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Alarm bells for India

Warwickshire batsman ready to lead England charge, says Athers

Mike Atherton - Michael Atherton Posted 9th August 2011 view comments

Providing he doesn't take his form for granted, this should be the most productive spell of Ian Bell's career.

Promoted to No 3 at Trent Bridge after Jonathan Trott damaged his shoulder, Bell's flowing 159 paved the way for England's 319-run victory.

Generally, every first-drop batsman should be technically competent and have the ability to dictate terms to the opposition.

Sitting pretty: Bell contemplates adding to his 15 Test tons ahead of the third Test

Sitting pretty: Bell contemplates adding to his 15 Test tons ahead of the third Test

At the age of 29 with 67 Tests behind him, Bell is able to do both without sacrificing style for substance.

Transformed

Before last week's century, the Warwickshire batsman hadn't scored a ton at first down in 17 Tests; even now, he averages 35.30 in that position - way down on his overall average of 47.58.

However, the vast majority of those innings came before he was dropped in the West Indies in 2009. Since he has fought his way back into the team he looks a player transformed.

England will be weaker for Trott's absence at Edgbaston but I don't think they'll miss him too much due to the quality of India's bowling attack, which is far from penetrative.

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I'd say he has got all the makings of a decent No 3 - there really isn't a lot wrong with his game as it stands. Sometimes he gets squared up around off-stump against the quicker bowlers but that really is picking holes; there isn't a player out there who doesn't have a little weakness here or there.

No international player wants to stand still so I'm sure there is more to come from Bell if he continues to work hard and take his chances.

I don't for one minute imagine he will stay at three once Trott is fit again, but having a ready-made replacement is certainly no bad thing.

Chance

England will be weaker for Trott's absence at Edgbaston but I don't think they'll miss him too much due to the quality of India's bowling attack, which is far from penetrative particularly now that Zaheer Khan is ruled out by injury.

That means this is the perfect moment for England's batsmen - Bell and the recalled Ravi Bopara especially - to cash in.

The selectors were right to select Bopara ahead of James Taylor for this Test because he deserves another chance.

Most people had the Essex all-rounder pencilled in for the first Test against Sri Lanka before Eoin Morgan stole his thunder on duty with the England Lions.

This is not yet Taylor's time, nor can it be when he averages just 31 in division two of the County Championship without a hundred to his name.

Nowadays you need to do much more than that to get into such a strong England team. That message should be filtering through the county game.

It is one that Tim Bresnan, who continues to go from strength-to-strength, has taken on board. A solid, unflappable, consistent cricketer, Bresnan is the type of guy who slots into a team without a worry.

Even if Chris Tremlett had been fit for this week's Test, the selectors would have been well advised to retain the same team and keep the Surrey seamer fresh for the Oval (if required).

Disinterested

In contrast, Indian options are in short supply and morale seems very low in the camp.

Someone who attended the two-day game at Northampton told me he'd never seen a more disinterested national team, which is saying something.

Some of the squad have been on the road for a very long time and now they must cope without some key players for the remaining two Tests.

When a guy like Gautam Gambhir sits out a Test with a bruised elbow, you get a pretty good idea of how low spirits are.

Of course, things can still turn around - it only takes one good morning to revive a team - but at this point in time it is difficult to imagine India getting back into this series, Virender Sehwag or no Virender Sehwag.

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra could come into the side but I don't think that will concern England greatly, particularly after the pasting he took at Taunton.

I've been really surprised that Murali Karthik hasn't played more for India over the years - he looks a really good left-arm spinner to me. I might have been tempted to drag him into my squad.

It may have made little, if any, difference because England have been exceptional over the last year or so and - while it may be a little bit unfair on South Africa - they probably deserve their place at the top of the world standings if they attain it.

Personally, I don't put much stock in the rankings; you're never quite top until you've beaten each team at home and away and by then things move on.

But it would be an achievement of sorts and deserved reward for 12 to 18 months of excellent endeavour.

Comments (8)

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Christian Rabbitt says...

