Analysis: Once more, not that many runs on the board when Bell steps out into the middle and without Bell’s contribution it would probably have been a lot harder for England to win.

    Century 8: Eng vs South Africa, 1st test 2008. England bat first. Strauss and Cook give England a decent start, making 114 for the first wicket, but then three wickets fall for 3 runs and Pietersen is still on nought when Bell joins him at the crease with the team suddenly collapsing at 117 for 3. Pietersen (152) and Bell, however, put on 286 together and England declare on 593 for 8 declared, with Bell having made 199. South Africa are made to follow on but dig in second time around to draw the match.

    Analysis: The team is mid-collapse when Bell leaves the pavillion, and his century alongside Pietersen’s gives England a chance of winning.

    Summary: The majority of his centuries have been made under reasonable 'scoreboard pressure' and several of the innings contributed to wins or saved matches.

  • Comment number 77.

    Plugmonkey (and others)

    I did not suggest Bell should be dropped, in fact I was in full agreement with OB to award him 9 for this match. However, I firmly belive the hyperbole surrounding his innings from some here is misplaced because Bell will fail in his next tranche of innings only to save his skin with one decent knock. Oh and yes, stats tell the truth unless a batting average which sruggles to remain above 40 and an ICC world ranking of 33 signifies a quality player these days. Finally, your comparison of Bell to Graham Gooch is foolhardy to say the least. Chalk and cheese springs to mind. Bell's average has declined since debut, Gooch's increased, and Gooch dominated attacks and plundered runs for fun on the county circuit whilst not making the greatest progess at test level. Bell struggles to dominate at all levels.

  • Comment number 78.

    ballsintherightareas, I cannot believe your analysis. 192-4 is mediocre? 219-4 is mediocre and not many runs on the board? 288-4 after bowling a team out for 119 is a 'relatively strong position'. RELATIVELY!!! I'd like to know how many teams don't win from such a position!

    What would you consider good? 300-4? 400-4? 500? Bell does come in lower down the order, but he's not a tail ender! If England were scoring that many runs before he arrived at the crease, there'd be no point playing him! Unbelievable. It's not just me who thinks this - someone who thinks the same way as you emailed in the TMS team a list of all the scores at the time of Bell's centuries, tring to claim they had been scored under pressure. Then Aggers read them out, and he and Michael Vaughan actually dissolved into laughter.

    To prove I am not just being harsh on Bell, here are some examples of genuinely great lower middle order batting under real pressure:
    2007 Chanderpaul coming in at 34-3, scored 136
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/258462.html
    2008 vs Aus, Chanderpaul 118 from 68-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/319139.html
    2005 vs SA, Chanderpaul 203 coming in at 106-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64131.html
    2007 vs England, Chanderpaul 116 from 88-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/258461.html
    2003 vs Australia, 109 coming in at 130-5
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64064.html
    2003 vs Aus, Chanderpaul 100 coming in at 47-4

    Steve Waugh
    1995 vs WI, 200 after coming in at 73-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63683.html
    2000 vs Nz, 151 after coming in at 51-4.
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63876.html
    There are plenty more examples of Waugh coming in at sub 100-3/4 and scoring big runs, run the test on cricinfo yourself.

    And as Chanderpaul and Waugh are acknowledged greats of the game, here are some equally pressured innings from players more on a par with Bell.
    Flintoff vs Aus 2005 - 73 after coming in at 72-5
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/215010.html
    Flintoff vs WI 2004 - 57* in a successful 4th innings run chase after coming in at 111-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64095.html
    Flintoff vs NZ 2002 - 137 after coming in 106-5

    Ramprakash vs NZ 1999 - 69* after coming in at 83-4
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63843.html
    Ramprakash vs Aus 1998 - 63 after coming in at 81-3
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63817.html
    Ramprakash vs WI 1998 - 154 after comin in at 53-4, effectively for 5 as Thorpe retired hurt
    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63787.html

    Flintoff was a non-specialist batsmen who was not nearly as talented as Bell, and Ramps finished with a Test average a clear 13 runs lower than Bell's at the moment. Yes, I have picked out some of their best Test innings, but you can pick out Bell's best, as you have, and they do not come close to matching the guts and character of the innings above. If you told poor old Ramps that 192-4 and 219-4 were 'mediocre' situations, I think he'd laugh bitterly!

    So let's be clear about what real pressure is. It's when the top order have crumbled for under 100 runs - under 80 in some of these cases - and when the number six is left to pick up the pieces. Don't be mistaken that this only happens to struggling teams. It happens a lot to poor teams, yes, but it still happens to good teams because as we saw with South Africa, even strong batting line ups can fold under pressure, and as Boycott will tell you even the very best batsmen are vulnerable first ball. One of the major reasons why Australia were a great Test team recently, not just a good one, was because when the top order did get in trouble, Waugh and Gilchrist stood tall. The mark of a good player is that he is able - not all of the time, but some of the time - to stand firm amongst such chaos and pull his team through. Bell has shown no evidence at all of such capabilities. Until he does, his place will be under scrutiny.

  • Comment number 79.

    Looking at some of the comments after the first two Tests you'd think that Kevin Pieteresen is in a terrible slump. After all, worst batsman in Durban, heavily criticised at Centurion. Oddly though, in the England side, only Paul Collingwood has more runs in the series so far and that only by a narrow margin.

    Maybe he is not being judged by the same yardstick as the other 10 members of the side?

  • Comment number 80.

