Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Win but It's Still Hell for Bell; Stephen Brenkley in Colombo Cricket Brought to You in Association With

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Win but It's Still Hell for Bell; Stephen Brenkley in Colombo Cricket Brought to You in Association With

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Brenkley in Colombo

IAN BELL, the batsman who could do no wrong, has found the reverse side of that particular coin. After finishing last season as England's top Test runs scorer and being generally acclaimed for his brilliance, Bell has hit a deep trough of form which plummeted further in the second practice match of the Sri Lankan tour today.

Bell was given the opportunity to open the innings as England set off in successful pursuit of a target of 359 against a Development XI.

But he could score only 11 as Matt Prior and Samit Patel played the most significant roles in guiding the visitors to a four-wicket victory.

It was typical of Bell's recent fortune that he should be caught behind down the leg side. With the First Test against Sri Lanka starting on Monday, the 29-year-old is woefully out of form.

He has had 15 innings in all matches for England this winter -- practice, internationals, long form and short form -- and scored only 136 runs at an average of 9.71.

It is a dreadful statistic for someone who as recently as last August could lay rational claim to being the world's leading Test batsman. In eight matches for England in 2011 he scored 950 runs at a remarkable average of 118.75.

He reached the summit with a sublime 235 in the Fourth Test against India at The Oval, his seventh score above 50 in 11 innings. Since then almost nothing has gone right.

Bell's top score on three tours this winter -- to India, the United Arab Emirates and now Sri Lanka -- is 39. He was confounded, like most of his colleagues, by Pakistan's cunning spin in the UAE but has also contrived to lose his wicket in improbable and careless ways.

It was crucial to his confidence that he mustered a decent score today and he began with two cover drives which had the juices flowing. …

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