Ian Bell admits he has fallen short of match-winning efforts too often as an England opener, but is ready to put that behind him after a record knock of 187.
Bell struck 20 fours and three sixes in a 145-ball knock against an Australian Prime Minister’s XI, and in the process equalled England’s best score in one-day cricket.
It was enough to settle a high-scoring contest in the tourists’ favour, by a margin of 60 runs, and ranks as a sizeable achievement for a player who was sweating for his place in the side a matter of weeks ago.
Bell was not required for England last five matches in Sri Lanka before Christmas but earned a recall in the aftermath of Alastair Cook’s departure as captain.
Bell knows a record of three centuries in 150 one-day internationals is not enough for a player of his calibre and intends on changing that for the better in the forthcoming Tri-Series and World Cup.
“One thing I’ve probably been guilty of in the time I’ve been opening is getting to 60, 70, 80 but never really gone on and enjoyed myself the way I did today,” he said.
“I’ve been guilty in one-day cricket of getting a lot of 50s and not converting enough, but this is what I can do if I bat 45.5 overs or whatever it was.
“I’ve spoken to (coach) Peter Moores about that and I believe I can play at the top of the order for England. The thing is converting starts into match-winning scores.
“Today was pretty much perfect template-wise and that’s how I’d like to play in one-day cricket. If i can do that a couple of times this winter, that’s great for the team.”
It would have been apt for him to carry his bat through the innings, or even reached the 200-run landmark, but he perished off the penultimate ball of the innings, drilling Jason Behrendorff to home captain Chris Rogers. Moeen Ali made a thrilling 71 of his own, with No 3 James Taylor making the same score in a more stately fashion.
Joe Root came and went for 13, clipping David Moody to mid-wicket, while Jos Buttler showed off his six-hitting skills, with two mighty blows off Moody in a breezy 25.
Their total of 391-6 equalled England’s high watermark set in 2005 against Bangladesh, though that came in a one-day international rather than a tour match, with Bell’s superb 145-ball stay providing the superb backbone.
But Glenn Maxwell, the flashy all-rounder who goes by the nickname ‘The Big Show’, gave watching PM Tony Abbott plenty to smile about with a boundary-strewn century in reply.
The 26-year-old bludgeoned 136 in just 91 deliveries to bring a fanciful chase briefly into the realms of realism.
England can expect to see more of him in Sydney tomorrow when the Carlton Mid Tri-Series gets under way.
Bell was honest enough to accept he was not a certain pick in the first XI, with the Twenty20 opener Alex Hales having his supporters and Yorkshire’s Gary Balance also involved in the 15-man squad.
But he has benefited from a vote of confidence from Cook’s replacement as captain, Eoin Morgan.
“Coming out here I didn’t know where I was going to bat or if I would start, so it was nice to have a good chat with Morgs and for him to say I would get first crack at opening,” said Bell.
“That filled me with a lot of confidence.”
Opposition paceman Pat Cummins, who will be part of the Australia squad in the Tri-Series and the World Cup opener against England on February 14, praised Bell but made a cheeky prediction for the coming weeks.
“The innings he played was pretty faultless,” said the seamer, whose six overs cost 52.
“But I think he’s got his runs out of the way for the tour now, so I’m pleased he’s back in the shed!”