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Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:31 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Andrew John Strauss


Born March 2, 1977, Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa


Major teams England, Middlesex, Northern Districts


Nickname Straussy, Levi, Mareman, Muppet


Playing role Opening batsman


Batting style Left-hand bat


Bowling style Left-arm medium


Height 5 ft 11 in


Education Radley College, Durham University

Andrew John Strauss

A compact left-hander with a preference for pummelling the ball square off the back foot with a crunching cut, Andrew Strauss has worked out a superb technique for Test cricket. He put early problems against Shane Warne behind him to make two hundreds in the epic 2005 Ashes series, and added another big one (161) in 2009 to set up England's first victory over the old enemy at Lord's since 1934. Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart, by contrast, only ever managed one century apiece against Australia.


Calm and urbane, Strauss put the disappointment of being passed over as England's captain for the 2006-07 Ashes series - probably a godsend, as it turned out, as even Doctor Who would have had trouble with those rampant whitewash-bound Aussies - to bounce back in 2009 and orchestrate the recapture of the urn. The following year, he joined the elite of English cricket by leading a successful Ashes defence in Australia, triumphing 3-1 to end a 24-year wait for victory Down Under.


Strauss's early county cricket with Middlesex did not exactly suggest a star in the making, but a century in 2003 against Lancashire, with Andrew Flintoff charging in, set the selectors sniffing - and also made Strauss believe he had what it took. After a few one-day caps that winter Strauss was called up for the first Test against New Zealand in 2004 after Michael Vaughan twisted his knee in the Lord's nets. Strauss responded with a confident century, and was unlucky to miss another one in the second innings when Nasser Hussain ran him out 17 short. But Hussain had seen enough: with Vaughan set to return, he announced his immediate retirement, confident that Strauss was the real deal.


Strauss has been emphasising that almost ever since, responding to being dropped from the one-day team by upping his strike-rate, and probably saving his Test career after a poor run with an eight-hour 177 in a series-clinching victory over New Zealand early in 2008. That century had been a long time coming: after ten tons in his first 30 Tests, Strauss did not reach three figures in his next 15 games - and the knives were well and truly out when he fell for a duck, driving loosely, in the first innings of that Napier match.


After an early flirtation with captaincy in 2006 - he memorably dubbed himself "the stand-in for the stand-in" in the absence of the injured Vaughan and Flintoff - Strauss inherited the armband again early in 2009, after the messy sacking of Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores. It was not a good way to start - and when England were bowled out for 51 in Jamaica to lose his first match in permanent charge, it looked like he had picked up the ultimate poisoned chalice.


However, in partnership with the meticulous and inscrutable Andy Flower, Strauss set about rebuilding England's reputation, leading from the front with the bat and moulding a squad of players who look capable of becoming the No. 1 side in the world.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:29 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Eoin Joseph Gerard Morgan


Born September 10, 1986, Dublin


Major teams England, Ireland, Bangalore Royal Challengers, England A, Ireland A, Ireland Under-19s, Kolkata Knight Riders, Middlesex, Middlesex 2nd XI, Sir Paul Getty's XI


Nickname Moggie


Playing role Middle-order batsman


Batting style Left-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm medium


Fielding position Occasional wicketkeeper


Height 5 ft 9 in


Education Catholic University School

Eoin Joseph Gerard Morgan

Eoin Morgan is an Irish-born Englishman with a reputation for inventive and audacious strokeplay. At the age of 23, he shot to prominence on the back of two match-winning innings against South Africa. First was a 34-ball 67 in the Champions Trophy in September 2009 which he followed two months later with an unbeaten 45-ball 85 in the opening Twenty20 of England's tour of South Africa. His bold approach and crisp hitting was reminiscent of the arrival of another English import, Kevin Pietersen, in 2005. With a blend of nous and power, Morgan looks a natural 'finisher' - a role England have struggled to fill for a decade.


