Alec Swann - Bell shows that form is the most temporary of occurances

Ian Bell

Ian Bell

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IT was a thoroughly professional performance by England as they opened up the international summer with a six-wicket win over the West Indies at Lord’s.

There would have been a few tense players in the home dressing room on the fourth evening after they were reduced to 10-2 in pursuit of a modest 190 in the fourth innings.

But with the pitch showing little sign of deterioration, it didn’t prove too taxing once Alastair Cook and Ian Bell had steadied the ship after the the early dismissals of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen.

And while Stuart Broad rightly received the majority of the plaudits for his 11-wicket haul, it was the performance of Bell that caught this writer’s eye.

A pair of scores in the sixties won’t necessarily merit attention all the time and certainly not in a contest that was far from low-scoring, but everything has a context if you look closely enough and that applies here.

Bell’s form over the past 12 months or so has been nothing short of exceptional.

In fact ever since he was brought back into the Test side in the middle of the victorious 2009 Ashes campaign, he has prospered into the world-class performer many thought he would become when he was a young tyro making his mark for his native Warwickshire.

And his batting against India last season was bordering on the sublime, especially the big hundred he scored in the second innings of the Trent Bridge Test.

But only one man in the history of the game has gone without an elongated run of poor form and that is the reason a certain Don Bradman has career statistics that are so far ahead of everybody else.

Bell wasn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last, batsman to suffer a bad trot and that is exactly what his winter consisted of.

To see him back to somewhere near his best at Lord’s you could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t the same person.

He was so far at sea it was uncomfortable to watch and when he patted a wide Umar Gul long-hop to point in the third Test against Pakistan, all the signs were evident of someone whose game was completely and utterly out of sorts.

Personal experience lends itself to making an educated guess and it wouldn’t be far wide of the mark to suggest that Bell will have felt his feet weren’t moving properly, his timing wouldn’t have been to his liking and his state of mind would’ve drifted to a place where no batsman wants it to be.

Ask him why it has all changed for the better and I bet he couldn’t give an answer.

It could be with one particular shot, a return to a favourite ground or by just adopting a more carefree attitude.

The upshot of it all is that form is the most unpredictable of animals and that, as I’m sure Bell is currently thinking, it pays to take advantage when the going’s good.