Botham proud of 'bonafide' Bell

England

Former captain Ian Botham has heralded batsman Ian Bell as the bulk of the reason behind England's retention of the Ashes.

Former captain Ian Botham has heralded batsman Ian Bell as the bulk of the reason behind England's retention of the Ashes.

Bell, thanks largely to three centuries and two half-tons, has scored over 200 runs more than any other England batsman in the series so far – and averages a hefty 82.00 after eight innings.

Sunday's 105 not out, which carried the hosts to 234 for five and a threatening lead of 202, epitomised the talented right-hander's fine stretch of form. Defiant on a Riverside Ground lined with seam movement and late turn, Bell's vigil spanned 189 deliveries and featured 10 boundaries.

"Well played England and very well played Ian Bell who is now a bonafide Ashes star. He has joined some very exalted company by scoring three tons in one series and he has got the power to add to that at The Oval too," Botham wrote in the <i>Mirror</i>.

"It is fair to say that without Bell's efforts in this series so far, the Ashes would not have been secured already, but that is what being a good team is all about. This is Bell's time to shine and he is making the absolute most of it and it is great to watch."

<iframe width="400" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="http://vds.rightster.com/v/01z0sl5ix2qs6f?target=iframe&autoplay=1" allowtransparency="true" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe>

The Aussies have been buoyed by the fitness and form of the injury-prone Ryan Harris, who has secured 16 wickets in three fixtures at the impressive average of 21.37. All-rounder Shane Watson's participation in the remainder of the match in Durham, however, remained in the balance after he left the field with a groin injury on Sunday.

"Harris has been magnificent for Australia throughout, but he was even better on the weekend, putting England under the cosh early and then making Bell work bloody hard for his runs," added Botham.

"It was definitely England's day though after taking the five wickets they needed quickly in the morning and then building the lead. Don't forget Australia are going to be struggling without Shane, who has picked up what looks like a serious injury."

Latest