    Ian Bell would be in my England team for his fielding abilities alone , hes taken some superb catches in Test matches. supper innings.. full of character and guts. Cook, Swann, Prior, Broad,all performed , best away performance by the team from home for a while. Lets hope we can carry over the momentum to Cape Town!!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Sostenurter, it's interesting that you pick out Steve Waugh, another batter who played his first international at a young age (20) and mostly batted low down the order.

    Let's take a look at his first eight centuries as a comparison to Bell's...

    Firstly, I think it's worth mentioning that Waugh had 41 test innings at an average of 30.53 before he hit his first a ton.

    Century 1 vs Eng, '89: Taylor had already scored a century before Waugh hit his. Waugh came in to bat at 273 for 4. Not much pressure.

    Century 2 vs Eng, '89: Boon had already scored a 94 higher up the order before Waugh hit his hundred. Aussies were already 221 for 4 in reply to England's first innings of 286. Not much pressure.

    Century 3 vs Sri Lanka, '89: Taylor had hit a century higher up the order before Waugh hit his at the same time as Dean Jones also hit a hundred. Not much pressure.

    Century 4 vs Windies, '93: Waugh hits the only ton in the innings, but it's a ridiculously batter friendly conditions. Aussies make 503 before Windies reply with 606 and then Aussies get to 117 for nought by the end of the match. A little pressure, but was certainly not amid a collapse.

    Century 5 vs Eng, '93: Boon has already hit a ton before Waugh joins Border at the crease who is on his way to a double ton. Not much pressure.

    Century 6 vs New Zealand, '93: Aussies are already 227 for 4 in reply to NZ's first innings of 233 when Waugh again joins Border at the crease who is already on his way to a hundred. Not much pressure.

    Century 7 vs South Africa, '94: Waugh is the only century maker, but the team has already made 183 for 4, and Waugh's century started as part of a big partnership with Border, who hits 84. Moderate pressure, but the team was certainly not mid-collapse.

    Century 8 vs Windies, '94/5: Steve Waugh comes in with Aussies on 73 for 3 in reply to Windies' 265 and joins his brother Mark in a stand of about 230 as both brothers notch centuries. Significant pressure.

    If you ask me, this record is pretty similar to Ian Bell's. Does this mean that Steve Waugh was unable to play under pressure or was not a valuable member of the team? Nope, of course not. Hopefully this illustrates that the statistic about Bell's centuries is so overblown.

    Oh, and being the 33rd best batter in the world is surely not that bad if you consider that there are 8 quality test playing teams (I'm excluding Bangladesh) and each of them needs at least 5 specialist batters. That's a pool of 40 batters. So if you're in the top 40 you can't be that bad. If you're in the top 20-30 as Ian Bell has been for most of his time with England, then you're surely pretty good.




  • Comment number 82.

    And I agree with you, pmd, about Bell's fielding - probably worth at least 5 runs per innings in comparison to Pietersen's fielding.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Perhaps some of the KP defenders might like to reassess their position in the light of the Newlands 1st innings dismissal. I mean the manner of getting out more than the score.

    I await the 2nd innings with interest. Can KP dig as deep into his reserves of grit as Bell did at Durban? Or does KP have peanuts for reserves instead of grit?

  • Comment number 85.

    Just had a glance through these replies since I made a comment earlier. The persecution of Bell continues, I see. May I remind posters that the marks Oliver has awarded are for performances IN THIS MATCH. Bell made 140, the highest score by any player from both sides in the series. He batted superbly with shots all round the wicket, and at a good strike rate; putting on a century partnership with Collingwood and a couple of half-century ones after that. He came in with the score 297/4 and took it to 568, an addition of 271 runs which gave England its extremely strong position from which to bowl SA out so cheaply. South Africa are going to be absolutely desperate to level the series. Facing the potential of losing a series not only at home but to a team which has beaten Austrlia who themselves conquered, leaves them with a somewhat tennuious perspective of losing their number 1 status. To England of all people. Of course the rankings won't reflect this, but the pain of losing certainly will. All I can say is that I hope SA haven't been practising their catches ones one of these http://www.rapidfirecatch.com my son had one float down the chimney, now can't tell the difference between him & jonty rhodes! I've said it before, but if KP had played that innings in that batting position no superlatives would have been too great. Bell has been out of form, has been dropped and recalled, and had a bad game at Centurion. But all that is irrelevant when we are considering this particular match and this England victory, in which Bell played a key role - don't forget he also took a stunning catch to give Swann the first wicket yesterday afternoon.
    I hope Bell never reads message boards or he would be suicidal. This man can never do right in some so-called cricket fans' eyes. He is a classy batsman who should be appreciated for what he CAN and does do, not persecuted for not being what other people think he should be. Of course there are questions about his frequent dismissals for low scores and his tendency to "go with the flow", failing in a general collapse or prospering when things are going well. The evidence is there so can't be denied, although it should be said that it doesn't happen EVERY time. The distressing thing for Bell and his supporters is that whenever there is any discussion about him his failures are trotted out like a mantra. I suspect there are many message board posters who have never actually watched him bat who just bring out the stats and the preconceptions they have picked up from the broadsheets or heard on TMS. What it boils down to is that however Bell performs, be it a king pair or a double century, the comments will always be exactly the same. In the 2005 Ashes series we saw the Enland bowlers really performing as a unit. Finally, we seem to have the same. We also seem to have a set of batsmen of whom if one or two fail, the rest can usually post a big score between them. Well done the England management for sticking with the team in the face of considerable hostile critisism (even when they win!!!). And well done the team - to bounce back so emphatically after clinging on by the skin of their teeth at Centurion is brilliant. We used to roll over and capitulate - now we seem to roll up our sleeves, snarl, and fight back. Splendid stuff.

 

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