Bell is now dominating Test cricket, says Hayden

Ian Bell’s innings of 235 in the first innings of the fourth Test against India was his first double hundred Getty Images

London: Aug 21, 2011

Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden has praised Ian Bell, saying the England batsman was now “dominating” Test cricket. Bell made a Test-best 235 in the ongoing fourth and final Test against India at The Oval in south London.

It was his fifth Test hundred this year and saw him replace England colleague Alastair Cook as the leading Test run-scorer in 2011 — Bell now has 950 runs to Cook’s 927 and England’s Kevin Pietersen is third with 731.

Hayden, a brutally effective run-scorer, was a key member of the Australia side that led the way in Test cricket in the 1990s and 2000s.

But he has been impressed by the performances of England, who have become the world’s leading Test side since defeating Australia 3-1 in an Ashes series earlier this year, in general and Bell in particular.

“Ian Bell has always been a very technically sound player and he’s now dominating Test cricket simply because technically he’s sound, mentally he’s grown up, his physical attributes are very good and he’s relishing the hard work,” Hayden told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme on Sunday.

Hayden, speaking after the publication of the Argus report into the state of Australian cricket, also highlighted consistency of selection — something England were once notorious for lacking and which has been a problem for recent Australia sides — as a key reason behind the rise of Andrew Strauss’s team.

“In my career there was a lot of inconsistency (in the England team), both in performances and also selection,” he said.

“There were so many players coming in and out of the side it was really a turnstile into the English dressing room, but now it’s very different,” Hayden added of an England team who have now got through a year without picking a Test debutant for the first time since 1953.

Meanwhile England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive David Collier downplayed suggestions influential England coach Andy Flower could be lost to another country.

The Zimbabwean has played a key role behind the scenes during England’s climb to the top of the ICC Test Championship table since taking over from Peter Moores two years ago.

Flower rejected an approach from India before they appointed his compatriot Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach, and Collier said: “I think Andy made his position very clear when the Indian situation happened.

“I think he is very settled in England and long may that continue. I think the whole of the backroom team is (very important). We’ve developed a structure over five to 10 years now that has not only delivered plans but has leapfrogged countries in the world and we want to keep that team together,” Hayden was quoted by AFP.

England currently lead their series with India 3-0.

If they win at The Oval, it will be the first time England have triumphed 4-0 in a four-Test series since whitewashing the West Indies in 2004.