Bell’s timely ton set to earn him Twenty20 call
Ian Bell fulfilled the brief impeccably in the Australian capital yesterday to ensure that England continued as they have proceeded for much of this star-spangled tour.
Opening the batting, he scored a glittering unbeaten 124 from 102 balls with an array of immaculate strokes which gave the tourists victory by seven wickets with nine balls to spare over the Prime Minister's XI here in Canberra.
Julia Gillard, the Premier, was present throughout the rain-interrupted proceedings to see her side beaten. At least the problems besetting Australian cricket are now known at the very top.
The PM's side, full of bristling hopes for the future, made 254 for 9 from 43 overs (assisted by 16 wides, which was an uncharacteristic lack of discipline from a second-string England attack) and England replied with a Duckworth-Lewis 225 for 3 from 33.3 overs.
Bell played as he has throughout the tour, with seamless authority.
The innings must have put him in contention for a place in the Twenty20 side for tomorrow's international against Australia in Adelaide.
He has not played for England in the shortest form of the game since June 2008, when he made 60 not out at Old Trafford against New Zealand as the selectors sought a different direction.
On yesterday's form —nay, the form he has shown all winter — he would walk into any side playing any format. Not that Bell is assuming anything. After being dropped by England for six months in 2009 he remains anxious not to muck it
up again. “You're only as good as your last knock, so you have to keep training hard,” he said. “I feel in good form but you can't sit back. There's a lot of hard work to do. I want to be part of this team in Test cricket and one-day cricket for a long time. There is competition for places and that's what we need. I don't mind where I bat. I feel a massive part of this squad and I will do anything that's asked of me.”
What may be asked of him tomorrow is to open the batting ahead of the World Twenty20 winner, Michael Lumb. It would be tough on Lumb but he is out of form and Bell is in it.
There was a minor sub-plot to England's win, which might have eluded the Prime Minister. Dan Christian, the 27-year-old South Australian all-rounder, has just been signed by the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League, some $850,000 above his base price while some of England's finest attracted no bids whatsoever.
Although he scored a heavy-hitting run a ball fifty yesterday his medium-pace bowling was dismantled by Bell, one of the non-recruits, and he went for 60 in six overs. He looked, it should be said, nowhere near a million dollars.
Tim Paine, captain of the PM's XI and new vice-captain of the national T20 side, also scored a brisk half-century, full of good placement but it always looked possible that they were under par on a good batting surface which improved later on.
Bell, as his captain Paul Collingwood said, was clinical. England refuse to take their foot off the gas.
“We want to continue with the momentum of winning,” said Collingwood. “I keep harping on about last time we were here but last time we were here we got absolutely annihilated, and at this venue as well. It's a much better feeling when you come to a place like this and put on a performance like that.”