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Ian Bell: England hero, Warwickshire legend

April 12, 2017

There will be many great reasons to visit Edgbaston this summer, with England facing the West Indies in the first day-night Test played in this country, ICC Trophy games and, of course, Birmingham Bears matches and Finals Day in the Natwest T20 Blast.

In addition to all that, a summer of LV= County Championship games is in prospect, when fans of the Bears can enjoy the classy batsmanship of Ian Bell.

Appointed county captain at the start of last summer, Bell delighted fans and team-mates by signing a new three-year contract before the start of this season.

For some, it may still seem like yesterday that the fresh-faced youngster from Coventry emerged in the early 2000s, a batting prodigy with much to live up to at a county that had been home to Brian Lara and his record-breaking exploits.

Bell may not have emulated Lara's 501 not out, but then again, nobody has. What he has achieved is to make more Test centuries than any other English player produced by Warwickshire. Assuming he does not play for England again, he finishes with 22, the same number as Geoffrey Boycott, Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey.

Ian Bell first came into the England Test side in 2004. The team as a whole was on a superb winning streak, having won Test series in both the West Indies and South Africa over the previous 14 months, as well as enjoying victories in all seven home Tests in 2004. However, the middle order was going through a transition. Nasser Hussain had retired after scoring a century at Lord's in the first Test of 2004, Mark Butcher had injured his wrist during the South Africa tour and never played for England again, while Graham Thorpe was to play his last Test in 2005.

Bell made his debut at the Oval in the final Test of the 2004 summer, seeing off some testing bowling by Fidel Edwards on his way to 70. Although he did not play in South Africa, he was back for the Bangladesh series at the start of the 2005 Ashes summer. After making an unbeaten 65 in the first Test at Lord's, he scored his first Test century as he piled up 162 not out at Chester-le-Street.

Having entered the Ashes with a nascent Test average of 297, Bell came down to earth with a series of single figure scores, although he did manage two half centuries at Old Trafford. However, any suggestion that he would not make it as a Test player was soon put to bed as he made a century in that winter's Test tour of Pakistan and three more against the same opposition at home in 2006.

Thereafter, Bell's Test career has been one of class and quality. Highlights include his top Test score of 235 against India at the Kia Oval in 2011, and the three centuries that made him man of the series as England won the Ashes again in the summer of 2013.

Those England days may be over, but with the county captaincy has come a new phase of his career, and one in which visitors to Edgbaston can enjoy a few more summers of seeing this stylish strokemaker in action.

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