Ian Bell looks to ditch 'bottler' tag in South Africa to secure No 3 spot

Ian Bell has admitted he needs to score more Test runs ‘when it matters’ if he is to cement his place at No 3 against South Africa this winter.

The 27-year-old hit 72 at The Brit Oval against Australia in August but says he wants to improve on a record which has seen him turn only eight of his 29 Test fifties into centuries.

'I’m aware of the areas I need to work on,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘The stats don’t lie: my conversion rate isn’t where the top players in the world are. Hopefully I’m still young enough to change that.

Ian Bell of England

Run chase: Bell is aware of his inadequacies at the wicket

‘I’ve made mistakes, there’s no doubt about that. But I’m desperate to learn from them. I put in some good performances during the Ashes under pressure and that’s what I want to do now for the rest of my career, starting in South Africa. I want to step up my game when it really matters.’

Ian Bell of England acknowledges his half century during day one of the npower 5th Ashes Test Match

Under pressure: Bell hit 72 in his first innings at The Oval, before being removed for just four runs in England's second stint at the wicket

Bell, who averages a fraction under 40 in his 49 Tests, recently came in for stick from former England paceman Andy Caddick, who claimed the Warwickshire batsman ‘never performs under pressure’.

But Caddick’s jibe ignored that Oval knock, and Bell — who flies out to South Africa on Saturday — said: ‘Andy Caddick’s entitled to his views, but he’s never been particularly polite about any Warwickshire players. I could have my own views about the way he played his Test career but I’m not going to get into a war. 

‘I know there are times when I haven’t kicked on but luckily I’ve got enough time to change that. I believe my best years are ahead of me.’

Meanwhile, Brett Lee could be facing the end of his international career after opting for surgery on his troublesome right elbow. The 33-year-old fast bowler has not played Test cricket since December 2008, and could be sidelined for three months.

Lee said: ‘I still want to play for Australia but that all depends on how the operation goes and then how the fitness is and how much I want it. I need to get away from the game for a little while to work out what my future holds.’

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