Jim Lyon – Breaking news! Ian Bell’s a good player

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

It is something of a love/hate relationship I have.

Large parts of my life are spent with Sky Sports News on and yet I rarely have a good word to say for it.

They have me in their clutches – and that frustrates me.

The demands of 24-hour news coverage mean they have to make a story out of everything.

The nature of the beast is that whatever happens it has to sound dramatic – even if it isn’t.

“We’ve got some breaking news coming in from our Sky sources,” Jim White will announce, voice raised with an edge to it that suggests North Korea have just bombed Budleigh Salterton or the Queen has admitted to an affair with Russell Brand.

“And it’s not good news, I’m afraid.

“My colleague Bob Northern correspondent is telling me that Morecambe defender Robbie Threlfall could miss this weekend’s massive League Two clash with Rochdale with a bruised toe.”


On occasions when such earth-shattering developments are not taking place they have to look elsewhere.

Hence the question being asked earlier this week – is Ian Bell’s England place under threat?

The answer is simple. Er, no.

But the point was, of course, only being raised because it gives a topic of discussion with which to fill five minutes of air time every half hour.

However, there is clearly something about Bell which attracts such attention.

There are very people with a Test record like his who have, in the media at least, been so close to the axe quite so often.

He averages 46.71, has 17 Test hundreds and 34 fifties from his 141 innings and has been one of the most consistent picks in the national side for closing in on a decade.

His tour of India was not great - scores of 1, 5, 28, 22 and 0 before finishing with a defiant 116 not out.

However, it cannot have been easy for him going out, coming home for the birth of his child and then rejoining the squad shortly after.

And he played at times like his mind was, understandably, elsewhere.

But why him? Others can do less and not lined up for the chop.

It seems a stigma has stuck since he first came into the general consciousness during the Ashes series in 2005.

The Aussies worked him over and from then on the perception has been he something of a soft touch.

His understated manner when interviewed does not help his cause either.

The broad-shouldered, self-aggrandisement displayed by certain England colleagues is very much not his style. He can appear embarrassed, timid even. Despite nearly 31 he still has a schoolboyish element to him.

And then there is the suggestion he ‘doesn’t do it when it really matters’. The balance of his hundreds in second innings compared to first are used to back that up.

But these tons do not come for free. A Test hundred is a Test hundred. And don’t pitches normally deteriorate as games go along?

I think the over-riding factor in people questioning Bell is that we do not quite understand how he can sometimes fail to score runs.

When he is good, he is very very good. We just want him to be like that all the time.

Typically, having been the one to be dropped according to Sky on Tuesday, he scored a hundred in the warm-up game on Wednesday.

And I will have a little bet with you that he repeats that at least once in the Test series.

If he does you will hear about it on the news.

It will be between the interview with Gerry Francis about ‘Just how good is Gareth Bale?’ and news from Crawley Town about Mat Sanders’ groin strain.