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England ace Bell now on top of Ashes mind games.

IAN Bell still occasionally has Shane Warne's ghost of Ashes past in his ear - but the old nicknames have little resonance these days.

The last laughs appear to be with the Bell of 2013, and on Australia, as he proved with the Trent Bridge hundred which helped England go 1-0 up in the Ashes and is considered by many the best of his 18 in Tests to date.

It's a far cry from his first Anglo-Australian encounters, as a 23-year-old in 2005 when England won back the Ashes for the first time in a generation but he knew he had not done himself justice.

Then 2006/07 was a little better individually, but a nightmare for England as the Ashes were lost again in a whitewash - and Warne had the callow Bell in his sights and acerbic earshot.

The master leg-spinner's successors tried some of the same tactics in Nottingham last week.

But as England prepare to consolidate the 1-0 Investec series lead they established there when the second Test starts at Lord's tomorrow, Bell made it clear he is just not listening any more.

"Maybe in the past I wasn't prepared or ready for it," he said.

"I knew it was going to be hard work, aggressive bowling - but now with the mental work we do with (team psychologist) Mark Bawden, it is about not being surprised by anything.

"As a group, we are trying to think about the situations you might come across - and when you walk out into the middle, if it happens it happens."

Bell, who became a father for the first time eight months ago, added: "Maybe in 2005 and in 2006/07, I wasn't quite expecting it - and then it is hard to react to what happens.

"I don't think the characters have anything to do with it. I think it is more to do with where I was as a cricketer.

"As a 23-year-old, I was inexperienced and didn't know what it was about. Looking back now, I don't think I was ready for Test cricket.

"I knew I was way off the pace and had to improve quite a bit if I wanted to be around for a while."

While Warne tormented with ball in hand, and his barbed comments, Bell wilted.

"2005 was disappointing - I didn't score anywhere near enough runs - but I think I learned a lot about myself and where I needed to get to if I wanted to be a decent Test cricketer," he said.

"As someone about to play my 90th Test, I've had some highs and lows - and maybe had to learn a bit on the way. I've certainly got a bit more about me to deal with it now than in 2005."

England have named an unchanged squad.


ENGLAND batsman Ian Bell pulls the ball off the bowling of Australia's James Pattinson, during day three of the first Investec Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 17, 2013
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