Ian Bell couldn't have done more than smack Bangladesh's bowlers all around the park on Saturday in the Durham Test.
That won?t be the last Test century he makes and the quality of the opposition bowlers won?t be a factor in this confident prediction.
He has the purest technique among current England players, despite his youth. A couple of years ago, he was getting out to balls that he didn?t have to play around off-stump. The sympathetic and intuitive coaching of John Inverarity at Edgbaston helped him to leave the ball with greater conviction and now he operates in his own tight bubble around the stumps. Because he?s not now reaching for the ball away from his body, he?s beautifully balanced.
Bell has that crucial base that makes a Test batsman ? a technique so good that nothing much can go wrong. He?ll be out of form at times and he?ll fret about it, but he just needs to keep getting back to basics, relying on his sound foundations and he?ll be fine.
During the Durham Test, I was working with Alec Stewart for Five Live and the former England captain was thrilled at Bell?s composure. On Friday night, with Bell not out 57, I overheard Stewart sending Ian a congratulatory message on his mobile phone and he led the applause in our part of the ground when the hundred duly arrived the following morning.
Ian confirmed that a couple of years ago, Stewart had told him to be more positive in his body language at the crease, to look as if he belonged out there.
?Stop walking to the wicket like a schoolboy? was the pithy advice from the apostle of the Surrey Strut.
He?ll never have the swagger of Stewart but recognises that he needed to impose himself more on the bowlers. He certainly did that on Saturday morning.
Stewart went as far as suggesting that Bell has world-class potential and Graham Thorpe likened him to Mike Atherton. I?m not so sure about that latter comparison. From the age of 23 ? Bell?s current age ? Atherton was troubled by a dodgy back, even down to having a serious operation.
This restricted his mobility both in defence and attack so he was vulnerable to getting turned around by the likes of Glenn McGrath and getting caught behind or in the slips.
Bell looks tighter in defence than Atherton and the former captain could never hit down the ground as tellingly as Bell. And Bell is a more rounded batsman. He hits inside out, over extra cover and over the top in the mid-wicket area, shots that Atherton simply didn?t play.
But does he have Atherton?s famed cussedness as a batsman, that admirable refusal to buckle in the most testing circumstances? Don?t be fooled by Ian Bell?s pleasant, modest demeanour. He?s tough. I think he?ll react in the same manner as Atherton to the sledging of the Aussies.
He?ll just turn away from the frothing bowler and wait for the next ball. As Atherton used to say, he?ll have to go back to his mark and bowl eventually, so I?ll just wait a while longer.
I?m told that Bell was an extremely impressive captain of the England ?A? tour party in Sri Lanka earlier this year. Not just in leading by example as a cricketer.
There were one or two showponies on that tour, young players who thought they were above the hard work and the team ethic, ready to moan. The captain sorted them out in no uncertain terms.
His tour manager, Rod Marsh, and the chairman of England selectors, David Graveney, were both hugely impressed.
The selectors deserve credit for picking him at the right time, even though it still seems daft that the worthy but limited Paul Collingwood got the nod ahead of him for the Test squad in South Africa and that he was subsequently messed around in the one-dayers out there.
Ian Bell has arrived and he will play many more significant innings for England than he did against Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Neal Abberley and John Inverarity among the Warwickshire coaching staff can take a deserved bow for delivering a class batsman to Duncan Fletcher. And his parents Barbara and Terry also did an excellent job with Ian Bell the person.
Chelsea power show has Premier League running scared
When the football industry in this country starts ruffling its moral petticoat and bemoans a decline in integrity, it?s time to take a step back and look for some perspective. That is the case now with Chelsea Football Club.
Hardly a day goes by without fresh mud being thrown at Chelsea, the latest their attempt to lure Frank Arnesen away from Tottenham Hotspur. That?s the North London club which tapped up Glenn Hoddle when he was the manager at Southampton, playing on his emotional attachment to the club he graced as a player.
When Hoddle left for Tottenham, he returned to Southampton to prise away the defender Dean Richards.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the South Coast could be heard all over the country.
Then, with Hoddle struggling early in the 2003-04 season, they sacked him with unseemly haste. Loyalty isn?t a two-way street in football.
