In-form Bell untroubled by KP issues

Salisbury Journal: Ian Bell, pictured, is enjoying his time as fellow England opener alongside Alastair Cook Ian Bell, pictured, is enjoying his time as fellow England opener alongside Alastair Cook

Ian Bell is revelling in his role as Kevin Pietersen's able replacement as a one-day international opener - but will happily leave it to others to decide whether his predecessor returns.

Bell was promoted to open alongside England captain Alastair Cook this summer, after Pietersen announced his shock retirement from all international limited-overs cricket at the end of May. The Pietersen saga has brought many twists, turns and controversial stand-offs since then - while Bell's occupation at the top of the order has been a tale of scarcely interrupted success.

"I'm enjoying it," he said. "It's nice to get the opportunity."

After beginning his summer by defying the shock and pain of a deep cut to his chin from a throw-down in practice, to equal his career-best 126 in Southampton, Bell has added four more half-centuries in nine attempts to date.

His latest contribution was a match-clinching 88 as England beat South Africa by six wickets at Lord's on Sunday, and the 30-year-old is naturally delighted with the ongoing turn of events.

He added: "The two new balls can be awkward in those early overs, especially when facing a bowler of (Dale) Steyn's quality. You will get the odd low score. But if you can get through that period, the ball stays nice and hard all the way through the middle of the innings - so you can try to cash in then."

It will be hard for even Pietersen, whose last two innings as an England opener were match-winning hundreds against Pakistan in Dubai, to oust Bell now - even if the South Africa-born batsman's discussions with coach Andy Flower and others manage to mend soured relations and somehow bring about his rehabilitation.

Pietersen has at least cleared one path, by last month reversing that decision to retire from the shorter formats.

But Bell said: "I've not really thought about that. It's just about putting in a performance that helps us win a game.

"Fortunately, I've been able to do that a lot this summer - after our bowlers time and time again really strangle opposition team."

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