A compact left-hander, Morgan grew up playing hurling and with his change-up sweeps and pulls, he has clearly taken aspects of the Irish sport into his cricket. He gained initial recognition with Ireland, averaging 52.20 in the World Cricket League, including his first ODI century, a sublime 115 from 106 balls against Canada. In the 2007 World Cup, as his team-mates impressed, Morgan disappointed with 91 runs from nine games. He joined his fellow Anglo-Irishman, Ed Joyce, at Middlesex in 2006, where he helped them to the Twenty20 Cup in 2008 and caught the eye of the England selectors.


His growing stature was confirmed when he was the only England player to be awarded a new contract at the auction for the third season of the IPL in January 2010. He was signed for $220,000 by Royal Challengers Bangalore, where he joined England team-mate Kevin Pietersen. With much expected he failed to make an impression and was soon left on the substitutes bench. However, he returned to his best for England in the World Twenty20 that followed, as his powerful shot-making and coolness under pressure helped him to 183 runs and England to their first ever triumph in global limited-overs events.


It was enough to prove he had the mettle to take his game a step higher and despite a modest first-class record he was rewarded with a surprise call-up to the Test side for England's first Test of the 2010 summer, against Bangladesh. Walking out to bat at 258 for 4, he could not have asked for a gentler introduction and showed enough confidence to pick up his first Test boundary with a reverse-sweep.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:26 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Paul David Collingwood


Born May 26, 1976, Shotley Bridge, Co Durham


Major teams England, Delhi Daredevils, Durham


Nickname Colly


Playing role Allrounder


Batting style Right-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm medium


Height 5 ft 11 in


Education Blackfyne Comprehensive School

Paul David Collingwood

A natural athlete with a happy-go-lucky temperament, Paul Collingwood became the first England captain to ever deliver a global tournament when England beat Australia to win the 2010 World Twenty20. It was reward for nine years of uncomplaining professionalism, in which time he fought his way through a melee of seemingly more talented opponents to make himself indispensable in both forms of the game.


Collingwood's greatest asset is ability to contribute to the team in several aspects. As a batsman, he stands still at the crease, plays the ball straight and has a tantalising range of strokes up his sleeve. His bowling verges towards the dibbly-dobbly, but given the right conditions he can be irresistible, as he proved with a matchwinning display of swing bowling in the third one-day game against New Zealand in 2001-02. As a fielder, he is one of the finest in the world, capable of breathtaking moments in the covers and backward point.The final tick in his column is his determination, which made him go to Melbourne in the winter of 2000-01 to play grade cricket when he realised he was treading water.


For the first few years in his international career he seemed destined to be a fill-in player.But at Lahore in the 2005 winter, he stuck 96 and 80 before hitting a brilliant maiden century at Nagpur with England in the middle of an injury crisis. He kicked on to become the rock of England's batting on the subsequent Ashes tour. His brilliant double-century at Adelaide ought to have been the defining moment of his career. Instead it was the preamble to one of the most devastating defeats in English Test history. But after an understandable period of introspection, Collingwood bounced back with back-to-back one-day centuries to secure the CB Series. It was England's first overseas one-day trophy for nine years, and his subsequent appointment to the captaincy in June 2007 was met with unanimous approval. He cemented the role with memorable victories over India at home and Sri Lanka away.


A slump in form in 2008 led to his omission from the Test team and his resignation as ODI captain, but he took back the reins for the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009, a decision that didn't look too prudent when England were embarrassed by the Netherlands in the opening match of the tournament. However, less than a year later England had developed into a ruthless power-packed Twenty20 side. Led by Collingwood, their blend of fearless hitting with dynamite fielding and thoughtful bowling brushed aside all challenges as England won the World Twenty20. They got there in style - beating Australia in the final - with Collingwood finishing with the winning runs.


