England captain Andrew Strauss revealed on Monday that Ian Bell will slot into the number 4 batting slot as a straight replacement for Kevin Pietersen. In Strauss’ view this will cause the least amount of disruption to the batting line up.
This is also a positive for Ravi Bopara that the England management are still backing him to become a success at number 3. If England had demoted Bopara down the order it would have been recognition that he has not looked up to the job so far in this series.
All in all it does leave the England top-middle order looking a bit on the vulnerable side. Having two players in there who are both less than assured of their places could easily backfire, in fairness though what could the selectors have done? There isn’t exactly a queue of top batsmen beating down the door for Pietersen’s place.
If reports are to be believed Rob Key’s face dosen’t fit with Andy Flower. Apparently some of the senior players before the World Twenty20 were not keen on him being made captain either, leading to the calamitous captaincy of Collingwood again. Maybe the senior England players aren’t too keen on anyone who tells it like it is!
Owais Shah had a run in the side during the West Indies tour, he didn’t set the world on fire and his running between the wickets was less than impressive, add to that the cramp issue and you would have to imagine his chance has now passed him by.
Joe Denly would, I presume be seen more as an opener by the selectors. With an average of just under 55 and with three 1st class hundreds this season he is in decent enough form. Being an opener by trade, his technique should be well suited to the number 3 position, but it would appear that the selectors seem to favour a more flamboyant stroke player in this role.
Off some of the other candidates Ed Joyce (average of 34) and Eoin Morgan (28) are not in good enough form. Mark Ramprakash averaging 72 would be a massive backwards step and send out the wrong signal to young batsmen – even though on form alone he would have to be the pick, Johnathon Trott (83) is in good form but he didn’t look up to international standard when he played ODI cricket for England a few years back.
The middle of an Ashes series is also no time to be taking a hunch on an unproven county player similar to when Duncan Fletcher brought Marcus Trescothick in with a moderate county record. The chances of finding a gem in that manner again would have to be very slim.
When you look at those options Bell would appear to be the only real choice open to the selectors. It is hard to imagine the Aussies being scared of the man they call ‘the Shermanator’ though, they must be fancying their chances against him.
With an average of just 25 against Australia, Bell knows he must deliver this time. The fact is that he is only really in the team by default, there simply isn’t anyone else to pick.