ISLAMABAD-England batsman Ian Bell believes former Pakistani spinner Saeed Ajmal was tougher to play than legendary Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Bell was part of the England team, which got whitewashed three-nil by the Men in Green in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2012. Ajmal was adjudged player of that series for bagging 24 wickets, which also included four dismissals of Bell. Even though Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in both Tests and ODIs, Bell admitted that he had problems when facing Ajmal.

Muralitharan took 800 wickets in 133 Tests at an average of 22.72 and 534 wickets in 350 ODIs at an average of 23.08. As for Ajmal, he claimed 178 wickets in 35 Tests at an average of 28.10 and 184 wickets in 113 ODIs at an average of 22.72. In regards to his T20 International career, Ajmal picked up 85 wickets in 64 games at an average of 17.83.

Speaking on Islamabad United’s YouTube channel as quoted by cricketpakistan.com.pk, Bell recalled the struggle England batsmen had to go through against Ajmal during the aforementioned series. “I found Muralitharan, who has 800 (Test) wickets, easier to play than Ajmal,” Bell said. “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.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Bell also admitted that Ajmal as well as Australian duo of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were the toughest bowlers he faced in his career. “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,” he said. “But if I had to pick only one, I would still say Ajmal in the UAE was as hard as it gets. “I think he got me out in the nets as well, during my time with Islamabad United,” he said.