A difficult summer followed, where Collingwood struggled to come to terms with the seam and swing of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif. His batting form failed to improve during England's historic Ashes success the winter after but his fielding remained exemplary - setting the benchmark for England's high standards. In the final Ashes Test in Sydney he dismissed Michael Hussey in the first innings, sparking wild celebrations and with England on the verge of a 3-1 triumph he chose to retire from Test cricket, calling time on a Test successful career which many thought would never happen.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:24 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Ravinder Singh Bopara


Born May 4, 1985, Forest Gate, London


Major teams England, Dolphins, England Lions, England Under-19s, Essex, Essex Cricket Board, Kings XI Punjab, Marylebone Cricket Club


Nickname Puppy


Playing role Middle-order batsman


Batting style Right-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm medium


Height 5 ft 10 in


Education Brampton Manor School

Ravinder Singh Bopara

Aged 17, Bopara earned a professional contract with Essex in 2002, and immediately established himself as a name for the future. He made his first-team debut the same year, playing three Championship matches before playing for England at the Under-19 World Cup in 2003. A top-order batsman, he can also chip in with some handy medium-pace bowling and he has been maturing with every match.


Bopara, who is nicknamed Puppy, was a late selection for the England A squad in West Indies in 2006, after injuries in England's senior squad left spots to fill. Although unsuccessful in the Caribbean he found form on the county scene and was subsequently rewarded with a place in England's preliminary squad for the 2006 Champions Trophy and the Academy squad to be based in Perth during the winter's Ashes series.


After impressing the selectors, he made his ODI debut against Australia at Sydney, and claimed the wicket of Mike Hussey to help England kick-start their trophy-winning campaign with a 92-run win. A fortnight later in the World Cup, he showed impressive resolve and class in his maiden one-day fifty against Sri Lanka, albeit in a losing cause. He was one of only a handful of England players to emerge from that tournament with their reputation enhanced, but injury prevented him from building on his success in the World Twenty20.


Another encouraging display for England in their one-day series against Sri Lanka in October 2007 led to his call-up to the Test squad for December's series, and he was picked to make his Test debut in the opening match at Kandy ahead of Owais Shah. It was, on reflection, a tour too soon for Bopara who scratched 42 runs in three Tests, including three ducks in a row, and was axed the following January.


But 14 months later, after flitting around the fringes of the ODI team, he seized his opportunity when Andrew Flintoff flew home from the Caribbean with a hip injury. Picked at No. 6 for the Barbados Test, he responded with a classy 104. Though omitted from the subsequent Test in Trinidad to accommodate an extra bowler, England didn't forget his abilities. Two months later in the return series in England, he was recalled at No. 3 and responded with hundreds in each of his next two innings, at Lord's and Chester-le-Street, to emulate the achievement of his mentor, Graham Gooch, in 1990.


A decent showing in the subsequent World Twenty20 confirmed Bopara's place for the Ashes series that got underway in July, but not everyone was impressed with his cock-of-the-walk attitude. Shane Warne, in his guise as a pundit, cast doubts about his temperament, and sure enough they were exposed as he mustered 105 runs in seven innings, before being dropped for the series decider at The Oval, where JonathanTrott exceeded that tally in a single innings. He was subsequently dropped for England's winter tour to South Africa.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:22 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Michael Howard Yardy


Born November 27, 1980, Pembury, Kent


Major teams England, Central Districts, Sussex, Sussex Cricket Board


Nickname Yards, Paolo


Playing role Allrounder


Batting style Left-hand bat


Bowling style Slow left-arm orthodox


Height 6 ft 0 in


Education William Parker School, Hastings

Michael Howard Yardy

A compact and organised left-hander with a technique not dissimilar to Andrew Strauss's, Mike Yardy had been a Sussex stand-in until he cemented his right to a starting place by recording his maiden first-class century in defeat against Surrey, in the final match of the 2004 season. He began 2005 in identical fashion, with another hundred against Surrey, to trigger a run of form that carried him to the top of the domestic batting charts.


