Cricket

Pakistan series pivotal for Ian Bell's legacy

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Ian Bell has seen it all in Test match cricket for England. With 115 Caps, five Ashes wins and a century against every current Test playing nation (excluding Zimbabwe), Bell's achievements are numerous. However, perhaps partly because of a lack of bravado and ostentation, few would describe him as a legendary figure in English cricket.

Early in his career there were plenty of hard times, most notably his documented struggles against Shane Warne during the 2005 Ashes. Furthermore, he was criticised for only performing when the team were already in a strong position and this resulted in losing his place on the 2009 tour to the West Indies.

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Rejuvenated, Bell permanently regained his spot later that year and delivered a triumphant answer to his critics via his prolific form in the 2013 Ashes series.

Now he sits 18 matches short of Alec Stewart's English record of 133 appearances, with his legacy in his own hands. Recently promoted to number three, Bell's role in the lineup has become even more important and this series against Pakistan constitutes a real challenge.

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After a relatively quiet summer, the Warwickshire man will know that despite all his experience, he may not be afforded a poor return in the UAE.

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Pakistan are a formidable force in their adopted home and have a potent bowling attack. Genuine pace is offered through Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz while Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Barbar are dangerous spinning options.

Regardless of the opposition's talent, the longevity of his career has shown Bell to have all the talent and skill necessary to succeed. There are few finer sites in world cricket than one of his exquisitely timed cover drives and his stroke-play could be a defining factor in this series.

An in-form Bell at the top of the order accelerates the scoreboard and puts the opposition on the back foot. In some ways the antithesis of Gary Ballance, this is exactly the type of player England need at number three.

The heat of the UAE will require extra emphasis on shot selection and concentration, but a retired half century against Pakistan 'A' last week constitutes a good start.

Having taking time to consider his future at the end of the summer, Bell has set his sights on being a member of the squad that will travel to Australia in 2017. To be on that plane, match-winning contributions and improvements on his 22 centuries will be required.

At 33, Bell is a key senior player in the side. Pakistan are yet to lose a series in the UAE and if this stalwart can lead England to success over the coming weeks, he can secure his place in English cricketing legend. 

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Topics:
Ian Bell
Cricket
England cricket

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