Cow Corner

Give Ian Bell the man-of-the-series award already

Cow Corner

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Ian Bell has yet to receive a man-of-the-match award despite having scored almost 500 runs - and counting - at an average of 82, including three centuries.

As astonishing as that is, he has also provided two hugely valuable half-centuries in addition to the three tons in four Tests, and continues to lead the England charge in the second innings at Chester-le-Street.

It does not seem that long ago that Bell was derided as being 'carried' by England in the 2005 Ashes series victory over Australia and mocked for being an easy touch.

Indeed, it has taken a very long time for his reputation as a flat-track bully to be belatedly shifted despite an impressive Test career record that sees him boast an average of almost 47 from 91 matches.

But Bell has been a stand-out performer with the bat to such an extent in the Ashes this time around that he is already being described as the 'man of the series' with more than a Test still to play.

Scores of 25, 109, 109, 74, 60, 4* 6 and 105* have set the Warwickshire middle-order maestro apart from anyone else by a quite considerable distance.

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It is not only the sheer weight of runs that have distinguished Bell, but the manner of them: he has delivered time and again when England need him to.

There was a time when his aesthetically-pleasing technique and penchant for a glorious extra-cover drive saw him labelled a scorer of 'pretty runs', not substantial runs. In this series he has provided both - and very valuable runs at that.

The nearest batsman to him in this series has been Michael Clarke, who has 325 runs to his name at an average of 54.16, while the next-best England batsman is Kevin Pietersen with 276 runs at 34.50.

At 31, Bell is now very much at the peak of his career and still potentially has four or five years ahead of him at the highest level with his experience and class so incredibly valuable to Andy Flower's men.

When he came to the crease, the hosts were struggling badly at 49-3, but by the close of play on day three the batsman had ensured that 234 runs were on the board with a reassuring lead of 202 runs as a cushion.

The fact remains that England have never lost a Test match in which Bell has scored a century, and his influence and quality in the middle order is very important with the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow coming into the side as inexperienced talent.

With both Root and Bairstow's places now believed to be under threat from Nick Compton and James Taylor respectively, Bell and Pietersen provide the important continuity in the England middle order as changes are made around them.

Bell will be backed to continue his magnificent form throughout the remainder of the Ashes and beyond into the return series in Australia - but such has been his contribution to England's success so far, he could be given his accolades already.

Should Bell now be regarded as the best batsman in the England team? Is he still underrated given his quality and recent performances? Post your views below...

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