Ian Bell

Gritty Bell eyes century

On the verge of his 18th Test century, England batsman Ian Bell has erased the remnants of his mental frailties against Australia and removed all doubt over his place in the Test team.

After enduring a 16-month break between milestones before his last 100, Bell also signalled his intent as a major threat in this Ashes series by blasting England into a match-winning position with a controlled, unbeaten 95 on Friday at Trent Bridge.

More importantly, he did it against his greatest foe - one who has rendered him a nervous wreck in series past.

Despite scoring 329 at nearly 66 in England's most recent triumph in Australia, Bell still carried an average of just 32 into this series - mostly owing to his disastrous debut Ashes where he averaged just 17 as he came up short against Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

But with five more runs, he'll notch just his second ton against Australia.

And while Stuart Broad (47 not out), Bell's partner in crime for an unbeaten match-defining 108 run partnership, had more than his fair share of good fortune along the way, the same cannot be said for Bell.

He was unmovable from the start of his five and a half hours at the crease until players wandered off at the end of play.

"He dug in at a time when they needed someone to stand up and we couldn't crack him early which we would have liked to have done," said Australian spearhead Peter Siddle.

Based on the form on show on the opening Test it's hard to imagine Bell's position in the England team had been under threat coming into the five-game series.

But according to Bell's colourful teammate Kevin Pietersen, that advice was never taken seriously from within the playing group.

"He does not need to keep proving it to us," Pietersen said.

"We know how good he is."

In doing so, the 31-year-old also passed 6000 Test runs, becoming the fifth youngest Englishman to reach the mark, behind teammates Alastair Cook and Pietersen and the long-retired David Gower and Mike Atherton.

"(He was) absolutely brilliant. We know how good Belly is," Pietersen added.

"He is backed incredibly well in our dressing room. He has proven why we think he is a fantastic player.

"He has come out there and played a very mature innings on quite a tough wicket."