Bell backs Cook in skipper's role

Ian Bell anticipates a seamless changing of the guard for England as Alastair Cook takes over the Test captaincy from Andrew Strauss.

It took most England followers, and several players too, by surprise when Strauss last week announced his resignation as captain and retirement from professional cricket at the age of 35. Somewhat less surprising was the identity of his successor, Cook having long been destined and groomed to captain his country in Test cricket.

Only the timing of Cook's ascent then is of any concern. But Bell is confident that, at the age of 27, his fellow ODI opener is ready to assume Strauss' mantle and plot England's fortunes by leading from the front in two formats on and off the field. He said: "I think he will be fantastic."

The ongoing controversy over Kevin Pietersen's current alienation from the England camp, and prospects or otherwise of the prodigal's possible return, remains an inevitable complication with which Cook will have to become involved at some stage.

Bell is convinced, though, that Cook will prove eminently able to deal with all of the above.

"He's had a responsibility in the Test team anyway, as vice-captain," he continued. "He has been right there with Straussy."

Cook was indebted to Bell on Sunday for a match-winning 88 at Lord's as England won their second match in three days against South Africa, to turn a 1-0 NatWest Series deficit into a 2-1 lead - with just one match remaining, in Nottingham on Wednesday.

Cook's England will therefore top the International Cricket Council's ODI rankings for the rest of the year, irrespective of whether they win or lose at Trent Bridge. Bell, meanwhile, simply has no qualms about the extra onus on Cook.

"He has led this one-day team incredibly well, and I don't think it will be anything strange to him; I think he will take to it very easily," said Bell. "He will probably have his own stamp on things (in Tests), like he has in the one-dayers.

"But we're very lucky, because I think it will be quite an easy changeover."