Eng v Ind Ian Bell of Warwickshire bats during day two of Specsavers County Championship Division Two

Published on August 25th, 2018 | by Arunabha Sengupta

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Ian Bell: This pillar from the past may provide the balancing factor for a wobbly top order

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“A trifle out of box perhaps, but one may argue that such offbeat measures are necessary now, given that the top order has not fired in a long, long time”

Unbeaten centuries in both innings against Glamorgan. 172 against Kent.

The runs have sort of dried up in the last few innings, but he still has 767 this season at 54.78.

Ian Bell is past 36, and the last Test match he played was in the winter of 2015. However, he has voiced his desire to add to the rather impressive collection of 118 Test caps. Add also to that tally of 7727 Test runs and, with a bit more ambition, those 22 hundreds.

Bell has been in rather good nick for Warwickshire, as the figures stated at the beginning of this piece indicate.

The England top order, on the other hand, has been in acute problems. Alastair Cook, for long the pillar of the English batting, has managed 80 runs at 16.00 this series, and averages 19.21 since that figure skewing 244 not out Down Under 9 Tests earlier. Besides, with his wife about to deliver any day, he may not be around for the fourth Test at Southampton.

His partner at the top, Keaton Jennings, has probably played his last Test for a while. He has not only looked out of sorts but has also been terrible in the slips.

Joe Root himself has looked good every time he has walked out to bat, but apart from the first innings in the series has not made the form and style combine into runs.

And Ollie Pope, a replacement for the run-less Dawid Malan, looks an exciting prospect whose potential has not yet been translated into substantial scores.

To top it all, Johnny Bairstow, the only one who had been consistent across the Tests, has broken a finger.

In the lower middle order, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes did get their acts together in the second innings at Trent Bridge, but the top-order woes continue. Besides, the success of the two could well be a one-off thing.

The fresh English policy of looking at the future through promising youngsters is both evident and laudable. Sam Curran, Pope, Dom Bess and Mason Crane are glittering examples of that.

However, the side, especially the batting, is floundering big time and an injection of experience may be the much-needed antidote to the repeated failures. In fact, it is not a rigid youth-only policy that guides the selection, and the presence and excellence of James Anderson in the line-up is evidence enough.

Of course, Rory Burns, the Surrey opener who has been prolific this season, is an option. However, from the point of view of experience, there may be a case for Ian Bell to make a comeback.

Indeed, with the injury to Bairstow, the ineptness of Jennings, and the potential unavailability of Cook, there may be multiple spots in the batting line up for the taking. And with Pope and someone like Burns in the outfit, it is perhaps a good idea to balance the lack of exposure at the highest level with some resolute experience. And in Bell, there is plenty in that department.

There is the curious case of Moeen Ali as well. Left out of the side after a lukewarm visit Down Under, the all-rounder does have reason to feel peeved with Adil Rashid’s limited use as a leg-spinner being preferred by the England management. However, Moeen chose the best way to respond, hammering 219 and spinning his way to 6 for 49 in the second innings against Yorkshire at Scarborough. However, when asked about it Root remained non-committal, preferring to put it in politically correct terms of feeling great when fringe members try to push their ways into the side. For some reason, Moeen does not seem to be in the scheme of things. And even if he is, his place is in the lower order.

Recently Bell has stated that his current form, appended to the debacles of the England batsmen, does give him a new impetus to be in the reckoning. He can just about be the mix of class, durability, temperament and experience that the team is looking for right now.

That the next Test takes place in Southampton should enhance his claims, if the men making the decisions pause to look at not-too-distant history. Last time India played here, in 2014, Bell batted nearly six hours to amass 167. (We may mention in passing here that in the same match, Moeen spun England to a win with 6 for 67 in the second innings.)

In the recent videocast by the CricketSoccer team, former Indian wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta also suggested that Bell was an option England could look at. A trifle out of box perhaps, but one may argue that such offbeat measures are necessary now, given that the top order has not fired in a long, long time.

 

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About the Author

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Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and the author of Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets @senantix.



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