His zenith arrived against the Bangladeshis at Hove, where he scored 257 - the highest score by a Sussex batsman against a touring team, beating George Cox jr's 234 against the 1946 Indians - and followed up with a career-best 5 for 83 with his left-arm spin having started life as a medium-pacer. That was exactly double his previous tally of first-class wickets.


His good form continued throughout the 2005 season leading to selection for the England A tour of West Indies, and ultimately a chance to push for a World Cup place when he was picked for the Champions Trophy. Though his bowling impressed, England's strange insistence that he bat at No. 4 meant that the overall image suffered, and he was quietly jettisoned. He was groomed as Chris Adams' success at Hove and took the reins in 2009, leading the county to two one-day trophies - the Twenty20 Cup and Pro40 - but also presided over Championship relegation.


His steely approach in one-day cricket, however, kept the England selectors interested and when Andy Flower recognised the need for the limited-overs side to find a left-arm spinning allrounder Yardy was recalled for the 2010 World Twenty20. Darting the ball in, he formed a potent spin partnership with Graeme Swann that helped England achieve their first ever success in a global ICC event. That secured him a regular place during the 2010 season and then a berth at the World Cup, but Yardy didn't complete the tournament as he flew home with depression before the quarter-final. The cricket community rallied around him and he returned to Sussex action in the early part of the 2011 summer.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Christopher Timothy Tremlett


Born September 2, 1981, Southampton, Hampshire


Major teams England, ECB National Academy, England Lions, Hampshire, Hampshire Cricket Board, Surrey


Nickname Twiggy


Playing role Bowler


Batting style Right-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm medium-fast


Height 6 ft 7 in


Education Taunton's College, Southampton


Relation Grandfather - MF Tremlett, Father - TM Tremlett

Christopher Timothy Tremlett

Chris Tremlett, a strapping fast bowler at 6ft 7ins, comes from an esteemed cricketing family. He is the son of Tim Tremlett, the former Hampshire seamer, and the grandson of Maurice, who played for Somerset and England in the 1940s and 50s. However, Tremlett junior hasn't needed any family favours in his progression. On his first-class debut against New Zealand A in 2000, he took a wicket with his first ball and ended up with 4 for 16. After impressing for Hampshire in both the four-day and the one-day game, he made the England Under-19 tour of India in 2000-01, and then earned a place in the first batch of Rod Marsh's academy intakes in 2001-02.


An impressive start to the 2004 season with Hampshire earned him a call up to England's preliminary squad for the ICC Champions Trophy, and the following year he was named in England's new 25-man development squad, ahead of the 2005 Ashes. He made his one-day debut during the 2005 NatWest Series - and was denied a hat-trick against Bangladesh only because the ball bounced off middle stump without dislodging the bails. Despite his domestic performances tailing off in the second half of the 2005 season and a suspicion that he tended to lose rhythm under pressure, Tremlett earned a call-up to the England squad for Pakistan before a hamstring injury ruled him out.


It set a precedent from which his international career has yet to recover. After injuries hampered international ambitions in 2006 he was named in the academy to be based in Perth during that winter's Ashes series, and was asked to join the squad for the subsequent one-day series. Though a surprising success for England it was a forgettable series for Tremlett, ended by another injury setback, which then delayed the start to his 2007 season.


However, once back on the field he impressed enough to earn a call to the England Lions squad and was handed his Test debut against India at Lord's. Troubling the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up with uncomfortable bounce and lively pace, he looked set to be a key man as England looked to forge a new attack after the 2005 generation. Instead injury struck once more.