I agree with Samuel Mayer, particularly given Carberry's 300* in a recent county championship match. However, there are a number of other possible replacements, if his form continues, we may see Dawid Malan force his way into the England setup in years to come.

Posted 11:25 18th August 2011

Fazal Mistry says...

Indian "Team" or Team "India" is down and out.... Bowlers are simply work horses without any striking ability... I miss our spear head Zaheer Khan. Cricket consists of 1) Batting 2) Bowling 3) Feilding. 4) Umpiring 5) Commentators 6) Viewers Now- 1) Batsmen apart from Rahul Dravid all lack patience/form and technique to handle such attack and conditions. 2) Compare pace stats of English and Indian bowlers and we will find the harsh facts. Our spinners i have always noticed our main Spinner Mr Harbhajan Singh, he lacks potency in picking up wickets nor can he contain batsmen when it comes to International cricket on foreign grounds/pitch. I wonder how many wickets did he take in opportunistic format called T20 2010 ?????? 3) Catches win matches this is basics.... 4) Umpiring has been of good standards + reviews help us to get correct decisions. (I dunno what took us Indians to reject it and now accept review system,, better late than never i guess :-) 5) Another factor to bring to ones notice--- Commentary ; i believe 2 is company and 3 is crowd. Commentators are meant to be neutral and i listen all praise to India despite of such a hopeless effort in all 3 categories. Mr Ravi shastri and Hasrsha Bhogle must be careful of what they utter on AIR while billions listen to their biased commentary.. I am a big fan of honourable Sunil Gavaskar and his commentary always demands attention coz of his technical analysis and game reading. Mr Ganguly is still learning and hence will need our support... We as thinking Indians need Good results or Good efforts or competitive spirits from our team and NOT FALSE PRAISE of our team. 6) As a viewer i have to be realistic and i praise good cricket and criticise bad play so that Indian team does not take us for granted--- Englishmen have played like winners and proving that they really are the inventers of this game ;-) Hats off ..

Posted 18:19 12th August 2011

Simon Cawley says...

RE: Leading Test Match Catches. (for Test Match team). It was interesting to hear Michael Atherton and Shane Warne discuss the leading catchers. However, although the statistcs mention the number of tests played, they don't take into account the amount of time the fielder is stood in a certain position. I wouldn't argue that Stephen Fleming was a fine catcher, but I dare say he probably spent the vast majority of each innings stood as a slip-fielder. Compare this to Shane Warne & Sir Ian Botham, whom both regularly fielded at slip, but spent almost half the game bowling from the other end!

Posted 12:32 12th August 2011

Simon Cawley says...

RE: Leading Test Match Catches. (for Test Match team). It was interesting to hear Michael Atherton and Shane Warne discuss the leading catchers. However, although the statistcs mention the number of tests played, they don't take into account the amount of time the fielder is stood in a certain position. I wouldn't argue that Stephen Fleming was a fine fielder, but I dare say he probably spent the vast majority of each innings stood in the slips. Compare this to Shane Warne & Sir Ian Botham, whom both regularly fielded at slip, but spent almost half the game bowling from the other end!

Posted 12:30 12th August 2011

Milind Matang says...

england is playing as well as their fan wants but i still think england can improve in few department, one of them is no3 betting, whoever it is should be positive "the counter puncher" bell is a better choice. trott is playing well but his problem is he can't change gears to force the game ahead.

Posted 21:24 11th August 2011

Hugh O'connor says...

One great innings by Carberry on a flat pitch doesn't make him an international 3. When Trott comes back Bell should go in at 4 and push Pietersen down to 5 - that will put proper pressure on Pietersen to perform consistently - and think how good he could be later on.

Posted 09:30 11th August 2011

Richard Jenkins says...

sir, excuse my ignorance, but why are the england team wearingblack arm bands

Posted 13:42 10th August 2011

Samuel Mayer says...

Personally, I think Bell is more a natural middle order batsmen than a top order batsmen, I beleive he only averages 31 in that position. My choice as cover for Trott would be, Carberry of Hampshire.

Posted 20:31 9th August 2011

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