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Patched-up Bell proves one-day worth
Ian Bell has demonstrated his true talents on the one-day international stage, reviving a limited-overs career many feared was destined to end in tortured anti-climax.
In his 109th ODI, he did not disappoint - overcoming the significant hiccup of a broken jaw, suffered in indoor practice on Friday, to make a masterful 126 in England's 114-run D/L victory at the Ageas Bowl to go 1-0 up on West Indies in the three-match NatWest Series.
But he said: "I was quite lucky that all the precautions from the backroom staff got me in a good frame of mind. I pretty much thought I was going to play from last night (Friday) anyway. So it was quite easy coming to the ground this morning, knowing I was going to play regardless."
Bell was left out of England's 50-over squad four months ago, and an unexpected 4-0 series victory over Pakistan back then to some minds spelled the end for him as an ODI batsman. Instead, Kevin Pietersen's shock retirement from the shorter formats has given Bell another chance and the opportunity to bat at the top of the order.
This was only the second ODI hundred of the 30-year-old's career, a damning statistic for one of his undoubted class - proven many times in Test cricket in recent times.
Bell feared for an hour or two on Friday that his chance might be stolen away again, after edging a pull on to his chin and having to go to hospital for 10 stitches in a deep wound and an x-ray on his jawbone. "(That was) probably before the scan," he said. "But as soon as you get the green light from that and everything's fine, there's no doubt I wanted to play."
Once out in the middle, Bell had only one scare - on 23, when he admits he felt a thin edge behind only for umpire Richard Kettleborough to give him not out off Ravi Rampaul. Before then, there were the usual nerves - but nothing out of the ordinary, even though he was being asked to replace England's highest-profile batsman Pietersen.
"(I had) the normal butterflies for any international - which is exciting - but I wanted to take the opportunity. It's something exciting to open with Cookie [Alastair Cook], and to be at the top of the order was something I wanted to do."
He went on: "I felt I was in pretty good nick by the end of that Test series, so it was nice to go at the top of the order and play some proper cricket shots. Probably in the past, I've tried to hit the ball too hard sometimes and lose my shape - whereas today I did exactly as I'd play a Test match, sticking to the shots I know well.
"Obviously, there's a bit more intent in one-day mode. But I didn't try to slog - which probably in the past I've been guilty of doing. It would have been nice to bat another six overs or so - I felt I was going nicely - but I'm really happy."