After missing the 2007-08 winter tours he was included in England's ODI squad to face Scotland but a heel injury ended his hopes. After a frustrating 2009 season, where he played seven Championship matches, he left Hampshire for Surrey. It was a move that worked wonders and, after taking 48 Championship wickets, he earned a recall for the Ashes tour, playing a key role in retaining the urn.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:18 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Matthew James Prior


Born February 26, 1982, Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa


Major teams England, England A, England Lions, England Under-19s, Sussex, Sussex Cricket Board, Victoria


Playing role Wicketkeeper batsman


Batting style Right-hand bat


Fielding position Wicketkeeper


Height 5 ft 11 in


Education Brighton College, East Sussex

Matthew James Prior

Matthew Prior moved to England from South Africa and represented England at all ages, up to and including the Under-19 squad, making his Sussex debut in 2001. An aggressive batsman whose wicketkeeping development was slightly hampered by having to share county duties with Tim Ambrose, he toured India with the England A side in 2003-04. He was selected to tour Zimbabwe as part of England's one-day squad in November 2004 and played in just one match, striking 35. He rejoined the A team for their series against United Arab Emirates and, after an unconvincing first match - he made 0 - he went on hit 84, 56 and 122 not out. He had less success in the subsequent triangular tournament against Sri Lanka A and Pakistan A. Prior earned selection for the England winter tours of Pakistan and India in 2005-06, but playing mostly as a batsman he failed to make any real impact. This lack of form resulted in him missing out of the Champions Trophy in October 2006, but he was named in the Academy squad to be stationed in Perth during the 2006-07 Ashes series. Two fifties in England A's 2-1 win over Bangladesh A wasn't enough to book him a World Cup berth, but his chance arrived when he was named in the squad for the first Test against West Indies. He began in thrilling fashion, becoming the first England wicketkeeper to score a century on debut with an unbeaten 126 at Lord's, followed by 75 at Headingley. The new Alec Stewart, England hoped, had arrived. However, a poor subsequent series against India and a disappointing tour to Sri Lanka exposed flaws with his keeping, as his star diminished and he was dropped for England's tour of New Zealand in 2008, with his old Sussex rival, Ambrose, taking over his role. But Prior's extra batting class could not be ignored for long, and he returned to the side before the year was out, with his keeping vastly improved during his spell on the outside. He was one of the unsung heroes of England's Ashes triumph in 2009, providing momentum-shifting cameos at No. 6 in the order, and pulling off a series of impressive catches and stumpings. He bettered that effort on the subsequent tour of Australia in 2010-11, claiming 23 catches in the series including an Ashes-record-equalling six in the first innings at Melbourne, and concluded the series with his first hundred against Australia, at Sydney.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:16 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Steven Thomas Finn


Born April 4, 1989, Watford, Hertfordshire


Major teams England, England Lions, England Under-19s, Middlesex, Middlesex 2nd XI


Nickname Finny


Playing role Bowler


Batting style Right-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium


Height 6 ft 7 in


Education Parmiter's School, Watfor

Steven Thomas Finn

Standing at 6' 7'' Steven Finn is the latest bean-pole fast bowler to carry England's hopes. Pinging the ball down from the clouds he has the heady blend of pace and trampolining bounce to rattle the best players. He made his county debut for Middlesex as a 16-year-old in 2005, the youngest to do so since Fred Titmus in 1949, and was earmarked as an England prospect from his early days.


When he secured a more permanent position in 2007 he delayed going to university in 2008. He represented England at all age-group levels from Under-16 upwards and his call-up to the senior squad in Bangladesh showed he'd impressed the right people


He enjoyed a solid 2009 season for Middlesex, taking 53 wickets at 30.64 in the Championship and was selected for England Lions' tour to UAE. He impressed enough to be named in England's list of 30 probables for the World Twenty20 but, with a number of others ahead of him, it looked unlikely selection for the senior team would come knocking until the next season.


However, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions and Ryan Sidebottom all picked up injuries early on England's tour to Bangladesh and Finn was parachuted in as cover. Barely 24 hours after arriving in the country he was playing in the warm-up game against Bangladesh A and impressed on his Test debut three days later displaying good pace and bounce on a docile Chittagong surface.


With the England management desperately searching for a consistent replacement for Steve Harmison, Finn marked his home debut in style. In the familiar surroundings of Lord's, Finn carried a rusty England attack with 4 for 100 in the first innings and went one better in the second, taking 5 for 87 to finish with nine in the game and the man-of-the-match medal in just his third Test.


