Tuesday May 19, 2020
England cricketer Ian Bell has said that during the course of his career he found Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal harder to pick and play than even Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan.
Bell, who played 118 Tests for England and is still active at the age of 38, based his assessment over the many lost battles against Ajmal during the 2012 clean sweep at the hands of Pakistan in UAE.
"I found Muralitharan, who has 800 [Test] wickets, easier to play than Ajmal. Everyone has their individual feelings and all bowlers are different. I felt the longer I was at the crease, I could start to pick Murali. Whereas, with Ajmal, the longer I was there, the worse it used to get," Bell said in an interview posted on Islamabad United’s YouTube channel.
Bell said the entire Pakistan spin unit in that doomed series proved a handful for him and his teammates, including Kevin Pietersen.
"The quality of spin that we played in that series was right up there with some of the best that I have played. Ajmal was at his absolute peak. As a batting unit, we really struggled to pick him. [Abdur] Rehman bowled beautifully as well. Even speaking to KP, who doesn’t admit very often, I don’t think he had a lot of answers in that series at all," he said.
Bell paid further homage to the underrated Ajmal, saying that facing him in the UAE was one of the toughest assignments in cricket at the time.
"Whenever I am asked this, I say Warne and McGrath together because cricket is all about partnerships. If someone is bowling well at one end but badly at the other, then there is no pressure on the batsman. But if I had to pick only one, I would still say Ajmal in the UAE was as hard as it gets,” he said.
“I think he got me out in the nets as well, during my time with Islamabad United.”