Ian Bell backs Alastair Cook and Joe Root to stand test of time

Ian Bell believes Joe Root and Alastair Cook can form a potent England opening partnership for years to come.

Bell, with 317 runs in his four innings, is the leading run-scorer in the Ashes series to date, with the 22-year-old Root second with 221. By contrast Cook (83) is struggling for form, but Bell sees long-term potential in the England captain's left-hand/right-hand combination with Root at the top of the order.

"When Cookie starts firing again we're going to have a really nice opening partnership for a long time," the Warwickshire batsman said. "When you're out there batting with him Joe is pretty cool and calm, very mature for his age. In the dressing room he's a bit more chirpy. He's done exceptionally well.

"The way he and Bressie [Tim Bresnan] played [in England's second innings at Lord's] after we'd lost three quick wickets, to get through that period when Australia threw everything at them in the evening, and come back and do it again in the morning was very impressive.

"Then for Joe to be there at tea, and to cash in when they were tired – that's what good batters do, fight hard for your runs and then take advantage at times when it's a bit easier."

At 32 Bell himself has found the finest form of his international career. Hundreds in each of the first two Tests have lifted him into the top 10 of England centurions with 19 in total, the same number scored by Sir Len Hutton, albeit having played 11 more Tests than Hutton's 79.

"I knew I needed to improve on my record from my first couple of series against Australia [in 2005 and 2006-07], though the team I started out against was pretty good," said Bell, who scored just 171 runs in 10 innings in 2005, and 331 in 10 in 2006-07.

His only century in the 33 Test innings he had played against Australia before his hundred at Nottingham was made in Sydney in January 2011, when England scored 644 and won by an innings.

"I don't really feel too bad about the previous series, but it's nice to do things when the team needs it, and to have three hundreds against Australia is exactly where I want to be," added Bell, who was speaking at an event on behalf of team sponsor Jaguar.

"Drawing in on 20 Test hundreds is an exciting prospect, but I try not to think too much about it because every time you do that sort of thing you get stuck. All it's really about is making sure you contribute to the team. At Lord's we had to work really hard in periods of the game, and we got our reward in the end.

"But I do feel pretty confident right now and it's nice to be able to put it together in an Ashes series, which is what I wanted to do."

About the only criticism of Bell of late has come from those who maintain his decision to stand his ground after edging Ryan Harris low to gully when on just three in England's second innings at Lord's was against the much-discussed 'spirit of the game'. Catcher Steve Smith was unsure if the ball had carried cleanly into his hands, and while commentators suggested the catch was clean, television replays were inconclusive so Bell continued his innings.

"At the time it didn't look quite right, I looked around, the umpires got together and told me to hold fire at the crease, and as soon as they do that it's out of your hands really.

"It's difficult when it goes upstairs. In the middle it happens so quickly, and I don't think they [Australia] were 100% sure either. It's one of those you don't really want to be involved with, but the rule is generally the batter gets the benefit of the doubt, I suppose."

Bell confirmed Cook has not issued any guidelines to his players over waiting for decisions. "Nor has there been any chat about it from either team that I've noticed. You get good and bad decisions and they tend to even out over your career."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Richard Rae, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 24th July 2013 22.00 Europe/London

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