Despite doubts as to whether he was ready to take on the challenge of a tour of Australia, Finn fronted up impressively in his early outings, claiming a career-best 6 for 125 to help turn the tide in the first Test at the Gabba, before stepping into the breach left by an injury to Stuart Broad to help seal victory in the second Test at Adelaide. Though he faded at Perth and was omitted from the last two matches, he'd done enough to confirm he has a big future.



Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:14 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Stuart Christopher John Broad


Born June 24, 1986, Nottingham


Major teams England, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire


Nickname Broady


Playing role Bowler


Batting style Left-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium


Height 6 ft 5 in


Education Oakham School


Relation Father - BC Broad

Stuart Christopher John Broad

With his blond hair and baby-faced good looks, Stuart Broad was already looking like becoming the Next Big Thing of English cricket when he pushed his career into overdrive in a sensational spell of bowling in the fifth and decisive Ashes Test at The Oval in 2009. With the series in the balance, Broad claimed figures of 5 for 37 in 12 overs, including 4 for 8 in 21 balls, and after that there was no coming back for Australia.


After a steady rise towards being one of England's key bowlers the 2010-11 winter, which should have been a major moment in his career, was a disappointment as injury struck for the first time. He was ruled out of the last three Ashes Tests then broke down again during the World Cup. However, his significance in England's future was confirmed when he was named Twenty20 captain in May 2011.


In his early cricketing career, Broad had been shaping up to be an opening bat just like his dad Chris, until he suddenly shot up. Within 18 months he had transformed himself into a medium-fast bowler and was playing for England Under-19 and Leicestershire's first XI. A few months later and he's gone from England's A team to a call-up to the full one-day side. Talk about a meteoric rise.


"I thought I may as well try bowling because I can't just stand around in the field all day," he shrugged - and promptly took 9 for 72 for England Under-19s in ODIs against Sri Lanka and 30 first-class wickets at 27.69 in ten matches in 2005.


But those early years as a batsman did not go amiss. After his first eight Tests, he had racked up three half-centuries from the pivotal No. 8 position, and push his Test average above 40 - a mark his father (39.54) just missed out on over the course of his 25-match career.


At the age of just 19, he was called into the England A set-up in the West Indies to replace James Anderson who flew out to bolster the seniors in India and was twice selected for England A during the 2006 season.


His early performances for the one-day team, against Pakistan, were promising but he was left out of the Champions Trophy, but more out of a feeling of not wanting to push him too hard, too soon. He was named in the Academy team to be based in Perth during the Ashes and by the end of the winter he had joined the World Cup squad in the Caribbean.


Injury deprived him of a Test debut in May 2007, but he marked his return to the one-day side with 3 for 20 against West Indies at Lord's, and he was then announced in England's squad for the first Test against India in July. His stock continued to rise on tour with England in Sri Lanka when his 11 cheap wickets helped them to a 3-2 series victory.


He was then called up for the subsequent Test series in December, making his debut on a slab of Colombo concrete and toiling for 36 sweaty overs. The subsequent tour of New Zealand proved to be his making, however. With Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison both lacking form, he was selected for the Wellington Test. The decision was immediately vindicated, if not with a huge match-haul then certainly by the composure and control he showed.


The following Test in Napier, however, demonstrated his immense allround talent. A vital 42 helped prop up England's first innings before he took 3 for 54, testing all New Zealand's batsmen with pace and bounce. A diving catch at backward square leg confirmed, if there were any doubts, that England had found themselves a Test cricketer of rare class and even rarer composure.


That impression continued to climb during England's home season in 2008 when no less a technical purist as Geoffrey Boycott likened his tall elegant batting style to Sir Garfield Sobers. Although he has struggled at times for consistency with his bowling, his unmistakable talent was out on show again against South Africa in Durban in 2009 as helped bowl England to a famous innings victory.


