My Editor and I were chatting about Ian Bell today and the increasingly irresistible case he states for an Ashes place. Indeed not just a place for the first Test but forever more.
With my devilâ€™s advocate hat askew, I argued (to myself, really) that Paul Collingwood is an absolute shoe-in for the Ashes. He makes hundreds. Heâ€™s impossibly gritty â€“ an Australian Steve Waugh minus the greatness but the best fielder and catcher England have ever possessed. Were he placed in a nailbiting situation in Brisbane or Sydney, heâ€™s your man.
Before Old Trafford, Bell would not have been your, or even anyoneâ€™s man, for such prickly tight spots which England invariably find themselves in during an Ashes series. Yet after scoring his third hundred in succession today, his fifth overall, he is producing the kind of form which warrants inclusion whatever the situation. Always a batsman of the highest class â€“ aside from Mark Ramprakash he is the most technically correct batsman in England â€“ he is now scoring heavy, big runs. While Kevin Pietersen rather impetuantly gave his wicket away today, Bell calmly motored onwards and brought up his hundred. It was inevitable. He is some batsman, one of a flurry of quite exceptionally talented middle-order players England have these days. Cup runneth over, etc.
Who to chose, then?
An example squad of 12
Trescothick, Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell, Flintoff, Read, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar
Do you drop Collingwood and shift Bell to five to allow for four seamers and Monty? Do you leave out Monty for seamer-friendly pitches and bolster the lineup with Collingwood and Bell? Do you forget Bell altogether? After all, he bottled it in the last Ashes â€“ wonâ€™t he bottle it again?
And thatâ€™s the conundrum. Itâ€™s a delicious one to ponder over and Iâ€™d be fascinated to hear everyoneâ€™s thoughts. Incidentally, do read Andrew’s piece to find out his views.