Ian Bell shares his top five Test match memories with Sky Sports
Bell plays his final match on Sunday as Birmingham Bears take on Northamptonshire Steelbacks in the T20 Blast
By Rob Jones
Last Updated: 27/09/20 10:52am
Ian Bell's cover drive. Those four words evoke many special memories for legions of cricket fans - that stroke, and it was a stroke, never a heave, or a blow, or a slog, is a cricketing legacy all on its own.
However, there is so much more to his career, 118 Tests to be exact. From early tribulations to Ashes glory, it's hard to know where to start. Fortunately, the man himself has done it for us. He sat down with Sky Sports' Rob Jones and shared his top five Test memories.
Ian Bell was just 23 when he played in his first Ashes series. He'd made a fine start to his Test career, amassing 297 in three innings, but this was a huge step up against the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
His personal contribution was limited with the bat but his involvement in arguably the greatest series of all time and the incredible scenes of celebration in central London as England beat Australia for the first time in eighteen years still counts a massive career highlight.
"Playing against that group of Australians in that series and when we went in 06-07 was probably at the start of my career in Test match cricket the biggest education that you could ask for.
"As an education it was unbelievable and to be part of everything that came with 2005, Trafalgar square, the bus top, everything. It was an incredible day for cricket really and to be part of that at the start of my career was really special and even now that series is seen as one of the best of all time."
"You just felt as a player as the series gathered momentum how big this was becoming and how all of a sudden people believed we could beat Australia for the first time in a long time."
Ian Bell Test record
|High Score 235|
South Africa v England - 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2010
Bell arrived at the crease in Cape Town with England facing a fight to save the third Test and question marks over whether he was the man for a crisis.
Bell stuck around and grafted for almost five hours, scoring 78 hard-earned runs and almost carrying England to the close - he was dismissed by Morne Morkel 17 deliveries before the end of the day, but Graeme Swann and Graham Onions helped England keep South Africa at bay.
"Early in my career people enjoyed watching me play but maybe the criticism was that I hadn't done it when England really needed it and played some tough innings."
"For me that was probably the first time where people started to go "ok this is a slightly different player now because he can get it done ugly as well as nice and get through some tough days."
An intense pre-tour boot camp in rural Germany prepared England for the sternest test of all - winning in Australia. Coach Andy Flower's tough love worked and England dominated the series.
Bell made 50s in the first three Tests and a first century in Australia in the final Test in Sydney as England won the Ashes away from home for the first time in 24 years.
"That tour from one to fifteen in the whole squad everybody just seemed to be at the top of their game.
"It didn't matter whether we lost a player to injury, it was just the right place. The other tours we've been on, the last tour, I think some guys, if it wasn't such a quick turnaround from the summer before, probably wouldn't have gone on that tour.
" I don't think we were mentally in the same position and I think when you go to Australia you have to be mentally ready as a squad for a fight and ready for a scrap because it's not going to be easy."
Becoming world number one
England dethroned India at the top of the world rankings by beating them in ruthless fashion in the summer of 2011.
The hosts confirmed their ascent at Bell's home ground Edgbaston and then completed a whitewash at the Oval a week later, where he made his highest test score of 235, as England thrashed a side including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni.
"That was a goal we had for a couple of years and it was an amazing journey. Nathan Leamon the analyst at the time and Andy Flower had made things pretty simple - we had a long term goal but we also had those short term goals, we knew in a series what we'd have to win by to move up another spot and keep tracking forward and we managed to get there before we thought we would.
"To achieve that goal was brilliant. The one thing we didn't do as a group was reset when we got there to think 'what's the next challenge? How are we going to go forward?' We sort of carried on a bit the same and when you're being chased by the other teams it's a little bit different."
Certain Ashes series will always be synonymous with one player - Ian Botham in 1981, Andrew Flintoff in 2005. In 2013 it was Bell who played the starring role as England retained the Ashes.
A ton in the opening test at Trent Bridge was followed by two vital contributions in England's other victories.
Bell arrived in the middle with England 28-3 in the first innings at Lord's. He went on to make 109 and backed it up with 74 in the second innings. At Durham, a similar scenario with his team 49-3 second time round before a score of 113 set up a third victory of the summer.
"This one was me at my best - you grow up watching what Beefy did, I saw what Cookie did in Australia, watched what Fred did in 2005 and part of you is always wanting to be that person.
"To score three hundreds in a tight series, or tighter than the scoreline suggested, was a great memory - the only thing was we had to jump on a plane a month later to go and defend them! It would've been nice to celebrate for a bit longer."