The clubs are equally uncompromising as any player when it comes to protecting their own interests. That great manager Bill Nicholson found that out very painfully in 1974 when the club that he had graced for so many years decided his face no longer fitted. That club was Tottenham Hotspur.
Of course, Chelsea have behaved arrogantly in recent months. They have the money, the ambition, the global connections and in Peter Kenyon, a chief executive who seems immune to any sense of embarrassment.
We?d all like the influential people in football to behave with greater decorum, but the key figures in politics, finance and the rock world don?t, so why expect a particular sport to set new standards in integrity?
If the Ashley Cole saga had happened in other European countries, there would have been no fuss. In Germany only the club would have been fined. In Spain, France and Italy, no action would have been taken.
If you live in the real world, you cannot be surprised that a disenchanted employee who thinks he should be getting a lot more money should enter into discussions with a business rival. Then he has a bit of a bitch about his present employer and leaves the door open for further talks. That?s what happened with Ashley Cole.
Significantly Arsenal offered to double his wage when they discovered Cole was talking to Chelsea. Could it be that they suddenly realised they?d been getting an England international on the cheap, expecting him to be swayed by the fact that he?d been at Highbury since a boy?
Their bluff was exposed, as it is every day of the working week in other businesses. The employee usually moves on and life goes on. Why should English football be any different?
Five years ago Liverpool FC were fined #20,000 for tapping up, then signing Middlesbrough?s Christan Ziege. The manager Gerard Houllier was not even fined, unlike Jose Mourinho over Cole. Why has a fine of #20,000 been increased to #300,000 in just five years for a similar offence?
The answer is that the Premier League is worried stiff about the vast money Roman Abramovich is throwing at Chelsea as he seeks to dominate English, then European football. He has the best coach in Mourinho because money talked for him last summer and his ambitions are limitless.
Manchester United and Arsenal know that Chelsea are ahead of them now in so many areas and they don?t like it. They bleat about Chelsea?s money while ignoring the fact that when Chelsea won at Old Trafford recently, their whole side cost the same amount as just three of United?s players on the park that night.
And they conveniently forget that both Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have been masters at punitive raids on clubs, hoovering up players that they?ve coveted for some time.
Just like Mourinho is doing now.
Perhaps there?s an element of jingoism here. Mourinho and Abramovich are foreigners, uninterested by the arcane methods that help you prosper in English football. They?re cheeky, brash and irreverent.
But they know that a player will honour his own contract only for as long as he and his agent think it?s beneficial. Then he?ll up sticks and there?s nothing his club can do about it.
Did I hear someone mention Robbie Savage? Why didn?t the Premier League make as big a fuss about the way he sold Birmingham City short in January as they?ve done about Ashley Cole a few months later?
Brum needs new stadium
I hope a petition presented today in Victoria Square is going to put a banger up the metaphorical backside of Birmingham City Council. The future sporting wellbeing of this city rests on a favourable response to the 8,000- signature petition.
Karren Brady, the chief executive of Birmingham City Football Club will do the honours with the petition ? and yes, Blues have to declare an interest. They want the multi-use stadium, situated not far from St Andrew?s, to go ahead for the club?s benefit as well as that of the city. But I see nothing wrong with that, provided the overall aim is constructive.
The planned stadium would seat around 55,000. It would be the Blues? permanent home with its own railway station and vast car parking. It would have floodlights and a retractable roof. Warwickshire CCC are interested in staging day/night international and county games there and athletics events would also be a natural under the lights.
Costing about #200 million, it would take around five years from start to completion and would create 2,500 permanent jobs.
The financial fortunes of Blues would be massively transformed if the City Council could be persuaded to back the project.
I wonder if Birmingham City Council is dragging its heels because a casino is included in the plans? Do the councillors believe that a casino offers the wrong image for the city of Birmingham? If that?s the case have they counted how many lap dancing clubs there are in the city? And what about the drunken excesses in Broad Street of a weekend?
Other councils in England are enthusiastically pitching for this stadium/casino project. But not, at the moment, Birmingham. It?s about time that our elected civic representatives showed some drive and foresight to get behind this project.