Posted by anccricket on October 23, 2008 at 5:12 PM Comments comments (0)

Full name Ian Ronald Bell


Born April 11, 1982, Walsgrave, Coventry, Warwickshire


Major teams England, England Lions, England Under-19s, Marylebone Cricket Club, Warwickshire, Warwickshire Cricket Board


Nickname Belly


Playing role Top-order batsman


Batting style Right-hand bat


Bowling style Right-arm medium


Height 5 ft 10 in


Education Princethorpe College, Rugby


Relation Brother - KD Bell

Ian Ronald Bell

Once described by Dayle Hadlee as the best 16-year old he had ever seen, Ian Bell had been earmarked for greatness long before he was drafted onto the England tour of New Zealand in 2001-02, as cover for the injured Mark Butcher.


Technically sound, Bell is a top-order batsman very much in the mould of Michael Atherton, who was burdened with similar expectations when he made his England debut a generation ago. Unlike Atherton, who invariably produced his best when his back was firmly against the wall, Bell's most fluent efforts tended to come about in a pressure vacuum, a trait that belied an average hovering around the 40 mark, and a record of a century every five or so Tests.


However, on the tour of South Africa in 2009-10, Bell set about changing those perceptions. A perfectly paced century while batting at No. 6 in Durban set England up for an innings victory that ranked, at the time, among their finest overseas performances for a generation, but he surpassed that effort in the very next Test in Cape Town, with a backs-to-the-wall 78 that saved the match and ensured a share of the series.


A freak injury while fielding in a one-dayer against Bangladesh interrupted his progress in 2010, but on the subsequent tour of Australia, he continued to save his best for when the chips were down, particularly during England's first-innings struggles at Brisbane and Perth. By common consent, he was the most fluent batsman on either team and overdue a promotion from No. 6 in the order, but he still finished the tour on a high with his maiden Ashes hundred at Sydney, and a reputation transformed.


When in form, Bell has always been adept at leaving the ball outside off stump, and he received glowing reviews from coaches at every stage of his development, not least from Rod Marsh at the England Academy, a man not given to hyperbole. A former England U19 captain, Bell had played just 13 first-class games when called into the England squad, though in 2001 he scored 836 runs for Warwickshire at an average of over 64, including three centuries. Amid all the attention, Bell's form slumped, but by 2004 he was on his way back.


He finally made his Test debut against West Indies in August 2004, stroking 70 in his only innings, before returning the following summer to lift his career average to an obscene 297 with two unbeaten innings against Bangladesh, including his maiden Test century at Chester-le-Street. Unsurprisingly, he wouldn't find such easy pickings on offer for the rest of the summer. Found out - like so many others - by Australia's champions, McGrath and Warne, he mustered just 171 runs in ten innings, but bounced back that winter, top-scoring for the series against Pakistan, including a classy century at Faisalabad.


After seeking advice from Alec Stewart to assert himself at the crease, he struck three elegant centuries in successive Tests against Pakistan and went to Australia with a new-found belief, having been named ICC's young player of the year for 2006. He was targeted by the Australian sledging, but managed four elegant half-centuries to confirm his stature as a Test batsman. By the end of England's disappointing World Cup campaign in March and April, Bell was one of a handful of squad members to have established themselves in both forms of the game.


Yet for all his class, the doubts persisted in his inability to convert fifties into match-turning hundreds. His critics were briefly quietened after making 110 against New Zealand in Napier and a career-best 199 against South Africa at Lord's, but an unproductive winter saw him dropped after the first Test of the West Indies tour. He returned midway through the Ashes, however, and responded with a pair of half-centuries in three Tests, including a gutsy 72 on the first day of the final Test at The Oval.


One Test later, he was back under pressure after failing twice in the opening Test against South Africa at Centurion. However, with the critics circling he responded with a sublime 140 to help set up an innings victory for England in the second Test at Durban, and his five-hour rearguard at Cape Town marked the moment he attained international maturity.