Ian Bell yesterday won the vote for England's first npower Test squad of the summer after ignoring the intensity of the competition for batting places.
The Warwickshire righthand batsman, aged 23, edged out Kevin Pietersen and Robert Key by amassing 482 runs at 80-plus in the Championship.
Hampshire's Pietersen had scored three one-day centuries against South Africa but his efforts and those of Key, of Kent, have been overshadowed by Bell's productivity. Bell said: "I recognise there has been a lot of competition but on a personal level, I have not been trying to think about it. All the other guys are top players and have begun scoring runs lately.
"Fortunately I have had a bit of luck, things have gone for me and I have put my hat in the ring for selection."
Bell scored 70 on debut against the West Indies at the Oval last summer when Graham Thorpe was injured, having been called up as cover in New Zealand in 2001-02. This summer, however, after chats with John Inverarity and Nick Knight, coach and captain respectively at Edgbaston, he has tried not to think about his targets.
Bell said: "That was something that was definitely on my mind a year or two ago, every time I went out to bat and it all got way too much. This year, I have tried to block it all out completely, simply taking each innings ball by ball, completely free of any feelings of playing for England. I just knew at the start of the year that scoring as many runs as possible, and making an impact in winning games for Warwickshire, would be the best way for me to push for selection.
"There has been plenty of solid advice; Nick's England Test career was full of him being selected one minute and not selected the next and so he has been good in making sure there are no complications in my head, stressing the need to focus solely on my own game."
The 12-man squad includes Gloucestershire's reliable attack spearhead Jon Lewis who was called in on standby in South Africa without playing a part in the 2-1 Test series win.
Some may have believed Bell unlucky not to have been in the original party for South Africa after his excellent debut. He said: "I fully understood the reason why I played that Test match, I was pleased to go out and do OK but the summer England had had and the amount of runs the batsmen had scored meant it would have been harsh on players who had done all the hard work not to have gone.
"So the reasons for me not going were fair and if I had been in others' positions, I would have felt hard done by.
"In the end the winter was good for me, the trip to South Africa helped: just spending time in the changing room, watching the guys and then getting a taste of one-day cricket, in front of hostile crowds, to recognise what playing internationally can be like."
The Ashes series against Australia is two months away and Bell said: "That is without doubt the high point of the season but, before that, we have to take every day as it comes.
"When I play next, it will be my second game and so I need to concentrate on making scores in these games to put my name in the frame for July. Playing in and winning an Ashes series is the goal and top of the list of achievements for any England cricketer."
The 35-year-old Thorpe remains a part of the equation although his back spasms could yet give others a chance against the Bangladeshis, though chairman of selectors David Graveney has declined to name official stand-by players.